a history of the english baptists
A.D. 1667 - 1685
THE fall of Lord Clarendon, the great patron of persecuting power, and the removal of Archbishop Sheldon and Bishop Morley from the councils of the King, occasioned a considerable alteration in favour of the dissenters, so that they went publicly to their meetings in London without fear.
The king appeared disposed to promote a general toleration, but the House of Commons were so enraged at the favours shewn to the Nonconformists that they presented a petition to his majesty, praying him that he would issue a proclamation for enforcing the laws against conventicles. To this the king consented, and a proclamation declared, “he would not suffer such notorious contempt of the laws to go unpunished &c.” The proclamation however produced but little effect, as the people still ventured to attend the meetings, although forbidden by the laws. To this different causes contributed. One was the want of churches, in consequence of the fire of London. In addition to this, the indolence of the established clergy, and the laboriousness of the nonconformist ministers were so apparent, that a decided preference was given to the latter by all who had any regard for religion.
Bishop Burnet acknowledges this, and says,
“The king was highly offended at the behaviour of most of the bishops. When complaints were made of the conventicles, the king told me (says he) that the clergy were chiefly to blame; for if they had lived well, and gone about their parishes, and taken pains to convince the nonconformists, the nation might have been well settled; but they thought of nothing but to get good benefices, and keep a good table.” —
In another conversation with bishop Burnet about the ill state of the church, his majesty said,
“If the clergy had done their part, it had been
easy to run down the nonconformists; but they will do nothing,
and will have me do every thing, and most of them do worse than
if they did nothing. I have a very honest chaplain (said he) to
whom I have given a living in Suffolk; but he is a very great
blockhead, and yet he has brought all his parish to church. I
cannot imagine what he could say to them, for he is a very silly
fellow; but he has been about from house to house, and I suppose
his nonsense suited their nonsense; and in reward of his
diligence, I have given him a bishoprick in Ireland.”
The measures of the king to promote a
general toleration doubtless flowed from a desire to tolerate
the Roman catholics; but to this the dissenters were
very averse, and rather chose to suffer themselves than be instrumental to the bringing in of popery.
In 1670, the House of Commons proposed the addition of some new clauses to the Conventicle Act, to which the court agreed, as they thought this would reduce the presbyterians to the necessity of petitioning for a general toleration.
“If we would have opened the door, (says Mr. Baxter,) that their toleration might have been charged upon us, as done for our sakes and by our procurement, we might in all likelihood have had our part in it; but I shall never be one of them who shall consent to petition for the papists’ liberty. No craft of jesuits or prelates shall make me believe that it is necessary for the nonconformists to take this odium upon themselves.”
The court bishops were for the bill, but the moderate clergy were against it. To the honour of Bishop Wilkins it ought to be recorded, that he spoke against it in the house; and when the king desired him in private to be quiet, he replied that
“he thought it an ill thing both in conscience and in policy: therefore, as he was an English-man and a Bishop, he was bound to oppose it. And since by the laws and constitution of England, and by his majesty’s favour, he had a right to debate and vote, he was neither ashamed nor afraid to own his opinion in that matter.”
The bill however passed both houses, and received the royal assent, April 11. 1670.
This bill was the cause of incredible hardships to all the nonconformists, and many of the Baptists suffered severely by it. It was now enacted as follows: —
“The preachers or teachers in any Conventicle shall forfeit twenty pounds for the first, and forty for the second offence. And also those who knowingly suffer any conventicles in their houses, barns, yards, &c. shall forfeit twenty pounds. Any justice of peace, on the oath of two witnesses or any other sufficient proof, may record the offence under his hand and seal; which record shall be taken in law for a full and perfect conviction, and shall be certified at the next quarter sessions. The fines above mentioned may be levied by distress and sale of the offender’s goods and chattels, and in case of the poverty of such offender, upon the goods and chattels of any other person or persons who shall be convicted of having been present at the said conventicle, at the discretion of the justice of peace, so as the sum to be levied on any one person, in case of the poverty of others, do not amount to above ten pounds for any one meeting. The constables, headboroughs, &c. are to levy by warrant from the justice, and the money is to be divided, one third for the use of the king, another third for the poor, and the other third to the informer or his assistants, regard being had to their diligence and industry in discovering, dispersing, and punishing the said conventicles. The fines upon ministers for preaching are to be levied also by distress; and case of poverty, upon the goods and chattels of any other present; and the like upon the house where the conventicle is held, and the money to be divided as above.
“And it is further enacted, that justices of the peace, constables, headboroughs, &c. may be warranted with what aid, force, and assistance they shall think necessary, to break open and enter into any house or place where they shall be informed of the conventicle, and take the persons so assembled into custody: and the lieutenants, or other commissioned officers of the militia, may get together suck force and assistants as they think necessary to dissolve, dissipate, and disperse such unlawful meetings, and take the persons into custody.” To ensure the strict execution of this act, it was added, “That if any justice of the peace refuse to do his duty in the execution of this act, he shall forfeit five pounds.”
Great numbers were prosecuted in consequence, and many industrious families reduced to poverty. Several ministers were confined in goals and close prisons, and warrants issued against them and their hearers, to the amount of large sums of money. Neal says, that in the diocese of Salisbury, the prosecution was the hottest, owing to the instigation of Bishop Ward, many hundreds being driven from their families mid trades.
The principal information we possess relating to the Baptists at this time refers to the counties of Bedford and Sussex. As these accounts were published at the time, and in a circumstantial manner, they are very interesting, and tend to show the way in which these cruel laws were executed throughout the kingdom.
“The first we shall notice is a pamphlet entitled, A true and impartial narrative of some illegal and arbitrary proceedings by certain justices of the peace and others, against several innocent and peaceable nonconformists in and near the town of Bedford, upon pretence of putting in execution the late Act against Conventicles: together with a brief account of the late sudden and strange death of the Grand Informer, and one of the most violent malicious prosecutors against these poor people. Published for general information, in the year 1670.”
This narrative is preceded by an anonymous letter, which is as follows: —
“Some proceedings at Bedford, pursuant to the late act of parliament, a true narrative whereof is herein inclosed, afford matter both of wonder and dislike to such as have observed them. When you have perused the paper, you will conclude with me and others, that this text needs no comment. It is plain that in despight of Magna Charta, and in defiance to all laws and rules of righteousness, neighbourhood, and humanity, they resolve to ruin the nonconformists, though the instruments are no ways able to recompense the king’s and kingdom’s damage thereby. The sufferers are cheerful and peaceable; their immediate persecutors are the scum of the people, and chiefly the appurtenants of the commissarie’s court. The most forward instrument of that sort is one that hath openly avowed and declared his esteem for popery above other religions. If some check be not given to these extravagancies, many families will suddenly be ruined, and the public trade and welfare endangered; which the interest of some, and the rage, revenge, and enmity of others will not admit regard to. Pardon this trouble, when I have told you that the particulars of the narrative are all true, and will be proved in every part. So I have remaining at present only to tell you, I am, Sir,
Your assured friend.”
The narrative then proceeds: —
“On Lord’s day, May the 15th, at the dwelling house of one John Fen, many persons being assembled for religious exercise, West and Feckman, two apparitors, by a warrant from one Mr. Foster, who is a justice of peace and the cornmissarie’s deputy, did enter the house, and force the meeters to Mr. Foster’s house, who fined every one of them severally according to their reputed ability; and committed the preacher to prison for words he spake against the church of England, then occasioned by the discourse of Mr. Foster. By virtue of their warrant, the apparitors charged a constable and a churchwarden to assist them; but they neglecting, being not willing to the work as they themselves declared, were fined each of them five pounds; though by intercession of friends, the fines are not yet levied.
“On Friday following, Thomas Battison, another churchwarden, and the most active and busy in the work, having with much labour and difficulty called together the overseers of the poor, and the constables of the several wards, to levy the several fines upon the goods of the meeters, did first attempt to levy the fine of ten pounds upon the goods of one John Burdolf; a malster, who having sold all his malt before the act commenced, and delivered his malt and malt-house into his possession to whom he had sold them, none of the officers would join with Battison to break open the door of the malt-house, or to distrain the malt, though he most importunately charged and besought them to do it, promising to bear them harmless.
“While Battison and the other officers were debating in the open yard before the malthouse door, a great number of all sorts of persons gathered about them, expressing by turns their indignation against him for attempting this against Burdolf, whom the whole town knew to be a just and harmless man. The common sort of people covertly fixing a calf’s tail to Battison’s back, and deriding him with shouts and halloos, he departed without taking any distress there; and advanced with other officers to Edward Covington’s shop, to levy five shillings for his wife being at the meeting, where none of the officers would distrain but Battison, who took a brass kettle but when he had brought it to the street door, none of the officers would carry it away; neither could he hire any one to do it in two hours time, though, he offered money to such needy persons among the company as wanted bread. At last he got a youth for sixpence to carry the kettle less way than a stone’s throw, to an inn yard where he had before hired a room to lodge such goods under pretence to lodge grain; but when the youth had carried the kettle to the inn-gate, being hooted at all the way by the common spectators, the inn-keeper would not suffer the kettle to be brought into his yard; and so his man set it out in the middle of the street, none regarding it, till towards night a poor woman that receiveth alms was caused by an overseer to carry it away.
“From hence, Battison, with the rest of the officers at his heels, proceeded to distrain one John Spencer for a fine of forty shillings, but his shop door being locked, Battison could not prevail with the officers to join with him in breaking it open. So this day ended, without any other distress than that of the kettle.
“The next day, which was the market day, the justices understanding how Battison was discouraged in his work by the backwardness of the other officers, and the open discountenance of the other people, commanded the officers to break open the doors and levy the distresses, and promised to bear them harmless. Immediately, old Battison, with a file of soldiers and constables, in the middle of market time advanced again to the malthouse of John Burdolf, situate in an inn-yard in the middle of the market-place, and breaks open the doors, but not without long time and trouble, all people refusing to lend either bars or hammers, which they sent from place to place to borrow for that purpose. When the doors were broken open, Battison distrained fourteen quarters of malt, but it was night before he could carry them away; for though the market was then full of porters, yet none of them would assist, though charged strictly by Battison and the constables, but ran all away, and left their fares; some of them saying, they would be hanged, drawn, and quartered rather than they would assist in that work; for which cause the justices committed two of them, which they could take, to the gaol.
“The next day, being Lord’s day, fines were doubled upon the meeters before the first could be levied; for they assembled again at that same house, according to their custom. Battison, with the two apparitors, by another warrant from Mr. Foster, entered the meeting place about nine o’clock in the morning; but the meeters refused to depart before their exercise was ended, unless forced to it. Battison sends word of it to Mr. Foster, who returns a verbal order, that Battison should charge certain gentlemen of the town, whose names he had sent by the messenger, to assist him; which Battison accordingly did, going to their houses to call them, though there were near a hundred common people spectators in the streets, and none of them then charged to assist, and also trained-band soldiers ready in town for this service, partly at the charge of these gentlemen whom Battison had so warned to assist, and who were so warned, as is supposed, upon design to have them incur the penalties of five pounds for their refusing. About ten in the morning the meeters went with Battison and the apparitors to the Swan in Bedford, where being kept till four in the afternoon, and their names taken by the justices, they were set at liberty.
“Next morning, Mr. Foster appears early in the streets with Battison, the two apparitors, a file of soldiers, and some constables, to see the fines levied upon the meeters goods; charging to his assistance such persons as he sees, and sending for others to their houses, but got few or none besides his first company; most of the tradesmen, journeymen, labourers, and servants having either left the town, or hid themselves to avoid his call. The town was so thin of people that it looked more like a country village than a corporation; and the shops being generally shut, it seemed like a place visited by the pestilence.
“The first distress was attempted upon the goods of one Nicholas Hawkins, a cutler, who was fined forty shillings; but his goods being removed beforehand, and his house visited with the small-pox, the officers declined entering. Mr. Foster meeting here one John Croker, who was also fined three pounds, commanded his assistance; but refusing he was committed to the custody of one of the town-serjeants then present.
“From hence Mr. Foster went into the house of one Michael Shepheard, a shoe-maker, who was fined five shillings; where a distress was made not only for the same, but also for one shilling more, because he being asked by Mr. Foster whether he were at church the day before, and not answering, only desired to know who accused him or would swear it.
“The next house in their way was one Thomas Honylove’s, a journeyman shoemaker, fined twenty shillings or more; whose children lying sick of the small-pox in the house where his goods were, the officers were unwilling to enter. Mr. Foster therefore crew them off to one Thomas Cowper’s, a heelmaker, who was fined forty shillings. Here they distrained three cart-loads of wood, cut especially for his work, which was of more value than any of his household goods, he being a poor man, and living only by making heels and lasts.
“The next remove was to one John Croker’s house, beforementioned, a linen draper, fined three pounds. Having removed his goods to another place, Battison would not trouble himself to distrain them, but said he would take a better opportunity.
“Near this place lived one Daniel Rich, a tanner, and constable of that ward, who being fined five shillings for his wife, had his best wearing-coat distrained by the immediate order of Mr. Foster.
“From hence he marches to John Spencer, a grocer, whose goods he distrained for a fine of about forty shillings. The next neighbour was William Jay, a baker, who was distrained for five shillings. Next to him lived one Edward Isaac, a blacksmith, fined forty shillings for himself and his wife; from whom they took away locks, shovels, and the very anvil upon which he forged his work. Battison would have pulled down the bellows also, but that it required more time and labour than his itch to greater prizes in other places would allow him. Hastening to their market, they leave Paul’s parish, and invade that of Cuthberts; where they And the door of one Thomas Arthur, a pipe-maker, locked, who was fined five pounds. Before they broke open the door, it was unlocked on the inside, and Mr. Foster entered to distrain the goods. Arthur desired to know how much money he had distrained for; and Mr. Foster replied that it was for eleven pounds. Arthur then desired to see the warrant; which being produced, he saw the fine was but six pounds; but Mr. Foster replied, that there was five pounds more for keeping his door locked! When Thomas Arthur perceived that Mr. Foster would distrain all his goods, he said, Sir, what shall my children do? Shall they starve? Mr. Foster replied, That so long as he was a rebel, his children should starve! And so, on Wednesday following, old Battison, and the two apparitors, with a file of musquiteers, and a cart, carried away what household goods they thought fit, and all the wood necessary to his trade, not leaving so much as would suffice for burning a kiln of pipes ready set, though earnestly desired by the poor pipe-maker himself, and others of Battison’s company.
“Mr. Foster, having done his work at the pipe-maker’s, proceeds to one Robert Brown’s, a gardener, distraining all his goods for a fine supposed to be three pounds. Hastening to the chief place they aimed at, they passed into Peter’s parish to the house of Mrs. Mary Tilney, a gentlewoman well descended, and of good estate, who was fined twenty pounds. To make her exemplary in suffering for that offence, Mr. Foster himself, attended by his public notary, will see the fine effectually levied upon her goods; and a cart being provided for that purpose, they distrained and carried away all the goods in her house which they thought worth their labour, even to the hangings of the room and the sheets off her bed, insomuch that the widow was forced that night to borrow sheets of her neighbours; nor did they leave her so much as one feather bed on which to lay the sheets. She had indeed more household goods, but as she could not with safety possess them for her necessary use, and foreseeing the waste intended upon them, she had prudently secured them abroad. The value of the goods taken away by the officers was supposed to be between forty and fifty pounds: but Mrs. Tilney was more troubled at the crying and sighing of her poor neighbours about her, than for the loss of her goods, which she took very cheerfully. And so the officers left her, having finished this day’s work.
“The next day more fines were to be levied on the rest of the meeters; but Battison finding it would lie hard upon him and the two apparitors, for want of more help than they had the day before, and foreseeing that if he deferred charging assistance till he began his work, all people would get out of the way, he walked alone in the streets early in the morning, looking into the shops, to charge men beforehand to be ready. As soon as this was perceived by the people, most of the tradesmen and other inhabitants instantly deserted the town, or hid themselves as before. About ten o’clock, old Battison, with the soldiers and constables, whom he had warned over-night to be in readiness, marched up the High-street, where he levied the fine of five pounds upon John Fen, the haberdasher before-mentioned, at whose house the meeting was; taking away all the hats and hatbands in his shop, and the next day carted away his household goods. Having thus dealt with Fen, he proceeded to deal the same measure with another hatter, one Samuel Fen , who was also fined five pounds, and dealt with as his brother had been before him.
“The next fine they proceeded to levy was forty shillings upon the goods of one Thomas Woodward, a maltster. But one Richard Layfield being in possession of the malthouse, to whom the maltster had sometime before sold all his malt, and quitted the possession, old Battison met with a stop, and was persuaded to defer distraining till Richard Layfield had spoken to the justices who were then met at the Swan. He apprised them that Thomas Woodward owed him sixty pounds which he had formerly lent him in money, and that he was bound to deliver two hundred and ninety quarters of malt to others, for money and barley had of them; and therefore on condition that Layfield should acquit him of the sixty pounds, and oblige himself to deliver the malt aforesaid, he did sell and deliver to Layfield all the malt and barley lying in his malthouse, and that there was no fraud therein. Layfield also produced the deed to the justices, and averred that the reason of making this bargain was to secure his sixty pounds. But notwithstanding all this, Sir George Blundell, one of the justices, said, That Richard Layfield went about herein to defraud the king, and therefore bound him over to the next assizes. He also said, that so long as Thomas Woodward aforesaid offended, the malt should be distrained, and that he would leave the meeters worth nothing; and when he had done that, he would fill the prisons with them. He added, If they do not like it, Iet them stand up and defend themselves as we did.
“There were no further distresses made last week. It is conjectured that some falling out between the Mayor and Mr. Foster on Wednesday delayed their proceedings. It seems the Mayor was not willing that Battison, who is churchwarden for Paul’s, should distrain in the two parishes on the other side of the river where the Mayor lived: but on Monday the 30th instant, Feckman the chief apparitor, with the churchwarden, constable, and overseer of Mary’s parish in Bedford, began to distrain. The person’s name is Joseph Rulfhead, at whose house they first began, and the fine they levied was three pounds. On their approach he desired to see the warrant, and not finding his name in it, he discharged Feckman from coming upon his ground. After an appeal to the justice however, they took from him two timber trees of about seven pounds value, instead of three pounds.
“On the same day, the officers went to distrain
one John Clarke, a grocer, for forty shillings; and breaking
open his door, they took his household goods, those in his shop
being of little value. From thence they went to the house of one
John Rush, waggoner, to levy a distress of three pounds upon
him, where they seized a new cart and wheels for the same.
“The same day, in part of a village called Cotton-End, near Bedford the officers distrained upon several persons who had been convicted by the justices, for having a meeting at the house of one Thomas Thorowgood, and who were fined to a greater value than the whole of their estates amounted to. They are stripped of all their substance, and the said Thorowgood hath not left to him so much as his loom to work with, being a weaver, and by his labour therein supporting himself and his family. But because there are several remarkable fair circumstances relating to this matter which clearly evince the undue and most inhuman dealings of some of the justices, especially of Sir George Blundell, with the poor people last mentioned, a particular and exact account of the whole proceeding will be here inserted.
“From the discourse of a little child who said there had been a meeting at the house of Thomas Thorowgood in Cotton-End, the wife of John Pryor, victualler, resorted to Sir George Blundell, and made oath of the child’s report to her. Sir George issued a warrant for the appearance of several persons of that endship, suspected to have been there, and who appeared before several justices at the Swan in Bedford. On being examined, they neither confessed that a meeting had been held, or that they had been there. The justices dealt severely with them, assuring them that such as would confess who was the preacher should be acquitted: but no confession was made, and generally they referred to any proof that could be brought against them, not being willing to accuse themselves or others. The justices however concluded that there was sufficient ground to convict them, and assessed fines upon them severally. Thomas Thorowgood’s fine, at whose house the meeting was said to be, was nineteen pounds. The officers distrained upon him, and took all that he had, with the implements of his trade; and the said Thorowgood and his wife are since departed from their dwelling, and gone away.
“The wife of one George Winright, and a son-in-law of Winright’s were fined ten pounds five shillings, for having been at the meeting. George Winright is tenant to the Earl of Exeter; and being in arrears of rent to his landlord about Michaelmas last, he prevailed with his two sons-in-law to be bound for him for the payment of the money due; and for the indemnity of his two sons he passed over to them all his goods and chattels by a bill of sale. The writing was afterwards destroyed, and the father pleaded that there were no goods of the sons there, though they were once in their possession. The cancelling of the writing however was deemed a collusion, and the officers were ordered to proceed in the distress. Winright drives away his cattle, sells some of them at Potten market, and others to one Miller, an inhabitant of the same parish. Sir George Blundell sent a warrant for the buyer and seller to appear before him, to whom they gave information of the sale and payment. But all their pleas being disregarded, the said knight demanded sureties for their appearance at the assizes, declaring with his wonted vehemence that he would bind them both over, and distrain the cattle likewise. Winright being frightened, promised to pay the ten pounds, and accordingly did so; but a few days after, being told by a lawyer that he had done wrong, he repaired to Sir George, acquainting him with what the lawyer had said, and entreated his favour. This without delay he imparted, beating him well for his pains.
“Thomas Langley, an inhabitant of Cotton-End, being also fined five pounds ten shillings for attending the suspected meeting, presumed on the favour of Sir George, on account of his having lately been his servant, and told the officers he would pay the money if he could not get any abatement. He appealed to his master; but not prevailing for any such kindness, he was unwilling to pay the fine, having very little stock, and owing for the greatest part of that, as well as being in arrears with his landlord. But the officers having strict charge to take all he had and sell it for five pounds ten shillings, they distrained his three cows, really worth ten pounds; and going to sell them, a neighbour out of compassion paid the officer the fine, and sent the cows back to the owner.
“Some other persons of the said endship were distrained upon by the officers, and had their little substance taken from them and deposited in the house of Pryor, whose wife at first informed of the said meeting, and where the goods still remain to be sold to any who are willing to buy the same, that with the proportion allotted to the informer, the said Pryor may again have some money to put into his purse, having prodigally wasted all that he lately sold a considerable estate for, which lay in the aforesaid endship.”
We are not acquainted with the writer of this pamphlet, but all the parties mentioned we have no doubt belonged to the church at Bedford, as most of their names are found in the records of that society; and several of them were ministers; of whom we intend to give some further account in the biographical part of our work.
This year also was published a pamphlet entitled, A narrative of the late proceedings of some justices and others, pretending to put in execution the late act against conventicles, against several peaceable people in and about the town of Lewes in Sussex, only for their being quietly met to worship God: together with a brief account of the like proceedings against some at Brighthelmstone , and others at Chillington in the same county. — The author of this narrative, who Crosby supposes was Mr. Jeremiah Ives, a Baptist minister in London, introduces it with a short epistle to the reader, which is as follows.
“Thou art here presented with an account of
some proceedings, pretended to be grounded upon the late act
against conventicles. Of the act itself I say nothing at all;
nor do I call these proceedings, said to be grounded thereon,
either arbitrary or illegal. Read, and be judge thy-self. Only
be sure of this, that thou hast a faithful narrative. What you
find therein, relating to the conviction of these persons, was
reported by some officers then present, or dropped from the
informers themselves; and the witness of an enemy, we used to
say, is a double testimony.”
“On May the 29th 1670, being the Lord’s day, some Christians in and about Lewes in the county of Sussex, to the number of five hundred, say their adversaries, were met together to hear the word of God; and that they might if possible avoid exasperating their enemies on one hand, and provide for their own security on the other, the meeting was appointed at three o’clock in the afternoon, an hour of the greatest privacy. People were appointed to go to a house where they usually met, within a mile of Lewes; but from thence they were directed to a private by lane, within a quarter of a mile of the house. This may be enough to take off the imputation of contempt of authority so frequently cast upon them by some, and that of rashness as often objected by others.”
It is not said who the minister was, but that he was fined forty pounds, and forty of his hearers five shillings each; and the minister being unable to pay, his fine was levied upon five of the people. The manner in which these fines were collected is so similar to that mentioned in the Bedford narrative that it is unnecessary to relate it.
By these statements it will be seen what was the rage and malice which prevailed at this time against the nonconformists, by means of the magistrates and the clergy. It is said by Crosby, from a manuscript of Mr. Josiah Diston, who had often been committed to prison and bound over to several assizes and sessions for having private meetings in his house,
“that he found the spirit and temper of the judges and justices in those times to be such, that when any person or accusation came before them concerning dissenters, they were zealous in aggravating their crimes; and many who were usually silent in other cases, were very forward speakers in these. Whereas, in other criminal matters they were cool, and very willing to show all the favour they could.”
Though many of the bishops did not appear in these persecutions, choosing rather to throw the blame upon the civil magistrates, yet some of them, as Bishop Ward and Bishop Gunning, often disturbed the meetings in person. This last gentleman was so zealous in the cause, that he sunk his character by giving a public challenge to the Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, and Quakers, and appointed three days for the disputation; in the cathederal church at Chichester, on the first of which his lordship went into the pulpit in the church, where was a considerable congregation, and charged the former three with sedition and rebellion out of their books, but would hear no reply. The Baptists on the second day were treated with much greater respect than the Presbyterians and Independants. The bishop probably recollected the dispute which he had with Mr. Henry Denne in St. Clements church by Temple Bar in 1658 — and from this circumstance was able to judge the strength of their arguments. When the day on which he was to dispute with the Quakers arrived, they had summoned their friends from different parts of Sussex and Hampshire, and when the bishop railed on them, they paid him in his own coin, and with interest too. The bishop not being able to withstand this furious attack, prudently left the field of action, and on his going to his house his opponents followed him, and one of them as he was passing pulling his lawn sleeve said, “The Hireling fleeth! The Hireling fleeth!”
In the year 1672, the king published a declaration of indulgence, by which he asserted his absolute power as head of the church, without doubt as introductory to asserting arbitrary and unlimited dominion in the state. As this is somewhat curious, we shall here insert it.
“Our care and endeavour for the preservation of the rights and interests of the church have been sufficiently manifested to the world by the whole course of our government since our happy restoration, and by the many and frequent ways of coercion that we have used for reducing all erring and dissenting persons, and for composing the unhappy differences in matters of religion which we found among our subjects upon our return; but it being evident by the sad experience of twelve years that there is very little fruit of all these forcible courses, we think ourselves obliged to make use of that supreme power in ecclesiastical matters which is not only inherent in us, but hath been declared and recognised to be so by several statutes and acts of parliament. And therefore we do now accordingly issue this our declaration, as well for the quieting of our good subjects in these points as for inviting strangers in this conjuncture to come and live under us, and for the better encouragement of all to a cheerful following of their trades and callings; from whence we hope, by the blessing of God, to have many good and happy advantages to our government; as also for preventing for the future, the danger that might otherwise arise from private meetings and seditious conventicles.
“And in the first place, we declare our express resolution, meaning, and intention to be, that the church of England be preserved and remain entire in its doctrine, discipline, and government, as now it stands established by the law; and that this be taken to be as it is, the basis, rule, and standard, of the general and public worship of God, and that the orthodox conformable clergy do receive and enjoy the revenues belonging thereunto; and that no person, though of a different opinion and persuasion, shall be exempt from paying his tithes and other dues whatsoever. And further we do declare, that no person shall be capable of holding any benefice, living, or ecclesiastical dignity or preferment of any kind, in this our kingdom of England, who is not exactly conformable.
“We do in the next place declare our will and pleasure to be, that the execution of all, and all manner of penal laws in matters ecclesiastical, against whatsoever sort of Nonconformists or Recusants, be immediately suspended, and they are hereby suspended; and all judges, judges of assizes, and gaol delivery, sheriffs, justices of the peace, mayors, bailiffs, and other officers whatsoever, whether ecclesiastical or civil, are to take notice of it, and pay due obedience there-unto.
“And that there may be no pretence for any of our subjects to continue their illegal meetings and conventicles, we do declare that we shall from time to time allow a sufficient number of places, as they shall be desired, in all parts of this our kingdom, for the use of such as do not conform to the church of England, to meet and assemble in, in order to their public worship and devotion, which places shall be open and free to all persons.
“But to prevent such disorders and inconveniences as may happen by this our indulgence, if not duly regulated, and that they may be the better protected by the civil magistrates, our express will and pleasure is, that none of our subjects do presume to meet in any place, until such place be allowed, and the teacher of that congregation approved by us.
“And lest any should apprehend that this restriction will make our said allowance and approbation difficult to be obtained, we do farther declare that this our indulgence, as to the allowance of public places of worship and approbation of the preachers, shall extend to all sorts of Nonconformists and Recusants, except those of the Roman catholic religion; to whom we shall in no wise allow public places of worship, but only indulge them their share in the common exemption from the penal laws, and the exercise of their worship in their private houses.
“And if after this our clemency and indulgence, any of our subjects shall pretend to abuse this liberty, and shall preach seditiously, or to the derogation of the discipline and government of the established church, or shall meet in places not allowed by us, We do hereby give them warning, and declare, that we will proceed against them with all imaginable severity and we will let them see that we can be as severe to punish such offenders when so justly provoked, as we are indulgent to truly tender consciences.
“Given at our Court at Whitehall, this 15th day of March, in the four-and-twentieth year of our reign.”
This deep-laid scheme, under the plausible
pretence of toleration, was evidently designed to
introduce popery. The protestant dissenters, till they could get
meeting-houses built, were more restrained from meeting together
than before, as they could not meet in private houses, and it
was not likely they would be very forward to erect
meeting-houses when they had no security for enjoying the use of
them. The papists on the contrary, who appear to be left out of
his majesty’s gracious care, could meet when they pleased
without molestation. Mr. Neal says,
“The protestant nonconformists had no opinion of this dispensing power, and were not forward to accept of liberty in this way. They were sensible that the indulgence was not granted out of love to them, nor would it continue any longer than it would serve the interests of popery. Some of them refused to accept this indulgence, because they would not admit that the king possessed a power to enact laws without the concurrence of parliament; but most of the ministers both in town and country, wearied out by vexatious fines and imprisonments, and thinking it right to embrace every opportunity to preach the gospel, accepted it and took out licenses. Great numbers of the people attended their meetings, and a cautious and moderate address of thanks was presented to the king for their liberty, but all were afraid of the consequences.”
Of the Baptiste who availed themselves of this indulgence, Mr. Andrew Gifford of Bristol applied for and obtained a licence under the king’s hand and seal, and countersigned by Lord Arington, one of the secretaries of state. The following is a true copy of the original, which is preserved with some papers of the late Dr. Andrew Gifford in the Baptist Library at Bristol.
“Charles by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith &c. To all mayors, bailiffs, constables, and other our officers and ministers, civil and military, whom it may concern, greeting. In pursuance of our declaration of the 15th of March, 1671-2, we do hereby permit and licence Andrew Gifford of our citty of Bristol, of the persuasion commonly called Baptists, to be a teacher, and to teach in any place licensed and allowed by us, according to our said declaration.
“Given at our Court at Whitehall, the 5th day of September, in the twenty-fourth year of our reign, 1672. Gifford a teacher,
By his Majesty’s command.
This measure not answering the end proposed by the king, to introduce popery, was soon put an end to; and in the next year the Test Act was introduced, by which the dissenters were effectually prevented from holding any place under government without prostituting a solemn ordinance of Christ, by receiving the Lord’s supper according to the usage of the church of England, in some parish church on some Lord’s day immediately after divine service and sermon.
The dissenters were now again generally
persecuted. Mr. Keach once more felt the fury of his
adversaries, and was forced to move from place to place to avoid
their rage. He was now a resident in London; and though the
congregation of which he was pastor were very careful to conceal
themselves, yet were they twice disturbed.
Being met together for religious worship in Jacob-street, in a private house down an alley, the churchwardens, with Mr. Cook a constable, came in and seized six persons, and had them before Justice Reading, who bound them over to appear at the quarter sessions. At another time they met together at the widow Colfe’s house at Kennington, to celebrate the Lord’s supper. At the conclusion they sung a hymn, which soon brought the officers of the parish to them; but from the conveniency of a back door they all escaped except one, who returning back again for something he had left behind was apprehended and taken. He was carried before a justice of the peace who committed him to prison, where he continued till some of his friends obtained bail for him. At the next quarter sessions he was fined, and his fine paid. The widow Colfe, at whose house they met, had a king’s messenger sent to apprehend her; but being informed that she was nurse to one who lay sick of the small-pox, he departed with an oath, and sought no more after her.
Mr. Keach was afterwards sought for by one of the messengers of the press, for printing a little book entitled, The Child’s Instructor. This was, as nearly as he could remember, the same as that for which he was imprisoned and set in the pillory. He was at this time a tenant of the noted informer Cook, but unknown to him by name. When Cook found out his name, he told him that one of the king’s messengers was in quest of him, and that on account of his being his tenant he screened him. He was however soon after taken up by a warrant by the said messenger, who left him with another informer in the neighbourhood by whom he was carried before Justice Glover.
The justice being informed of a gentleman of worth and credit, John Roberts, M. D., a member of Mr. Keach’s church, sent for him. When he arrived, pointing to Mr. Keach, he asked whether he knew that man Yes, said the doctor, very well. Then said the justice, Will you be bound for him? Yes, replied the doctor, “body for body.” The doctor’s bail being taken, Mr. Keach was discharged; but in the issue he was fined twenty pounds, which he was obliged to pay.
Many vile attempts were made to render the Baptists odious and contemptible. Amongst others, the following deserves notice. — In 1673, a pamphlet was published entitled, Mr. Baxter Baptized in blood.
“This work, which we have perused, gives an account of a barbarous murder committed by four Anabaptists at Boston in New England, upon the body of a godly minister, named Josiah Baxter, for no other reason than that he had worsted them in disputation; which was set forth with all the circumstances and formalities of names, speeches, actions, times, and place, to make it look the more authentic; orderly and most pathetically describing the most execrable murder that ever was known: viz. of first stripping and cruelly whipping, then unbowelling and flaying alive, a sound and godly minister in his own house, in the midst of the howlings, groans, and shriekings of his dear relations lying bound before him. And the better to create belief, this sad story is pretended to be published by the mournful brother of the said murdered minister, named Benjamin Baxter living in Fenchurch street, London. Moreover the authors bad dealt so artfully in order to avoid suspicion that they had prevailed on Dr. Samuel Parker to license it.
This infamous libel concludes in the following manner.
“I have penned and published this narrative in perpetuam rei memoriam, that the world may see the spirit of these men, and that it may stand as an eternal memorial of their cruelty and hatred to all orthodox ministers.”
Providentially this slander was not long undiscovered to be a gross and notorious falsehood, not containing a tittle of truth from first to last. A ship came from Boston about twenty days after the murder was said to have been committed; and two of the men, the master of the vessel and a merchant that was with him, affirmed upon oath before the lord mayor that they never knew any such man as Mr. Josiah Baxter; that they heard nothing of such a report in America, but believed it to be a very great falsehood. The deposition of these persons was published; the lord mayor published an interdict to prevent the sale of the pamphlet; and many of the publishers were committed to prison.
Through the influence of Mr. Kiffin at court, the matter underwent a rigid examination at the council board, when upon finding it a falsehood, the following order was published in the gazette.
“By the order of Council.”
“Whereas there is a pamphlet lately published, entitled Mr. Baxter baptized in blood, containing a horrible murder committed by four Anabaptists upon the person of Mr. Josiah Baxter, near Boston in New England: the whole matter having been enquired into and examined at the council board, is found altogether false and fictitious.
“The licenser, Dr. Samuel Parker, being also acquainted with the whole matter, confesseth his mistake, and too sudden credulity in the licensing so strange a pamphlet, as appears by the testimonial under his own hand.”
The doctor’s testimonial was then given at length, which was read in council, May 30th 1673; but notwithstanding all he said, it was strongly suspected that he was the author of this scandalous libel. He was accordingly charged with it by the satirical Andrew Marvel.
In reply to the question of Dr. Parker
“whether he had never heard nor read of any public disturbances
on account of religion?
“Yes (says Marvel) I have, and whosoever shall do so ought to be severely punished. Whether I have not heard of the merry pranks of John of Leyden and the Ana-baptists of Germany? Yes, and they were handled as they deserved. Nay, moreover I have heard of the Anabaptists of New England in a book printed in the year 1673, entitled Mr. Baxter baptized in blood, which came out under the license of the Author of the Ecclesiastical Politie; being therefore as is to be supposed a book of theological nature. It was indeed a piece of Ecclesiastical History, which he thought it seems very fit to reconcile to the present juncture of Affairs, and recommend to the Genuis of the age: faithfully relating the cruel, barbarous, and bloody murder of Mr . Baxter an orthodox Minister who was killed by the Anabaptists and his skin most cruelly flea’d of from his body. And yet from beginning to end there never was a compleater falshood invented. But after the Author of the Ecclesiastical Politie had in so many books of his own endeavoured to harangue up the notion into fury against tender consciences, there could not have been contrived by the wit of man, any thing more hopeful to have blooded them upon the Nonconformists than such a spectacle, and at the end of his orations to flourish the skin of an orthodox minister in this manner flea’d off by the Anabaptists. So that Se non era vero fu ben trovato. And in good earnest I dare not swear but it was the Author of the Ecclesiastical Polities own handy work. Several words I observe that he frequently and peculiarly makes use of in his other books, Concerns, Villians, Villanies, Booby, &c. but as for his brisk and laboured periods they may be traced every where.”
Many other proofs are adduced to fix the odium of this transaction on Doctor Parker, whose name stands loaded with infamy for falling in with all the measures adopted by a popish prince to introduce popery and arbitrary power. But at length Mr. Marvel succeeded in silencing him and the whole tribe of scurrilous pamphleteers who were doubtless employed to bring the Nonconformists into contempt; and who were so afraid of this sensible and sarcastic writer, that a letter was left at his house signed J. G. and dated November 3, 1673, which concluded with these words; “If thou darest to print or publish any lie or libel against Doctor Parker, by the Eternal God I will cut thy throat.”
In this year 1674, an event took place which it will be necessary to mention, on account of the notice which was taken of it at the time and the confusion it occasioned. This was the controversy between the Baptists and the people called Quakers.
Mr. Thomas Hicks, a baptist minister, published several pamphlets in succession, entitled A Dialogue between a Christian and a Quaker , at which the Quakers were much offended, calling them malicious forgeries and fictions, stuffed with manifest slanders against their persons and principles. To the first and second dialogues William Penn replied in a book entitled, Reasons against railing, and truth against fiction. To this Mr. Hicks answered in his third dialogue, entitled The Quaker condemned out of his own mouth. To this Mr. Penn replied in a work entitled, The counterfeit christian detected: wherein he charges Mr. Hicks with manifold perversions, downright lies and slanders, &c. On this Mr. Penn appealed to the Baptists in and about London, for justice against Thomas Hicks; threatening in case of a refusal, to pursue him, not only as Thomas Hicks, but as the Baptists’ great champion, peculiar agent, or representative: and that it might be the more taken notice of, they employed persons to give the book away at the door of the several meeting-houses.
In consequence of these measures, the Baptists appointed a day August 28. 1674, for the examination of Thomas Hicks, and to prevent the Quakers from pleading any surprise, they sent a letter to William Penn, and another to George Whitehead, to be present at the examination. But receiving notice that they were out of town, they sent to John Osgoods, to tell him that he, or any of his friends might be present at the time appointed, for the matter say they, being matter of fact, and not of dispute, we conceive we may proceed to hear Thomas Hicks’s defence. From this it is evident that the Quakers had no cause to complain of the Baptists, having taken the advantage of the absence of William Penn, and George Whitehead, nor could it be from the want of timely information that neither these nor any other Quaker was present.
On the appointed day the Baptists met, and Mr. William Kiffin opened the assembly, and gave an account of the occasion of their meeting. He then read the Quakers’ appeal and told them, that the business of the day was not to dispute, but to hear, examine, and judge whether Thomas Hicks was guilty of charging the Quakers falsely.
Thomas Hicks being present endeavoured to prove that he had not accused them falsely either as to their doctrines or practices. The charges he had made were that they held
1. That the light in every man is God.
2. That the soul is part of God, of God’s being, without beginning, and also infinite.
3. That Jesus Christ was not a distinct person without us.
4. That Christ redeems himself.
5. That the scriptures were not the rule of life and practice to Christians. 6. The speaking of the Spirit in any one, is of greater authority than the scriptures.
7. That is no command of God to me which God hath given to another; neither did any of the saints act by that command which is given to another; every one obeyed his own command.
8. That justification by that righteousness
which Christ fulfilled for us wholly without us is a doctrine of
9. That the Quakers hold justification by works in the strictest notion.
10. That Christ fulfilled the law only as our pattern.
11. That the doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction is irreligious and irrational.
12. That this body which dies shall not rise again.
As to the second head or matters of practice, he charged them with saying,
1. That it concerns them to render their
adversaries as ridiculous as they can, and to make their friends
believe they do nothing but contradict themselves; and if this
fail, to insinuate something by way of question, that may
3. That William Penn, by the sense of the Eternal Spirit doth declare, that these cursings, railing, and lying answers of Edward Burroughs were the only fit answers to the priests trepanning questions.
4. They prefer their own pamphlets to the bible; for they call the one the voice of wisdom, breathings of true love, shield of faith, a spiritual glass, light risen out of darkness: but the scriptures are called letter, dead letter, paper, ink, and writing, carnal letter &c.
5. They bid people follow the light within, and if they do not, they revile them.
6. They say God himself is the immediate teacher of his people, and yet they appoint their minister to speak in such a place.
7. They entitle God to sleeveless errands.
8. They refuse public meetings to debate the chief things in difference between them and others, under pretence that they are cautious about running theirs into jeopardy.
9. That they own the scriptures as far as it agrees with the light within.
10. That the light within created heaven and earth, and is the immediate object of divine worship.
11. That if these things objected in the two first dialogues be true, William Penn hath confessed a Quaker is not a Christian.
12. William Penn accuses me of forgery in saying he has these words, viz. That were we what he represents us, the worst plagues, and judgments of God would be our portion. Which are his own words, with this little alteration, that he says, we might justly expect them to be our portion for ever.
13. William Penn charges me with a downright lie in giving this answer to John Whitehead’s name, viz. That the plagues and judgments of God will follow thee; though it is attested too under Mr. John Gladman’s own hand.
14. That their owning Christ is no other than a mere mystical romance; and that the light within them sees no necessity of a mediator.
15. Another lie William Penn charges me with is this; That the Quakers deny Christ’s visible coming, and appearance in the world.
16. That they account the blood of Christ but as the blood of a common thief; which though William Penn says is an ungodly aspersion, is fully made out.
17. That one of their friends bid her husband
take another woman.
18. That a revelation hath been pretended to excuse the payment of a just debt.
19. That some of their friends have excused some of the villanies, by pretence of an innocent life.
Mr. Hicks produced authorities from their printed works, in justification of all these serious charges; excepting the last three, and concerning these proposed to the Quakers that if they would chuse six sober and disinterested persons, that he would do the same, and if he could not give sufficient reasons for what he had objected against them he would contentedly submit unto what these persons did determine.
The charges and proofs were submitted to the investigation of a number of ministers and others, who having examined them, gave the following Certificate.
“We whose names are under written do certify, that the aforesaid quotations are truly recited out of the books to which they refer.
Witness our hands.
“There were many more ministers and others ready to attest the same.
“N. B. We have abbreviated the account by much. There was an advertisement giving notice, that Mr. William Kiffin was not present by reason of business; but that he had since examined and found the quotations just.
“Mr. Hicks having thus met at the time and place appointed, made it appear out of the Quakers’ own books, that he had not wronged them in the least. The church therefore to which he belonged, in public print cleared him from the Quakers’ charge, and declared to the world that they as yet see no just cause of blame to be laid upon Thomas Hicks; but if any one shall object any new matter against him, if they signify the particulars in writing, they will return such answers thereunto, as to them may seem just, and that may also be to the satisfaction of all indifferent and unprejudiced minds, hoping that nothing shall lie upon them in point of duty towards him, but that by the grace of God they shall be ready to do it.
In the appeal which Mr. Obed Wills afterwards made to the Baptists against Mr. Danvers, he notices this decision, and says that
“though the Quakers were disappointed as to the issue of their appeal yet it doth appear to all impartial and unprejudiced persons, that the Baptists have carried the whole business with a great deal of fairness and impartiality to both sides, as became just judges and good Christians, and vindicated the honesty of their brother from the unjust aspersions of adversaries.”
“The Quakers (says Crosby) exhibited a new complaint, in which they desired a rehearing of the whole matter, which at last was granted them. Wherein they behaved themselves so disorderly, as displeased the whole auditory; and finding themselves not able to get the better of the Baptists, being disappointed of the success they hoped for, appointed a meeting at their own house in Wheeler-Street; thither Mr. Hicks would not go, because they who had appealed were no fit judges to condemn in that case wherein they had appealed; but sent Mr. Ives thither with some others, who so managed the Quakers, that they were obliged to break up, without any further proceedings in the matter.
“Thomas Ellwood tells us, that he let fly a
broad-side at the Baptists, in a single sheet of paper, under
the title of a fresh pursuit . In which (says he) having
restated the controversy between them and us, and reinforced our
charge of forgery, &c. against Thomas Hicks and his abettors; I
offered a fair challenge to them, not only to Thomas Hicks
himself, but to all those his compurgators, who had before
undertaken to acquit him from our charge, together with their
companion Jeremiah Ives, to give me a fair and public meeting,
in which I would make good our charge against him as principal
and all the rest of them as accessaries; but nothing could
provoke them to come fairly forth.”
The Baptists published an account of the two last meetings between them and the Quakers, together with the occasions of them, as also the letters which passed in order thereunto. This was entitled A Contest for Christianity, with some reflections upon several passages that were published in the account which the Quakers gave of the said meetings. This is submitted (says Crosby) to the judgment of all judicious and impartial men, and is too long to be inserted. It is thought probable that this was written by Mr. Daniel Dyke.
In the year 1683, very violent measures were adopted towards all denominations of dissenters, and several eminent Baptists became great sufferers. The information we possess respecting them will be found highly interesting. The first we mention is the famous Mr. Thomas Delaune, the champion of Nonconformity, on account of which he suffered great hardships in prison, where he died. The occasion of his sufferings was briefly as follows.
— Dr. Benjamin Calamy, rector of St. Lawrence Jewry, in one of his printed sermons entitled A scrupulous Conscience, invited the nonconformists to examine what each party had to say for themselves with respect to the ceremonies imposed by the church and enforced by the penal laws, and called upon them modestly to propose their doubts, and meekly to hearken to and receive instructions. In compliance with this, Mr. Delaune, who was a Baptist and a learned man, printed a Plea for the Nonconformists, shewing the true state of their case, and justifying their separation. But before it was published, he was apprehended by a messenger of the press, and shut up a close prisoner in Newgate by warrant from the Recorder Jenner, dated November 30, 1683.
During his confinement, Mr. Delaune published a narrative of his trial and sufferings, which was addressed to Doctor Calamy. In the title page we find the following scriptures, which show the state of his mind under his sufferings. Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth ? — If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter, for He that is higher than the highest regardeth. — If you suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be ye troubled. Galatians iv. xvi. Eccles. v. viii. 1. Peter iii. ivx.
He informed Dr. Calamy, that when he was apprehended, he was sent by Jenner the recorder to Wood-Street Compter;
“where (says be) I had most wretched accommodation. I was turned in among the common-side prisoners, where a hard bench was my bed, and two bricks my pillows; and I was not suffered to see some of my acquaintance who were prisoners there as dissenters. I was soon after sent to Newgate, and lodged among felons, whose horrid company made a perfect representation of that place which you describe when you mention hell. But after two days and nights, without any refreshment, the unusualness of that society and place has impared my health, the constitution of which at best is very tender and crazy, I was removed and am now in the press yard, a place of some sobriety, though still a prison.”
While here, on December 8, he addressed a letter to Dr. Calamy, which he sent by the hands of his wife, representing how much he should suffer for attending to his request, and that the doctor was in honour bound to procure his sheets yet unfinished a public passport, and to him his liberty;
“Else (says he) I must conclude it unfair, and that if the irresistible logic of gaol grow alamode, it will make the reformation some pretend to suspected to be very little meritorious of that name. Sir, I entreat you to excuse this trouble from a stranger, who would fain be convinced by something more like divinity than Newgate, where any message from you shall be welcome to your humble servant, Thomas Delaune.”
To this the doctor replied, that if he had been imprisoned on account of answering his book, he would do him any kindness which became him: but this he never attempted, excusing himself as being no way concerned, for that the sheets he saw at the printer’s did not mention his name. This led him to write as follows.
“I appeal to your conscience whether I had not some reason to expect some return to these applications But I had none to any purpose, and that too but in a few words to my wife. I had some thoughts that you would have performed the office of a divine in visiting me in my place of confinement; either to argue me out of my doubts, which your promised SCRIPTURE and REASON, not a mittimus and Newgate, could easily do. To the former I can yield — to the latter, it seems, I must. This is a severe kind of logic, and will probably dispute me out of the world, as it did Mr. Bampfield and Mr. Ralphson lately, who were my dear and excellent companions in trouble, and whose absence f cannot but bemoan, as having lost in them a society that was truly pious, truly sweet, and truly amiable. But f hope the God of mercy will supply the want by a more immediate influence of comfort than what can be obtained at second hand.”
He proceeds to give an account of his trial by saying,
“On the tenth of December two bills were found against Mr. Ralphson and rue by the grand jury of London, and on the thirtieth of the same month we were called to the sessions house in the Old Baily. Our indictments were then read in English, to which we pleaded not guilty. We desired copies of the said indictments, and time to make our defence till the next sessions, which the court after some pause granted. The substance of the indictment against me was as follows. “The jurors for our lord the king, upon their oath present that Thomas Delaune late of London, gentleman, not regarding his due allegiance, but contriving and intending to disquiet and disturb the peace and common tranquility of this kingdom, to bring the said lord the king into the greatest hate and contempt of his subjects; machining and further intending to move stir up and procure sedition and rebellion, and to disparage and scandalize the book of common prayer, &c.
“On the 30th of November, in the 35th year of the king, at London, in the parish of St. Botolph without Bishopgate, in the ward of Bishopsgate aforesaid; by force and arms, unlawfully, seditiously, and maliciously did write, print, and publish, and caused to be written, printed, and published, a certain false seditious and scandalous libel of and concerning the said lord the king and the book of common prayer aforesaid, entitled A Plea for the Nonconformists.
“In which said libel are contained these false fictions and scandalous sentences following; viz. The church of Rome and England who are great transgressors to presume to vary from Christ’s precept in altering or adding to the form of words expressed by Christ in the eleventh of Luke; for so they have done. They say, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them who trespass against us, when there are no such words in Christ’s prayer: his words are, forgive us our sins or debts, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And, says the indictment, in another part of the said libel are contained these false fictions, seditions and scandalous sentences following; viz. And may we not say that in these following particulars we do symbolize with idolatrous Rome herein? First, by enjoining and imposing this (here the indictment makes an innuendo, meaning the book of common prayer) as a set form, as they do with penalties, contrary to the scriptures. Secondly, by an often repetition of the same form in the same exercise three or four times at least, insomuch that in cathedral churches it is said or sung ten or twelve times a day, contrary to Christ’s express words, that when we pray, we do no not make vain repetitions as the heathens do, for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking. Thirdly by enjoining the whole congregation, men and women, to repeat the same after the priest, though no such directions by Christ: nay, he forbids women to pray or prophecy iii the church. Fourthly, in singing this prayer in the cathedrals by responses of people without the least warrant from Christ for such song-praying. [Then the indictment ends with a fearful aggravation, that is] in contempt of the king, and to the evil and most pernicious example of all such other delinquents in the like case, and against the peace of the said lord now king, his crown and dignity &c.
“ON the 16th of January (continues Mr. Delaune) we were called to the sessions-house; but there being some trials which proved very tedious, we were not brought on. The next day we were called to the outer bar, after the attendance of several hours in a place not very lovely, and in the sharpest winter you have known, which it is very likely carried my two friends beyond the jurisdiction of sessions, bale-docks, or press-yards, to a glorious mansion of rest.
“I desired that my indictment should be read in Latin, which was done. Here the gentlemen of the law aggravated things with their usual rhetoric. One of them, I think the attorney general, was pleased to say that the prisoner who stood there before (Mr. Ralphson was tried before me) did labour to undermine the state, and that man (meaning me) would undermine the church: so that to incense the jury against us, he said, Here is church and state struck at. This, Sir, was improbable to be true, for it is wonderful that any church and state so potent as this is should fear such under-miners as the extravagant harangue termed us. For my part, I cannot be righteously charged with any attempt against either, unless my obedience to you be so: and then if I be guilty, you that tempted me to it can never prove yourself innocent.
“Being desired to speak what I had to say for myself, I spoke the following words, which one who knew me took in short-hand, though without my knowledge.
“My Lord, last sessions I pleaded not guilty; that is, not guilty modo et forma; for I designed not vi et armis, to raise rebellion, sedition &c. I detest-such things: he that swears in that respect against me must be perjured. The instances in the indictment relate no such thing. My Lord, I pray you to trouble no witnesses about me: I will not prevaricate. I have written some papers entitled, A Plea for the Nonconformists, not instigated by the feigned formalities in the indictment; but it was at the loud challenge of Dr. Calamy, one of the king’s chaplains; in his discourse upon scrupulous consciences, dedicated to your lordship; wherein he called upon doubting persons to examine what could be said on both sides, which I did. Now since public challenges are made to be answered, to punish me for obeying a guide of the church is hard, very hard.
“I desire that the entire paragraphs may be read, from which the crimes charged against me are inferred. If fragments only be produced, from which no perfect sense can be deduced, I shall be unfairly dealt with. The coherence of sense in a continued discourse, not scraps and broken pieces of sentences, can demonstrate the scope of an argument. If what I have written be true, it is no crime, unless truth be made a crime. If false, let Dr. Calamy or any of the guides of your church confute me (as he promised in his sermon aforesaid) by good scripture and good reason: then will I submit. If the latter method be not taken, I must repeat it, ‘tis very hard, my lord, ‘tis very hard.
“Here the chief justice interrupted me, addressing himself to the jury, and expounded that part of the sentence I excepted against, saying, It was only for form sake, and that any breach of the peace in the sense of the law may be said to be vi et armis, by force and, arms, with some other expressions to the same purpose: the latter of which I acknowledged. He then said, after a torrent of aggravation, Gentlemen, if you believe that man (pointing at me, and alluding to what I had confessed in writing the Nonconformist’s Plea) you must find him guilty of the whole indictment. And they readily did it accordingly.
“The next day I received my sentence, the very same with Mr. Ralphson’s.” Thomas Delaune fined a hundred marks, and to be kept prisoner &c., and to find good security for his good behaviour for one whole year afterwards; and that the said books and seditious libels by him published shall be burnt with fire before the Royal Exchange, London. And if he be discharged to pay six shillings.
“The Recorder then asked me some questions, viz. whether I was in orders? I told him, I was never in any ecclesiastical orders, nor ever preached among any people; that I was bred a scholar, and had been a schoolmaster, and kept a grammar school till forced from it by the present prosecutions &c.
“The court told both Mr. Ralphson and me, that in respect to our education as scholars we should not be pilloried, though we deserved it. We were sent back to our place of confinement, and the next execution day our books were burnt, as the sentence ordered it, in the place aforesaid, and we continue here. But since I wrote this, Mr. Ralphson has had his supersedeas by death to a better place.
“Thus, Sir, you have a series of my circumstances. I will make no complaints of the usage I had when forced as aforesaid to lodge among the rabble of us retches, whose society seemed to me to be a hell upon earth, as before; nor of my other hardships, as confinement, loss of employment, loss of health, &c. But if you have any sense of humanity, you will recollect yourself, and procure me my freedom, being not able to pay my fine, lost by obedience to your public call.”
When it is known that Mr. Delaune’s judge was the infamous Sir George Jeffries, it will not appear at all surprising that he should have been treated with such unjust severity: but it is really almost incredible that Dr. Calamy could read this address, and not be moved either by a sense of honour or humanity to procure his release.
The remaining part of this tragical story shall be related from the preface to the seventeenth edition of his work, written by the celebrated De Foe.
“Mr. Delaune continued in confinement in Newgate about fifteen months, and suffered great hardships by extreme poverty, being so entirely reduced by this disaster that he had no subsistence but what was contributed by such friends as came to visit him. His behaviour in this distress was like the greatness of mind which he discovered at his trial. And the same spirit which appears in shis writings appeared in his conversation, and supported him with invincible patience under the greatest extremities. But long confinement and distresses of various kinds conquered him at last. He had a wife and two small children all with him in the prison, for they had no subsistence elsewhere. The closeness and inconvenience of the place first affected them; and all three, by lingering sorrows and sickness, died in the prison! At last, worn out with troubles and hopeless of relief, and too much abandoned by those who should have taken some other care of him, this excellent person sunk under the burden, and died there also. I cannot refrain saying (adds De Foe) that such a champion of such a cause deserved better usage. And it was very hard that such a, man, such a Christian, such a scholar, and on such an occasion, should starve in a dungeon; and that the whole body of dissenters in England, whose cause he died for defending, should not raise him the sum of sixty-six pounds thirteen shillings and four-pence to save his life!”
De Foe’s opinion of the Plea for Nonconformists is thus expressed.
“This book is perfect of itself. Never author left behind him a more finished piece, and I believe the dispute is entirely ended. If any man ask what we can say why the dissenters differ from the church of England, and what they can plead for it; I can recommend no better reply than this. Let them answer, in short, Thomas Delaune, and desire the querist to read the book.”
“The treatment which the reverend and learned author of this book met with will for ever stand as a monument of the cruelty of those times. They who affirm that the dissenters were never persecuted in England for their religion will do well to tell us what name we shall give to this man of merit, than whom few greater scholars, clearer heads, or greater masters of argument ever graced the English nation. I am sorry to say, he is one of near eight thousand protestant dissenters who perished in prison in the days of that merciful prince King Charles II., and that merely for dissenting from the church, in points which they could give such reasons for as this Plea assigns; and for no other cause were stifled, I had almost said, murdered in gaols for their religion, in the days of those gentlemen’s power who pretend to abhor persecution.”
Mr. Delaune was born at Brini in Ireland, about three miles from Riggsdale. His parents were papists, and very poor. They rented part of the estate of Squire Riggs. This gentleman, observing the forward parts of young Delaune, placed him in a friary at Kilcrash, about seven miles from Cork, where he received his education. When he was about sixteen years of age, he left the friary, and went to Kingsale, where he met with Mr. Bampfield, who then had a pilchard fishery at that place. Finding Mr. Delaune a young man of good capacity and learning, he took him into his employment as a clerk, and was made the happy instrument of his conversion. He continued some years in great esteem and intimacy with Major Riggs and Mr. Bampfield, till he was forced by persecution to leave Ireland, and come to England. In Ireland he became acquainted with Mr. Edward Hutchinson, who was pastor of a congregation at Ormond, and at length married his daughter Hannah, with whom he came to London.
We find his name affixed with those of our London ministers of the Baptist denomination, to the reply to the appeal of Mr. Obed Wills, which he had made to them in reference to Mr. Danvers. He also wrote a preface to the work of Mr. Hutchinson on the covenants, and a Latin epistle in verse, prefixed to the same work in 1674. He was also very intimate with Mr. Benjamin Keach, and compiled the Philologia Sacra, prefixed to his work on Scripture Metaphors.
In the course of this statement the names of Mr. Ralphson and Mr. Bampfield have been mentioned. The former of these, who was tried with Mr. Delaune, was a person of considerable learning and usefulness. Possessed of great courage, he would not desist from preaching in London, though several of his friends were committed to prison, among whom were Mr. Laurence Wise, Mr. Griffiths, and Mr. Bampfield. Sometimes he held his meetings at Founders Hall, and at others at Dyers Hall. He was at length taken and sent to Newgate, where he died at about the age of fifty-eight. As we shall have occasion to speak of him in another place, we defer any farther account of him here.
Mr. Edward Bampfield was the pastor of a seventh-day Baptist church which met at Pinners Hall in Broad-Street; but as this place was very public, he did not long escape the notice and the rage of his persecutors. On February 17, 1682, when they were assembled in the forenoon at their usual hour, Mr. Bampfield being in the pulpit, a constable with his staff and several men with halberts rushed into the meeting. The constable commanded him in the king’s name to come down: to which he answered that he was in the discharge of his office in the name of the King of kings. I have, said the constable, a warrant from the lord mayor to disturb your meeting. I have a warrant from Jesus Christ, who is Lord Maximus, to go on, said Mr. Bampfield, and accordingly proceeded in his discourse. The constable then commanded one of the officers to pull him down. Upon which Mr. Bampfield repeated his text: the latter part of which was, The day of vengeance is in his heart, and the year of his redeemed is come. He added, He will pull down his enemies.
They seized Mr. Bampfield and six of his people, and took them before the lord mayor. After examination by his lordship, they were fined ten pounds each, and desired to depart.
In the afternoon of the same day they went to their meeting-house again at the usual time. No sooner had Mr. Bampfield and a few of his friends entered the place than the officers came and shut the door to prevent those from entering who were coming in, and required those who were there immediately to disperse. Instead of attending to the mandate, they kept their places, and took this opportunity to tell the officers of the sin and disgrace of persecuting men on account of religion. They were all apparently affected with this address, and declared their unwillingness to engage in such a work, but said they were obliged to do it.
One of the people then demanded of the constable to produce his warrant for what he did but he acknowledged that be had none, saying he would send to the lord mayor for one. Without any warrant, however, the constable commanded one of the officers to pull Mr. Bampfield down from the pulpit. After some time, with a pale face and trembling limbs, he took hold of him, and led him out into the street, where a great number of people were collected together. The constable fearing to proceed farther, Mr. Bampfield went with a large company to his own house, and performed worship, having been prevented from doing so in the meeting-house.
On the 24th of the same month they met again at Pinners Hall, but had not been long assembled before another constable and several officers rushed in upon them. Mr. Bampfield was engaged in prayer, which he did not discontinue till one of the officers came and pulled him away. As he was going through the streets towards the lord mayor’s, he carried his bible in his hand, exposing it to the view of the people, who collected in great numbers, thus endeavouring to show that it was for the sake of Christ and his word that his liberty was taken away. The spectators as be passed were differently affected towards him. Some said he was a Christian jew: others said, See how he walks with his bible in his hand, like one of the old martyrs!
Being brought to the sessions, after examination, he and three more were sent to Newgate; and on March 17, 1685, he was brought to the bar with some others who had been committed for not taking the oath of allegiance and supremacy, when they were found guilty by the jury who were directed to do so by the judge. March 28, they were again brought to the bar to receive sentence. The Recorder without asking whether they would take the oaths, or whether they had any thing to say in their own defence, after casting many reflections on scrupulous consciences, read the following sentence: That they were out of the protection of the king’s majesty; that all their goods and chattels were forfeited; and that they were to remain in gaol during their lives, or during the king’s pleasure.
Mr. Bampfield would have spoken in reply; but there was a great uproar, crying, Away with them! Put them away from the bar: we will not hear them! While they were thrusting them away, Mr. Bampfield said, The righteous Lord loveth righteousness: the Lord be judge in this case! They were then returned to Newgate. The hardships which Mr. Bampfield endured soon brought him to his end. At his last trial he was kept ten hours in the bail-dock, a cold and disagreeable place. But he soon received his discharge; death performing that kind office for him in Newgate, to the great grief of his fellow-prisoners and a very numerous acquaintance.
Mr. Griffiths, a Baptist minister in London, was interrupted at his meeting-house several times, and on February 27, 1683, was sent to Newgate. The account of his trial was published by himself while in prison, and contains some important information respecting the restrictions they wished to lay upon them. It is as follows: —
“The case of Mr. John Griffiths, minister of the gospel, and now prisoner in Newgate: being a true and impartial account of what he spake at the sessions house in the Old Bailey, on April 18, 1683, before the Lord Chief Justice Saunders and three other judges, the Lord Mayor, Recorder, and several Aldermen of the city of London.
“On the day and year aforesaid, about four in the afternoon, Mr. Bampfield and myself were sent for by the court; and soon after we came, were first brought to the inward bar. Mr. Bampfield was first required to tae the oath of allegiance, it being again tendered him according to the statute in the third of King James. After some discourse between the judges and the Recorder had with Mr. Bampfield, he refusing to swear, they made an end at that time with him. The clerk of the peace, said to me, Take off your glove. I asked him, What to do? He answered, To lay your hand on the book, which he had in his hand, and held out to me. I then spake with a loud voice and said, My lord, I hope you will give me the liberty to speak for myself in my own defence. One of the judges replied that my friend, meaning Mr. Bampfield, had spoken for me, or to that effect. I said again that I desired to speak for myself, for I had other reasons to offer why I could not take that oath. Having liberty granted, as I took it from their silence, I with an audible voice said to them, I am commanded in the scripture when I take an oath to swear in truth and judgment, and in righteousness, onto which the church of England doth agree. It is one article of their faith, (the 39th) that he who taketh an oath, being required of the magistrate, ought to swear, so that he do it in truth, in righteousness, and in judgment. Now for me to swear as my duty is according to the scripture, and as the church of England directs, I cannot, were I to take this oath; because, I cannot know, but must be ignorant of, what I bind my soul to perform; and then it is impossible I should swear in truth, in judgment and in righteousness. I cannot know, but must be ignorant, both of what hereafter by law I may be required to do, and also to whom I swear to be obedient; for it is not possible I should foresee what laws may hereafter be made. I do not only bind my soul to obey the king that now is, but his heirs and successors also; and I know not what his successor may be. For aught I know he may be a popish successor, a papist; and I cannot swear to obey laws not yet in being, nor to be obedient to a popish successor: therefore I cannot take the oath of allegiance.
“Upon these words there was a hum in the court, which being ceased, after a little pause, one of the judges made this short reply. Aye, saith he, doth he stick it there? I then went on and said, I cannot conform to the church of England. Should I take this oath, I swear to conform; for I am bound by my oath to obey all the king’s laws, as much those laws which respect the worship of God as those relating to civil government; and then I am sworn to hear common prayer once a month. Here one of the judges said, ‘So you are.’
— And to, receive the sacrament with the church of England as often as the law requires; yea, and to conform to all the rites and ceremonies of the church. To this it was answered, ‘So you are.’ — And not to frequent private meetings any more; for there are laws that forbid it. It was answered again, ‘So you are.’ — Therefore I cannot take this oath.
“I then prayed all the judges to give me their opinions, whether it were as I had said or not. They answered with one consent that it was as I had said, viz. that in taking the oath I did swear to obey all the king’s laws without exception. Then I returned them thanks that they were pleased to give me their opinion and judgment in the case. And withal added these words: I am well satisfied and settled in my religion, and the more confirmed by what you have said; and if it be so, do with me what you please. Come life, come death, the Lord assisting me, I will never take the oath of allegiance.
“Then I desired to speak few words more, and said, Be it known unto you that I do not refuse to take the oath of allegiance in any dislike I have of any thing contained therein against the authority of the pope or the see of Rome, but do in all points therein with you agree. And further, I do declare that I do believe the pope hath no power, nor authority over the king’s person or government; no, nor over the meanest subject in his kingdom. And I do yet further declare, that I believe in my conscience, popery to be idolatrous, damnable, and devilish.
“I was then had back again to the press-yard, where I remain the Lord’s prisoner; and am ready further to bear my testimony for him, against antichrist, the pope, and see of Rome; and for his holy word, the purity of the gospel, and the ordinances thereof, against popish darkness, filthy idolatries, fornications, blasphemies, and abominations, and all traditions of men; as one made willing through the free mercy and rich grace of God, my heavenly Father, to forsake all for Christ, who hath loved me and given himself for me; not counting my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
“Thus have I given an account of what I spake, and what was said to me, to the very best of my memory, though it may not be word for word: yet for the substance of what was spoken, it is true.
We are not informed how Mr. Griffith’s imprisonment terminated, but it is probable that he was treated with severity, as it was his third offence, and it was fully expected when he was committed that the sentence of the law, which was banishment, would be inflicted.
Several other Baptist ministers suffered at this time. The venerable Hansard Knollys, now eighty-four years of age, had been in October 1684 about six or eight months in the new prison. It was credibly reported that a little time before he was imprisoned, a lord came to him from the court, and asked him whether he and his friends of his persuasion would accept of a toleration gladly. The excellent man replied, “I am old, and know but few men’s minds.” Being further pressed for an answer, he said, “I am of opinion that no liberty but what came by act of parliament would be very acceptable, because that would be stable, firm, and certain.” To such artful conduct did the court descend in order to make the dissenters wish for a toleration which would include the papists. It ought to be recorded to the honour of this apostolic man, that he preferred a prison to any concession that would affect the interest of the church of Christ.
Mr. Andrew Gifford before mentioned, being very zealous in his Master’s work, met with much interruption at this period, as his enemies gladly embraced the opportunity of showing their envy and rage against him. To avoid their fury, he frequently preached in the forest of Kingswood, about three miles from Bristol, the place where the celebrated Whitfield and Wesley have since preached with so much success. The county magistrates hearing of it, were filled with great indignation; but a good providence preserved him from falling into their hands till the latter end of November 1680, when he was taken by a warrant signed by no less than thirteen of them, and sent to jail. He had been before imprisoned, but never for so long a period. There were many circumstances relating to this event which made it remarkable. His son Emanuel was placed as a watch to give notice of the approach of the informers: but in consequence of his being frozen to the ground on which he had sat down a few minutes to rest himself, and not being able to get free without cutting off the skirts of his new frieze coat, he was prevented from giving the alarm soon enough for his father to escape. A worthy Independant minister whose name is not preserved, was preaching at the same time in a neighbouring part of the wood; but in attempting to pass the rider to escape the informers he lost his life. The colliers hearing that Mr. Gifford was taken, collected in great numbers and came to him armed with bills and clubs and other rural weapons, and offered to rescue him out of their hands. But he refused, saying, That though he thought he might justly do all he could to prevent being seized, yet being now actually taken, and that by legal authority, he chose to submit to the law of the land, and leave his cause with God, who he doubted not would order all things for the best.
He was no sooner brought before one of the justices than his mittimus was made; but on representing that he had some affairs of importance to settle, and that his wife was far advanced in pregnancy, the justice dismissed him upon his parole of honour for two or three days, on Mr Giffords promising that he would surrender himself at the time appointed. He no sooner however arrived at home than the harpies came and seized him, and hurried him away to Gloucester castle, which was thirty miles distant, without any regard to the clemency of the magistrate, or inclemency of the season. He entered the gaol just as the chimes rung at midnight. This circumstance is mentioned because it was afterwards remarkably overruled for good. While he was in prison, he with several other ministers performed worship with the prisoners, and a great reformation was wrought especially among the felons. In the mean time his enemies, to prevent him preaching any more in public, procured an order from court, by means of the Duke of York, afterwards King James II. to confine him there for life; but the Lord rendered all their designs abortive, and taught them that wherein they dealt proudly he was above them, and could take the wise in their own craftiness. When the six months mentioned in the mittimus had expired, Mr. Gifford desired the keeper to dismiss him, who answered, that it was not usual to open the gates at midnight. He replied, that they were opened to let him in, and therefore why should they not be to let him out? Seconding his demand with a more powerful argument, being apprized of enemies’ design, he was discharged at the same hour as when he came in, namely, at twelve o’clock at night. The next morning at six o’clock the express arrived from London with an order to confine him during life. Thus his being hurried to prison before his parole had expired was probably the occasion of his being dismissed before the order came. This was his last imprisonment, as he ever after kept out of the way of his enemies, or at least was protected by the care of his divine Master whom he constantly and faithfully served.
While Mr. Gifford was in prison he sent the following letter, now in the possession of Mr. Whittuck of Bristol, and published in the Protestant Dissenters Magazine. This was addressed to Mr. Edward Grant of Trowbridge, and is dated Gloucester Castle, April 14, 1684.
“MY dear love to you and your wife, with
many and hearty thanks to God and you for the exceeding great
love, both in provoking others to such liberality, and taking so
great a journey to visit, and bestowing so great a benefit on me
which I can never requite; but my prayer is, and shall be, that
it may be trebled to you again, and that divine blessings may
descend on you and yours,
and that you may never want any mercy either for time or eternity; but may have that grace, which may keep you faithful to what you know, and enable you to do what God does require, and contentedly and cheerfully endure whatever in so doing you may suffer; your peace of conscience, the welfare of your immortal soul, the pleasure and honour of God, is to be preferred before goods, liberty, or life itself; therefore with purpose of heart let us cleave to the Lord, then are we secure for our spiritual and eternal welfare; O love God more than creatures, fear him more than men, and sin more than sufferings; do not buy your peace with soul-wounding defilements, be faithful unto death, and then you shall have that crown of life which will make amends for all, and then I am sure you will never repent neither service nor suffering; and though you may fear how you shall be able to stand, yet consider God is able to make you stand, his grace is sufficient, his strength is made perfect in the creature’s weakness; cry to, and rely upon him; use all honest means to preserve yourself, and to prevent your enemies; use the wisdom of the serpent, but be sure to keep the innocency of the dove. — Seek and depend alone on God, in God’s wisdom to council, power and strength to defend, or support and supply all our wants of nature and grace, and in due time give a glorious deliverance; “it is good both to hope and quietly wait for his salvation;” be sure you do not comply with any thing you are not satisfied is God’s will, or you should be loth to hear of in that great day. I had rather if God is pleased to help me, abide in bonds, and in the worst that can be done by my enemies, than do the least evil for deliverance. Pray for me, as I for you; so committing you to him who is able to keep you from falling, and present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, I rest your loving friend under manifold obligations.
“Pray take care to deliver the inclosed letter, you may read it to the congregation, by which you will understand what was done at sessions. Remember my love to brother Cray with thanks for his kindness.”
We must now return to the year 1675, when
many professions were made in the House of Lords of respect for
the protestant dissenters, and the duke of Buckingham proposed
to bring in a bill of indulgence. Though this was doubtless a
pretext to encourage popery, yet it is probable the Baptists
were willing to take the opportunity it afforded them of
devising means to promote the interest of the denomination. In
proof of this we find that the London ministers addressed a
circular letter to the churches both in England and Wales,
inviting their brethren of the Baptist persuasion to meet the
following May in the metropolis with a view to form a plan for
the providing an orderly standing ministry in the church, who
might give themselves to reading and study, and so become able
ministers of the new testament. The letter bore date the 2d of
the 8th month 1675, and was signed by most of the London
pastors, among whom were Daniel Dyke, William Collins, and
We know not what was the result of this proposal, but it is probable the severity of persecution against the Non-conformists prevented their meeting. It however proves that the learned men who were amongst the Baptists, and pastors of their churches were very desirous of providing a learned ministry, which could not now be expected without establishing seminaries of their own, as the universities and public schools were shut against them.
At the close of this year we find there were some disputes amongst the Baptist ministers in the west of England respecting the obligations of unconverted men to pray. Mr. Andrew Gifford, the pastor of the church at Pithay, Bristol, seems to have been acquainted with some ministers who were of the opinion that as none could pray acceptably without the influences of the Holy Spirit, and unconverted men being destitute of those influences, that therefore it was not their duty to pray, nor the duty of ministers to exhort them to seek for spiritual blessings. This excellent man, who was of a different sentiment, being very fond of the free invitations of the gospel to sinners, as appears by the sermon preached at his funeral, and wishing to obtain information on this subject, and some other points debated between them, addressed a letter to Mr. Joseph Morton, a baptist minister in London, requesting, it should seem, that he would submit it to the rest of the ministers, and obtain their opinion on the subject. The letter addressed to him on this occasion is so clear and satisfactory, and so descriptive of the sentiments of many of our ministers, that we with great pleasure give it a place in our work.
London 18th of the 11th month [Jan. 18.] 1675.
“Dear brother Gifford,
“WE had a sight of your letter to brother Morton, and are not a little grieved to hear of those differences among you, and the more that they should be on such grounds as you mention, which can have no other tendency than to render us contemptible to all serious and judicious persons.
“Prayer is a part of that homage which every man is obliged to give to God; ‘tis a duty belonging to natural, and not only to instituted religion, which is fully intimated in Acts 17:26, 27. Whatever in that text is meant by seeking, prayer cannot (by any just reason) be excluded, and if prayer be intended, ‘tis comprehensive of all mankind. It cannot be supposed that man being such a creature as he is should not be obliged to love, fear, and obey God. ‘Tis so far from us to esteem them the most zealous Christians, that we account them scarce worthy to be reckoned amongst the number of mankind, that will not acknowledge worship due to the common Author of their beings; for he that denies this, must at once deny a deity, and himself to be a man.
“If hereunto it be objected, that such persons have not the Spirit, therefore ought not to pray; this objection is not cogent, forasmuch as neither the want of the Spirit’s immediate motions to, or its assistance in the duty, doth not take off the obligation to the duty. If it would, then also from every other duty; and consequently all religion be cashiered. If the obligations to this and other duties were suspended merely for want of such motions and assistance, then unconverted persons are so far from sinning in the omission of such duties, that it is their duty to omit them. ‘Tis certain no man can, without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, either repent or believe; yet it will not therefore follow, that impenitency and unbelief are no sins; if these be sins, then the contrary must be their duty. It cannot be their sin to cry to God for the assistance of his Spirit to enable them thereunto. If a duty be no duty to us, except we be immediately moved to it; then whether sin doth not cease to be a sin, if the Spirit do not immediately hinder us from it; and thus by the same reason we may omit a duty, we may likewise commit a sin; and hereby that great rule of duty God hath given unto men to walk by, is wholly made void, or at least allowed to be but a rule only at some certain times, viz. when the Spirit immediately moves us to the observance of it; till then it hath no authority to oblige us: and so every man is sinless, whatever sin be committed, or whatever duty be neglected, if the Spirit do not immediately hinder us from the one and move us to the other.
“Moreover the design of the objection doth as effectually discourage such as are under doubts and desertions, from this duty, as any other person; and thus it would be as that great enemy to the souls of men would have it, namely, that there should be but very few in the world to acknowledge God in this solemn part of his worship: whereas all men are obliged to acknowledge him as the fountain of all goodness; and themselves to be dependant creatures on him, and therefore to supplicate him for those blessings whereof they stand in need: or otherwise it must follow, that they have no wants, and are not dependant on him, but are all-sufficient: or if they be under the sense of wants, and of their dependance upon the supreme goodness, yet they must not (at least in the way of prayer) acknowledge those wants, and that dependance, by seeking unto God for the bettering their conditions: but they be obliged hereunto, not only from those innate notions they have of God in their minds, but by the express revelations of the Divine will in the holy scriptures. Christianity improves and rectifies, but it doth not abolish our reason; it helps to better mediums and motives to perform our service to God, but it doth not in any wise make void that which was a duty before.
“If yet it be objected, that an
unregenerated person fails in the due manner of the performance
of this duty, therefore he ought not to pray; nor to be joined
with in prayer; We answer — the defect in the mariner (though a
sin) doth not discharge the person from the obligation; for
still it is his duty to pray: ‘tis true there are such
directions given in the holy scriptures as to the right
performance of this duty, which the mere light of nature could
not give; yet the duty itself of invocating God is so agreeable
to the universal reason and sentiments of mankind, that there is
nothing spoken of this in the scriptures but what doth suppose
it previously to be a duty: therefore, unless we suppose
that the law of nature is totally obliterated, we must conclude that mankind are under an obligation to this duty. But if a failure in the manner doth take off this obligation, then every unconverted person is sinless, if he totally neglect this and every other duty. Yea, every Christian, when under deadness and distractions is discouraged from this duty; and thus a door would be opened to all manner of wickedness and irreligion in the world. Again, as the aforesaid defect doth not discharge the person himself from the duty, neither are we so far concerned therein, as thereby to derive guilt and pollution to ourselves, in case we should join in prayer with such a person; for if it would, then may we not communicate in duty with any person of whose sincerity we are not assured. But where such an assurance is made necessary to our discharge of those duties which jointly are to be performed with others, we know not: much more might have been added, but we consider what herein is said may suffice. This with our earnest desires that the God of all grace would be with you, to establish you in every good word and work, and to make your love to each other abound in all knowledge and judgment, &c. — We subscribe ourselves,
“Your very affectionate bretheren, “In the fellowship of the Gospel,
In the year 1677, there was an assembly of the pastors and elders of the Baptist churches both in London and the country. It is probable they met in London in consequence of the letter which was sent in October 1675, requesting them to meet the next year to take into consideration a plan to provide a standing orderly ministry in the church, &c.
We have no account of what they did in respect to a learned ministry, but they agreed to set forth a Confession of Faith said to be done by the Elders and Bretheren of many congregations of Christians (baptized upon profession of their faith) in London and the country. The motto is “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:10. “Search the scriptures.” John 5:39. Printed in the year, 1677.
There are no names to this confession, but it is the same precisely as was afterwards recommended by the general assembly in 1689, when they could meet without rear, and publish the minutes of their proceedings, with their names affixed to their resolutions. There is an address to the judicious and impartial reader, which we think worth transcribing. This is as follows: —
“IT is now many years since divers of us (with other sober Christians then living and walking in the way of the Lord that we profess) did conceive ourselves to be under a necessity of publishing a confession of our faith, for the information and satisfaction of those that did not thoroughly understand what our principles were, or had entertained prejudices against our profession, by means of the strange representation of them, by some men of note, who had taken very wrong measures, and accordingly led others into misapprehensions, of us and them: and this was first put forth about the year 1643, in the name of seven congregations then gathered in London; since which time, divers impressions thereof have been dispersed abroad, and our end proposed in good measure answered, inasmuch as many (and some of those men eminent both for piety and learning) were thereby satisfied, that we were no way guilty of those heterodoxies and fundamental errors, which, had too frequently been charged upon us without ground or occasion given on our part. And forasmuch as that confession is not now commonly to be had; and also that many others have since embraced the same truth which is owned therein, it was judged necessary by us to join together in giving a testimony to, the world, of our firm adhering to those wholesome principles, by the publication of this which is now in your hand.
“And forasmuch as our method and manner of expressing our sentiments in this, doth vary from the former (although the substance of the matter is the same) we shall freely impart to you the reason and occasion thereof. One thing that greatly prevailed with us to undertake this work, was (not only to give a full account of ourselves to those Christians who differ from us about the subject of Baptism, but also) the profit that might from thence arise unto those that have any account of our labours in their instruction and establishment in the great truths of the gospel; in the clear understanding and steady belief of which, our comfortable walking with God, and fruitfulness before him, in all our ways is most nearly concerned; and therefore we did conclude it necessary to express ourselves the more fully and distinctly; and also to fix on such a method as might be most comprehensive of those things which we designed to explain our sense, and belief of; and finding no defect in this regard, in that fixed on by the assembly, and after them by those of the congregational way, we did readily conclude it best to retain the same order in our present confession: and also when we observed that those last mentioned, did in their confession (for reasons which seemed of weight both to themselves and others) choose not only to express their mind in words concurrent with the former in sense, concerning ‘all those articles wherein they were agreed, but also for the most part without any variation of the terms, we did in like manner conclude it best to follow their example in making use of the very same words with them both, in these articles (which are very many) wherein our faith and doctrine is the same with theirs, and this we did the more abundantly to manifest our consent with both, in all the fundamental articles of the Christian religion, as also with many others, whose orthodox confessions have been published to the world; on the behalf of the protestants in divers nations and cities: and also to convince all that we have no itch to clog religion with new words, but do readily acquiesce in that form of sound words, which hath been in consent with the holy scriptures, used by others before us; hereby declaring before God, angels, and men, our hearty agreement with them, in that wholesome protestant doctrine, which with so clear evidence of scriptures they have asserted; some things indeed, are in some places added, some terms omitted, and some few changed, but these alterations are of that nature as that we need not doubt any charge or suspicion of unsoundness in the faith, from any of our brethren upon the account of them.
“In those things wherein we differ from others, we have expressed ourselves with all candour and plainness that none might entertain jealousy of ought secretly lodged in our breasts, that we would not the world should be acquainted with; yet we hope we have also observed those rules of modesty and humility, as will render our freedom in this respect inoffensive, even to those whose sentiments are different from ours.
“We have also taken care to affix texts of scripture in the margin for the confirmation of each article in our confession, in which work we have studiously endeavoured to select such aware most clear and pertinent, for the proof of what is asserted by us: and our earnest desire is, that all into whose lands this may come, would follow that (never enough commended) example of the noble Bereans, who searched the scriptures daily, that they might find out whether the things preached to them were so or not.
“There is one thing more which we sincerely profess, and earnestly desire credence in, viz. That contention is most remote from our design in all that we have done in this matter: and we hope the liberty of an ingenuous unfolding our principles, and opening our hearts unto our brethren, with the scripture grounds on which our faith and practice lean, will by none of them be either denied to us, or taken ill from us. Our whole design is accomplished, if we may obtain that justice, as to be measured in our principles, and practice, and judgment of both by others, according to what we have now published; which the Lord (whose eyes are as a flame of fire) knoweth to be the doctrine, which with our hearts we must firmly believe and sincerely endeavour to conform our lives to. And oh that other contentions being laid asleep, the only care and contention of all upon whom the name of our blessed Redeemer is called, night for the future be to walk humbly with their God, and in the exercise of love and meekness towards each other, to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, each one endeavouring to have his conversation such as becometh the gospel; and also suitable to his place and capacity, vigorously to promote in others the practice of true religion and undefiled in the sight of God and our Father. And that in this backsliding day, we might not spend our breath in fruitless complaints of the evils of others; but may every one begin at home, to reform in the first place our own hearts and ways; and then to quicken all that we may have influence upon to the same work; that if the will of God were so none might deceive themselves, by resting in and trusting to a form of godliness Without the power of it, and inward experience of the efficacy of those truths that are professed by them.
“And verily there is one spring and cause of the decay of religion in our day, which we cannot but touch upon, and earnestly urge a redress of, and that is the neglect of the worship of God in families, by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed. May not the gross ignorance and instability of many, with the profaneness of others, be justly charged upon their parents and masters, who have not trained them up in the way wherein they ought to walk when they were young, but have neglected those frequent and solemn commands which the Lord hath laid upon them so to catechise and instruct them, that their tender years might be seasoned with the knowledge of the truth of God as revealed in the scriptures; and also by their own omission of prayer and other duties of religion in their families, together with the ill example of their loose conversation, have inured them first to a neglect , and then contempt of all piety and religion? We know this will not excuse the blindness or wickedness of any; but certainly it will fall heavy upon those that have thus been the occasion thereof; they indeed die in their sins; but will not their blood be required of those under whose care they were, who yet permitted then o go on without warning, yea led them into the paths of destruction? And will not the diligence of Christians with respect to the discharge of these duties in ages past, rise up in judgment against, and condemn many of those who would be esteemed such now?
“We shall conclude with our earnest
prayer, that the God of all grace will pour out those measures
of his Holy Spirit upon us, that the profession of truth may be
accompanied with the sound belief and diligent practice of it by
us: that his
To this Confession which is well known, an Appendix is added, from which we make the following extract. —
“Whosoever reads and impartially considers what we have in our foregoing confession declared, may readily perceive that we do not only concentre with all other true Christians on the word of God (revealed in the scriptures of truth) as the foundation and rule of our faith and worship; but that we have also industriously endeavoured to manifest, that in the fundamental articles of Christianity we mind the same things, and have therefore expressed our belief in the same words, that have on the like occasion: been spoken by other societies of Christians before us.
“This we have done, that those who are desirous to know the principles of religion which we hold and practise, may take an estimate from ourselves (who jointly concur in this work) and may not be misguided, either by undue reports, or by the ignorance or errors of particular persons, who, going under the same name with ourselves, may give an occasion of scandalizing the truth we profess.
“‘And although we do differ from our brethren who are Paedobaptiats in the subject and administration of Baptism, and such other circumstances as have a necessary dependence on our observance of that Ordinance, and do frequent’ our own assemblies for our mutual edification, and the discharge of those duties and services which we owe unto God, and in his fear to each other; yet we would not be from hence misconstrued, as if the discharge of our own consciences herein did any way disoblige or alienate our affections or conversation from any others that fear the Lord; but that we may and do as we have opportunity participate of the labours of those, whom God hath indued with abilities above ourselves, and qualified and called to the ministry of the word, earnestly desiring to approve ourselves to be such as follow after peace with holiness: and therefore we always keep that blessed Irenicum, or healing word of the apostle, before our eyes; If in any thing ye be otherwise minded,
God shall reveal even this unto you; nevertheless whereto we have already attained, let us walk Ay the same rule, let us mind the same thing, Philippians 3:15, 16.
“Let it not therefore be judged of us (because much hath been written on this subject, and yet we continue this our practice different from others) that it is out of obstinacy, but rather as the truth is, that we do herein according to the best of our understandings worship God, out of a pure mind yielding obedience to his precept, in that method which we take to be most agreeable to the scriptures of truth, and primitive practice.
“It would not become us to give any such
intimation, should carry a semblance that what we do in the
service of God is with doubting conscience, or with any such
temper of mind, we do thus for the present with a reservation
that we will do otherwise hereafter upon more mature
deliberation; nor have we any cause so to do, being fully
persuaded that what we do is agreeable to the will of God. Yet
we do heartily propose this, that if any of the servants of our
Lord Jesus Christ shall, in the spirit of meekness, attempt to
convince us of any mistake either in judgment or practice, we
shall diligently ponder his arguments; and account hint our
chief friend that shall be an instrument to convert us from any
error that is in our ways, for we cannot wittingly do any thing
against the truth, but all things; for the truth.
“And therefore we have endeavoured seriously to consider what hath been already offered for our satisfaction in this point; and are loth to say any more lest we should be esteemed desirous of renewed contests thereabout yet forasmuch as it may justly be expected that we shew some reason, why we cannot acquiesce in what hath been urged against us, we shall with as much brevity as will consist with plainness, endeavour to satisfy the expectation of those that shall peruse what we now publish in this matter also.
“1. As to those Christians who consent with us that repentance from dead works, and faith towards God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, is required in persons to be baptized; and do therefore supply the defect of the, infant, being uncapable of making confession of either by others who do undertake the things for it. Although we do find by church history, that this hath been a very ancient practice; yet considering that the same scripture which does caution us against censuring our brother, with whom we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, does also instruct us, that every one of us shall give an account of himself to God, and, whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Therefore, we cannot for our own parts be persuaded in, our own minds, to build such a practice as this upon an unwritten tradition: but do, rather choose in all points of faith and worship, to have recourse to the holy scriptures for the information of our judgment and regulation of our practice; being well assured that a conscientious attending thereto is the best way to prevent and rectify our defects and errors. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. And if any such case happen to be debated among Christians which is not plainly determinable by the scriptures, we think it safest to leave such things undecided until the second coming of our Lord Jesus; as they did in the church of old, until there should arise a priest with Urim and Thummim, that might certainly inform them of the mind of God thereabout, Ezra 2:62, 63.
“2. As for those our Christian brethren who do ground their arguments for Infant Baptism upon a presumed faederal holiness, or church-membership, we conceive they are deficient in this, that albeit this covenant holiness and membership should be as is supposed in reference unto the infants of believers; yet no command for infant baptism does immediately and directly result from such a quality or relation.
“All instituted worship receives its sanction from the precept, and is to be thereby governed in all the necessary circumstances thereof, &c.”
During the remaining part of this king’s reign,
“the persecution of the nonconformists was continued and carried on (says Neal) to a pitch hardly to be paralleled in a protestant nation. Doctor Barlow, bishop of Lincoln, published a letter for putting the laws in execution against the dissenters, in concurrence with another drawn up by the justices of the peace at Bedford, bearing date January 14, 1684. Many were cited into the spiritual courts, excommunicated, and ruined. Two hundred warrants of distress were issued out upon private persons and families in the town and neighbourhood of Uxbridge, for frequenting conventicles, or not coming to church.”
The Baptists appear to have had their full share in the sufferings of these times. On November 19, 1682, the goods of Mr. Collins, a Baptist minister in London, were distrained by the officers breaking open the doors and entering the house. There were at this time latent convictions besides those that were executed against most of the Baptists distrained upon to the amount of one, two, or three hundred pounds each. We hear of no instance of improper conduct, excepting that of a man of the name of Warrman, a weaver, who told Jeffries that “he should recollect that he himself had been brought as an offender before the supreme court of the kingdom, and had seen the temper and gravity of many courts.” Perhaps this was improper; but it was doubtless the effect of the passionate and illegal conduct of this drunken and dissolute judge, who violated every principle of justice and religion. The monarch by whom these shocking practices were enforced, or at least connived at, fell a victim to the king of terrors, February 6, 1684-5, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. It was strongly suspected that he was poisoned, as the body was not suffered to be thoroughly examined.
“The king (says Burnet) had a great many
vices, and but few virtues to correct them. Religion was with
him nothing more than an engine of state. He hated the
Nonconformists because they appeared against the prerogative,
and received the fire of all the enemies of the constitution and
protestant religion with an unshaken firmness. His majesty’s
chief concern at last was for his brother’s succession; and when
he came to die, he showed no remorse for art ill-spent life. Not
a word of religion was heard from him; no tenderness for his
subjects, nor concern for his queen; but only a recommendation
of his mistresses and their children to his brother. No
Englishman or lover of his country could wish for the life of
such a prince from any other motive than his keeping out a
successor who was worse than himself.”
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