How the "Fathers"
of New England Baptists, regarded Pedobaptist societies and their
ministers, from A.D. 1638 until 1776?not as
churches or brethren, but enemies and persecutors.
"Thus saith the Lord, Stand
ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths where is the good way,
and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jer 6:16).
"My people have forgotten
me; they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused
themselves to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to
walk in paths in a way not cast up" (Jer. 18:15).
Having shown in the last chapter
that our fathers, from the first to the sixteenth century, in obedience
to the divine injunction, withdrew from those who departed from the teachings of
Christ, and thus preserved pure churches and a pure faith, I now propose very
briefly, to show that the Baptists of America, from the planting of the first
church in Newport, Rhode Island, A.D. 1638, until A.D. 1776, were in faith
and practice "Old Landmarkers."
what was the practice of new england baptists?
The Puritans who landed from the
Mayflower, A.D. 1620, did not come hither with the intent of establishing here a
government where the oppressed of all nations would have absolute
to worship god."
but where their own particular
creed would be protected and secured against disturbances from all other
opposing religious faiths. Therefore, when they framed their laws, they put
their creed and the sword into the bands of the magistrates, and made it their
highest duty to see that all men, who would enjoy the protection of their laws,
should, on peril of estate and life, accept the creed. This was freely
acknowledged by them:
"And because they foresaw
that this wilderness might be looked upon as a place of liberty, and, therefore,
might in time be troubled with erroneous spirits; therefore, they did put one
article into the confession of faith, on purpose, about the duty and power of
the magistrate in matters of religion" (Morton?s New Eng.
Mem., p. 145-6).
Says Bro. Samuel Mather:
"The reforming churches, flying from Rome, carried, some of them more, some
of them less, all of them something of Rome with them, especially in that spirit
of imposition and persecution, which has too much cleaved unto
them all." (Apology, Appendix, p. 149).
(1.) My first position is,
that the Baptists of New England, during this period, could not
have affiliated with Pedobaptists had they desired to have done so.
Of all "erroneous
spirits" the Puritans regarded the Anabaptists, as they stigmatized
Baptists, as the most pernicious and dangerous to the state, and against them
they enacted the most cruel laws. I copy the first one they passed against them:
"Forasmuch as experience
hath plentifully and often proved that since the first rising of the
Anabaptists, about one hundred years since [a gross, willful, or ignorant
misrepresentation], they have been the incendiaries of the Commonwealth, and the
infectors of persons in matters of religion, and the troublers of churches in
all places where they have been, and that they who have held the baptizing of
infants unlawful, have usually held other errors, or heresies, together
therewith, though they have [as other heretics used to do] concealed the same
till they spied out a fit advantage and opportunity to vent them, by way of
question or scruple; and, whereas, divers of this kind have, since our coming
into New England, appeared amongst ourselves, some whereof [as others before
them] denied the ordinance of magistracy, and lawfulness of making war; and
others, the lawfulness of magistracy, and their inspection into any breach of
the first table; which opinions, if they should be carried out by us, are like
to be increased amongst us, and so, must necessarily bring guilt upon us,
infection and trouble to the churches, and hazard to the whole Commonwealth; it
is ordered and agreed that if any person, or persons, within this jurisdiction,
shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about
secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely
depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance, or
shall deny the ordinance of magistracy, or their lawful right and authority to
make war, or to punish the outward breaches of the first table, and shall appear
to Court willfully and obstinately to continue therein, after due time and means
of conviction, every person, or persons, shall be sentenced to banishment"
(Mass. Records, quoted by Backus, vol. 1, p. 126).
The pages of this book would not
suffice to detail all that Baptists suffered in New England from fines,
imprisonment, bloody whippings, and banishment from their homes and possessions.
A few cases must indicate all:
In 1644, one Painter, a poor man,
turned Baptist, and refused to have his child baptized, and when arraigned for
it before the Court, told them that it was, in his opinion, an antichristian
ordinance. For this he was tied up and whipped. Governor Winthrop declared he
was whipped for "reproaching the Lord?s ordinance" (Related in
Backus, vol. 1, p. 127).
John Smith, for gathering a
church at Weymouth, "contrary to the orders," was? fined twenty
pounds ($100) and committed during pleasure of Court.
Richard Sylvester, for going with
Smith, was disfranchised and fined forty shillings.
Ambrose Morton, for calling their
covenant a human invention, and that their ministers did dethrone Christ and set
up themselves, was fined ten pounds ($50).
Thomas Makepeace, because of his novel
disposition, was informed that we were weary of him unless he reformed.
John Spur and John Smith were
bound in forty pounds to pay twenty pounds the first day of next Court, 1640.
Their crime was the avowal
"that only baptism [i.e., a profession of faith] was the
door into the visible church" (Backus).
July 19, 1651, Messrs. John
Clark, pastor of the Baptist Church at Newport, O. Holmes, and Crandel, members
of the same, upon the request of William Witter, of Lynn, arrived there, he
being a brother of the church, who, by reason of his advanced age, could not
undertake so great a journey as to visit the church (Newport). He lived about
two miles out of town. The next day, being Sabbath, Mr. Clark concluded to
preach in his house. In the midst of the sermon two constables appeared, and
arrested them, and carried them away to an ale house first, and then
proposed to carry them to the meeting. Mr. Clark replied: "Then we shall be
constrained to declare ourselves, that we can not hold communion with
them," i.e., even by appearing in their religious
assemblies. "We shall declare our dissent from you both by words and
gesture." The constables persisted. Says Mr. Clark: "At my first
stepping over the threshold, I unveiled myself, civilly saluted them, and turned
into the seat I was appointed to, put on my hat again and sat down,
opened my book, and so fell to reading."
It will be seen that he was not
invited up into the pulpit. or even called upon to close by prayer!
At the close of the sermon Mr.
Clark arose and courteously asked permission to state why he was there, and why
he put on his hat to declare his dissent:
"I could not judge that you
were gathered together and walk according to the visible order of our
Some thoughtless Baptists will
think this act of Bro. Clark unchristian and discourteous, but he believed that
he, in common with all, favored, and by act approved, of the worship he
attended; and he knew that he was forbidden, in any way, to bid an unscriptural
worship or teacher of error "God-speed," and so, by
"gesture," he declared his dissent. Do we, as Baptists, declare our
dissent from the teachings and ministrations of Pedobaptists and Campbellites
when we attend upon their preaching with our families, month after month, and
thus aid, by our presence and personal influence, to increase their
congregations, and swell their collections to pay their preachers to oppose our
faith, and build up societies in our communities to destroy our own churches?
There are many Baptists in the South who give annually far more to support
Pedobaptist preachers than their own, because they take their families three
times a month to such meetings, where the collection is never missed, and only
once to their own. There are many places where they would cease preaching
altogether for want of congregations and support were it not for the attendance
and contributions of Baptists. It is a great thing to be consistent
Baptists?like John Clark, Holmes, and those early Baptists of New England
were. Who dare, before God, to charge them with inconstancy or inconsistency?
They were committed to prison.
Mr. John Spur, then a member of the Baptist church at Newport, was present and
relates: "Mr. Cotton, in his sermon, immediately before the Court gave
their sentence against Mr. Clark, Holmes, and Crandel, affirmed, that denying
infant baptism would overthrow all, and this was a capital offense; and
therefore they were soul-murderers."
They were fined, Mr. Clark twenty
pounds, Holmes thirty pounds, and Crandel five pounds, and to remain in prison
until their fines be either paid or security given, or else to be "well
whipped." Friends, without Mr. Clark?s knowledge, paid his fine. When Mr.
Holmes was brought forth to receive his stripes, he desired of the magistrates
permission to speak, which was refused him, and they (Flint and Norvel) said to
the executioner: "Fellow, do thine office."
"He, having removed so much
of his garments as would hinder the effect of the scourge, and having fastened
him to the post, (This was planted on Boston Commons?the soil of liberty!)
seized a three-corded whip, and laid on the blows in a most unmerciful
manner. Stroke followed stroke as rapidly as was consistent with effective
execution, each blow leaving its crimson furrow, or its long blue wale on the
sufferer?s quivering flesh. The only pause which occurred was when the
executioner ceased for a moment in order to spit in his hands, so as to take a
firmer hold of the handle of the whip to render the strokes more severe. This he
did three times" (Banvard).
Ninety stripes! The blood flowed
down, filled, and overflowed his shoes and bathed the ground. For weeks after he
could only rest upon his knees and elbows. So lacerated was his body, he could
not suffer it to touch the bed.
When released from the post, his
brother Spur took him by the hand, and with a joyful countenance, said,
"Praised be the Lord!" and walked with him to the prison. For this
grievous offense he was arrested and fined by the Pedobaptist Court ?forty
shillings, or to be whipped."
John Hazel, another of Mr.
Holmes? brethren, above three-score, and infirm, had traveled nearly fifty
miles to see his beloved brother, also gave him his hand, and said,
"Blessed be God." He was likewise arrested, thrown into prison, and
fined forty shillings, or to receive ten strokes with a three-corded whip,
equal to thirty stripes.
This was the fellowship
Protestants had for Baptists in that age.
How Baptists regarded
Pedobaptists may be learned from Bro. John Clark?s charge to his church. Says
C. E. Barrow, of Newport, Rhode Island: "He also charges the people to steer
clear of both Scylla and Charybdis,?of the opinion of those, on the one
hand, who destroyed the purity and spirituality of the church by uniting it with
the civil power, and by introducing into it unregenerate material by infant
baptism; and of the opinion of those, on the other hand, who denied that there
were any visible churches. He would have them avoid both extremes,?not turn to
the left side in a visible way of worship, indeed, but such as was neither
appointed by Christ, nor yet practiced by those who first trusted in him;
nor to the right in no visible way of worship or order at all, either pretending
. . . that the church is now in the wilderness, or that the time of its recovery
is not yet," etc. (Semi-centennial Discourse, p. 22).
Thus John Clark warned his people
against the false order and worship of Pedobaptists on the one hand, and
the no order and anarchy of Roger Williams and his party?the
Seekers?on the other.
Those who would pursue the
sickening details of Baptist suffering at the hands of Pedobaptists for the next
centuries, I refer to the History of Baptists, by Backus, two
The only instance of affiliation
I find for one hundred years after, was the case of a "liberal"
Baptist, who invited Bro. P. Robbins to preach to his people. This he did
January 6th, 1742, and for this act Mr. Robbins was promptly tried and excluded
from his Consociation as a disorderly person.
One hundred and twenty-seven
years after this, we find the Baptists in New England still fined and
imprisoned, and the objects of the most disgraceful indignities.
This is related by Backus:
"For two young ministers were called to preach in Pepperell, near forty
miles north-westward of Boston, to whom six persons offered themselves as
candidates for baptism. Therefore, on June 26th they met in a field by a river
side, where prayers were made, and a sermon begun, when the chief officers of
the town, with many followers, came and interrupted their worship . . . A dog
was carried into the river and plunged in, in evident contempt of our
sentiments. A gentleman of the town then invited the Baptists to go and hold
their meetings at his house, which was near another river. They accepted it, and
so went through with their worship?at the close of which a man was hired, with
a bowl of liquor, to go into the river and dip another two or three times over, when
also two or three dogs more were plunged; after which three officers
of the town came into the house where the Baptist ministers were, and advised
them to immediately depart out of that town for their own safety" (Backus,
vol. 2, p. 221).
They left, agreeing to meet the
candidates at a distant place of water, where the baptism did take place. This
was near Boston, in the year 1778; and it is worthy of note that the first
meeting house Baptists built in Boston was nailed up, and they forbidden to
worship in it.
If there can be any doubt in the
mind of anyone how the "fathers" of New England Baptists regarded the
Puritan Pedobaptists of their day (1770), I copy this from Backus. These
Puritans declared to the Court that?
"Some [Baptists] have had
the affrontery to say that the standing ministry [Congregationalists] is
corrupt; ministers themselves unconverted; the churches impure and unholy,
admitting unconverted and unsanctified persons into their communion" (Vol.
2, p. 158).
Can any one believe that Baptists
would believe this, which they most undoubtedly did, and then, before the
world, by affiliating acts recognize these unconverted ministers, and these
impure and unholy sects as scriptural churches, and in every way equal to their
own? They certainly did not do it. And are not these charges as true today with
respect to all Pedobaptist societies as they were then? And if we walk in the
"paths our fathers trod," what ought to be our testimony?
The Warren Association, which
last year voted to exclude the church in Newport, Rhode Island, for its open
communion practices, or failure to discipline its pastor and those members who
practiced this disorder, is the oldest Association in New England. It was
organized in 1767. Three years after, such were the intolerable oppressions of
the "standing order," in selling out their lands and homes to pay the
tax to support the hireling ministers of the Puritans, that the Association
resolved to appeal at once to the King and Council, and appointed a committee to
collect grievances. That committee of leading ministers published the following
in the Boston Post, August 20th, 1770, and I publish it? 1,
because it will give the Baptists of this age some idea of what our fathers suffered
at the hands of those whom we are now taught to call "evangelical brethren,"
and "evangelical churches," and "evangelical
ministers," and what we would suffer today had our old persecutors only the
power; and, 2, how our brethren regarded them, not as "Christian
brethren" certainly?which they were not ? but enemies and persecutors.
"To the Baptists in the
province of the Massachusetts Bay, who are, or have been, oppressed in any way
on a religious account, it would be needless to tell you that you have long felt
the effects of the laws by which the religion of the government in which you
live is established. Your purses have felt the burden of ministerial rates; and,
when these would not satisfy your enemies, your property has been
taken from you and sold for less than half its value. These things you can not
forget. You will, therefore, readily hear and attend when you are desired to
collect your cases of suffering, and have them well attested; such as the taxes
you have paid to build meeting-houses, to settle ministers and support them
[i.e., for their enemies], with all the time, money, and labor you have lost in
waiting on courts, feeing lawyers," etc., etc. (Backus, vol.
2, p. 155).
I add but one more instance of
persecution which took place twenty years after the Declaration of Independence:
"Mr. Nathan Underwood [Pedobaptist
minister of Harwich] and his collector seized six men, who were Baptists, on the
1st day of December, 1795, and carried them as far as Yarmouth, where one of
them was taken so ill being old and infirm before, that he saw no way to save
his life but to pay the tax and cost [all Baptists were taxed to pay the
salaries of Pedobaptist ministers still!]; which he did and the other five were
carried to the prison at Barnstable, where they also paid the money rather than
to lie in the cold all winter. . . . Their collector went to the house of one of
the Baptists when he was not at home, January 8th, 1796, and seized a cow for a
tax to said minister; but his wife and daughter came out and took hold of the
cow, and his wife promised to pay the money, if her husband would not do it, and
they let the cow go, and she went to Mr. Underwood the next day and paid the tax
and costs, and took his receipt therefor. Yet four days after, the woman and two
daughters, one of whom was not there when the cow was taken, were seized and
carried before the authorities, and fined seven dollars for talking to the collector
and his aide, and, taking hold of the cow while they had her in possession, so
they had to let her go" (Backus, vol. 2, p. 551).
This and scores of such like
exactions and oppressions took place in New England, in the year 1796.
I close this century of bitter
sufferings with the letter that the Warren Association sent to the Philadelphia
Association, only six years before the Declaration of Independence:
from the warren association, massachusetts.
?The laws of this province were
never intended to exempt the Baptists from paying toward building and repairing
Presbyterian meeting-houses, and making up Presbyterian ministers? salaries;
for, besides other insufficiencies, they are all limited, both as to extent and
duration. The first law extended only five miles round each Baptist
meeting-house; those without this circle had no relief, neither had they within;
for, though it exempted their polls, it left their estates to the mercy of
harpies, and their estates went to wreck. The Baptists sought a better law, and,
with great difficulty and waste of time and money, obtained it, but this was not
universal. It extended not to any parish until a Presbyterian meeting-house
should be built and a Presbyterian minister settled there; in consequence of
which the Baptists have never been freed from the first and great expenses of
their parishes, expenses equal to the current expense of ten or twelve years.
This is the present case of the people of Ashfield, which is a Baptist
settlement. There were but five families of other denominations in the place
when the Baptist Church was constituted; but those five, and a few more, had
lately built a Presbyterian meeting-house there, and settled an orthodox
minister, as they called him; which last cost them 200 pounds. To pay for both,
they laid a tax on the land; and, as the Baptists are the most numerous, the
greatest part fell to their share. The Presbyterians, in April last, demanded
the money. The Baptists pleaded poverty, alleging that they had been twice
driven from their plantations by the Indians? last war; that they were but new
settlers, and had cleared but a few spots of land, and had not been able to
build commodious dwelling-houses. Their tyrants would not hear. Then the
Baptists pleaded the ingratitude of such conduct; for they had built a fort
there at their own expense, and had maintained it for two years, and so, had
protected the interior Presbyterians, as well as their neighbors, who now rose
against them; that the Baptists to the westward had raised money to relieve the
Presbyterians who had, like them, suffered by the Indians; and that it was cruel
to take from them what the Indians had left! But nothing touched the hearts of
these cruel people. Then the Baptists urged the law of the province; but were
soon told that that law extended to no new parish till the meeting-house and
minister were paid for. Then the Baptists petitioned the General Court.
Proceedings were stopped till further orders, and the poor people went home
rejoicing, thinking their property safe; but had not all got home before said
order came, and it was an order for the Presbyterians to proceed. Accordingly,
in the month of April, they fell foul on their plantations; and not on skirts
and corners, but on the cleared and improved spots; and so, have mangled their
estates, and left them hardly any but a wilderness. They sold the house and
garden of one man, and the young orchards, meadows, and cornfields of another
nay, they sold their dead, for they sold their graveyard. The orthodox minister
was one of the purchasers. These spots amounted to three hundred and ninety-five
acres, and have since been valued at 363 pounds, 8s., but were sold for 35
pounds, 10s. This was the first payment. Two more are coming, which will not
leave them an inch of land at this rate.
"The Baptists waited on the
Assembly five times this year for relief, but were not heard, under pretense
they did no business there. At last the Baptists got together, about a score of
the members, at Cambridge, and made their complaints known; but in general they
were treated very superciliously. One of them spoke to this effect:
"?The General Assembly
have a right to do what they did, and, if you don?t like it, you may quit the
"But, alas, they must leave
their all behind! These Presbyterians are not only supercilious in power, but
mean and cruel in mastery. When they came together to mangle the estates of the
Baptists, they diverted themselves with tears and lamentations for the
oppressed. One of them, whose name is Welk, stood up to preach a mock sermon on
the occasion; and, among other things, used words to this effect:
for refusing to pay an orthodox minister, shall be cut in pound
pieces, and boiled for their fat to grease the devil?s
And yet, in the face of these
facts, a Puritan poetess, with the blood of Painter and Holmes flowing before
her eyes, and the midwinter prisons filled with Baptists, and the tracks of
others leading into the bleak wilderness, into which Christian men were driven
by the Puritans, could say:
call it holy ground,
The place where first they trod;
They have left unstained what there they found?
Freedom to worship God!"
Let the most prejudiced
Anti-Landmark Baptist?the moat "liberal" Baptist on the
continent?if a Christian man, with the facts of this chapter before him,
decide whether the Baptists of New England, from 1638 to 1796, regarded or
treated Pedobaptist organizations as Evangelical churches, and their
bloodthirsty and cormorant preachers as ministers of the gospel of love and
peace. Turn back to Chapter XV and learn their decision.
of that age were what landmark Baptists are in this.
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