ePub 版


But the disaffection of the high-church clergy stopped not short of the king himself, who was made uneasy by their malignant spirit, and restless endeavours to clog the wheels of his government; insomuch that his majesty sometimes declared, with more than ordinary vehemence, that he would not stay in England and hold an empty name; that it was not easy to determine which was best, a commonwealth or kingly government; but he was sure the worst of all governments was, a king without treasure, and without power. He once resolved to return to Holland, and leave the government in the queen's hands, imagining they would treat her better; and he communicated his design to the marquis of Carmarthen, the earl of Shrewsbury, and others, who besought him with tears to change his resolution, and at last prevailed: but had his majesty declared this from the throne, the nation was in a temper to have done him justice on the incendiaries; for notwithstanding their clamours, they knew their desperate situation if the king should desert them, having renounced their allegiance to king James, and gone such lengths as he could never forgive. But king William, having a generous mind, imagined they might be gained by gentleness and kindness, and therefore took up with a motley ministry, which distressed him to the last. Thus the tories and high-church clergy enjoyed the advantages of this glorious revolution, while they acted a most ungrateful part towards their deliverer, and a most unkind and ungenerous one to their dissenting brethren.

Nor have these gentlemen ceased to discover their enmity to the dissenters since that time, as often as the power has been in their hands. It was impossible to injure them while king William lived, but no sooner was queen Anne advanced to the throne, than they endeavoured to cramp the toleration by the bill against occasional conformity, which was brought into the house one session after another, till at length it obtained the royal assent in the latter end of the year 1711, under the specious title of "An act to preserve the Protestant religion, and to confirm the toleration, and farther to secure the Protestant succession." It makes some few concessions in support of the toleration, but then it enacts, "that if any persons in office, who by the laws are obliged to qualify themselves by receiving the sacrament, or test, shall ever resort to a conventicle or meeting of dissenters for religious worship, during the time of their continuance in such office, they shall forfeit twenty pounds for every such offence, and be disqualified for any office for the future, till they have made oath that they have entirely conformed to the church, and not been at any conventicle for the space of a whole year. So that no person in the least office in the customs, excise, or common-council, &c. could ever enter the doors of a meeting

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

house. But the reader may peruse the act at large in the Appendix, Number XIV.

In the last year of queen Anne the toleration was farther straitened by an act to prevent the growth of schism; for with these gentlemen all dissenters are schismatics: and in order to prevent their increase, the education of their children was taken out of the hands of their friends, and intrusted only with such who were full and entire conformists.

And if any schoolmaster or tutor should be willingly present at any conventicle of dissenters for religious worship, he shall suffer three months' imprisonment, and be disqualified, as above, from teaching school for the future. The act was to take place August 1, 1714, the very day the queen died; but his late majesty king George I. being fully satisfied that these harships were brought upon the dissenters for their steady adherence to the Protestant succession in his illustrious house, against a tory and jacobite ministry, who were paving the way for a Popish pretender, procured the repeal of them in the fifth year of his reign. The last-mentioned act, with the repeal, is inserted in the Appendix, Numbers XV. and XVI., together with a clause which forbids the mayor, or other magistrate, to go into any meeting for religious worship with the ensigns of his office.

Many of the ejected ministers of 1662, and others, survived the Revolution, and made a considerable figure in the reigns of king William and queen Mary. As,

Rev. William Bates, D.D.

Obad. Grew, D.D.
Sam. Annesly, D.D.
John Collings, D.D.
Richard Baxter
Vincent Alsop, M.A.
John Howe, M.A.
Tho. Doolittle, M.A.
Phil. and Matth. Henry,

John Flavel

Matthew Barker, M.A.
George Cockayne
John Faldo

W. Lorimer, M. A.

Rev. Tho. Gilbert, B.D.

Jos. Hill, B.D.
Robert Bragge
Matth. Mead
Jas. Forbes, M.A.
Tho. Cole, M.A.
Geo. Griffith, M.A.
Nath. Mather
Edward Veal
John Quick

Nath. Vincent, M.A.
Rd. Stretton, M.A.
Geo. Hammond, M.A.
Richard Kentish
H. Newcome, M.A.

Rev. Matt. Sylvester

Christ. Nesse, M.A.
John Humphrys, M.A.
Richard Mayo
Matth. Clarke, sen.
Isaac Chauncey, M. D.
Sam. Slater, M.A.
Daniel Williams, D.D.
John Spademan, M.A.
Robert Billio
Rich. Steele, M.A.
Nath. Taylor
R. Flemming, M.A.
Daniel Burgess
James Owen, &c.

These, and others who deserve an honourable mention, were learned and useful men, and most of them popular preachers, serviceable to the societies for reformation of manners, and eminent confessors in the cause of liberty and scriptural religion; but their deaths not happening within the compass of this work, I must leave them to be remembered by the historians of aftertimes.








ALTHOUGH the Baptist profession does not assume a visible appearance in England, by the formation of churches in a state of separation from their brethren of the Pædobaptist persuasion, earlier than the reign of James I.; it is beyond all reasonable doubt that individuals were to be found maintaining those principles in every subsequent age, from the days of Wickliffe, that morning star of the Reformation.

It is perhaps impossible for us, after a lapse of four or five centuries, to decide the question, whether the great English reformer did or did not oppose the baptism of infants. It is a fact, however, which admits of no dispute, that he maintained and propagated those principles, which, when carried out into their legitimate consequences, are wholly subversive of the practice in question. And if Wickliffe himself did not pursue the consequence of his own doctrines so far, yet many of his followers did, and were made Baptists by it.

One of the maxims held by this reformer was, "that wise men leave that as impertinent, which is not plainly expressed in Scripture *;" in other words, that nothing should be practised in the church of God, as a branch of worship, which is neither expressly commanded nor plainly exemplified in the New Testament. It is upon this principle that the Baptists make their stand. They examine the sacred writings, and there find, that in their Lord's commission, baptism stands connected with the preaching of the everlasting gospel; that the apostles, who well understood their Master's will, administered it to none but those who professed to

*Fuller's Church History, p. 133.

repent and believe the gospel; and that thus it was the first disciples "put on Christ," or were initiated into his visible kingdom; for such as gladly received the word were baptized and added to the churches.

All our historians agree in affirming that the doctrines of Wickliffe spread very extensively throughout the country; insomuch that, according to Knighton, a contemporary historian, " more than half the people of England embraced them and became his followers." Soon after his death, they began to form distinct societies in various places. Rapin tells us that, "in the year 1389, the Wickliffites, or Lollards, as they were commonly named, began to separate from the church of Rome, and appoint priests from among themselves to perform divine service after their own way. Though some were from time to time persecuted by the bishops, yet their persecutions were not rigorous. Their aim seemed to be only to hinder them from pleading prescription. Besides, a petition presented to the king by a former parliament, to revoke the power granted to the bishops to imprison heretics, restrained the most forward *.”

During the usurpation of Henry IV. A.D., 1400, the clergy, who had been instrumental to his elevation, obtained from him a law for the burning of heretics, which they were not long in carrying into operation. One of the first victims to their sanguinary edict was William Sawtre, said to have held the principles of the Baptists, and who was burnt in London in the year 1400. He had been some time minister of the parish of St. Margaret, in the town of Lynn; but, adopting the tenets of the Lollards, he was convicted of heresy by the bishop of Norwich, and though by temporizing he for a while averted the dreadful sentence, yet he ultimately fell a martyr to the cause of truth. If we may credit the testimony of those who lived near the time when this took place, the diocess of Norwich, in which Sawtre resided, abounded with persons of similar sentiments; but the cruel and ignominious death of this good man struck terror into the followers of Wickliffe, and made them more cautious how they exposed themselves to a similar fate by divulging their opinions. Yet Fuller relates, that, such was the craft and diligence of the clergy, they found out means to discover many of them, and by ex officio informations which they now obtained, they persecuted them with great cruelty, so that the prisons were filled with them-many were induced to recant, and such as refused were treated without mercy †.

That the denial of the right of infants to baptism, was a principle generally maintained among the Lollards or followers of Wickliffe, is abundantly confirmed by the historians of those times. Thomas Walden, who wrote against Wickliffe, terms this reformer, 66 one of the seven heads that rose up out of the bottomless pit, for denying infant baptism, that heresie of the Lol

Rapin's Hist. of England, vol. 1. p. 480. + Fuller's Church History, p. 164.

lards, of whom he was so great a ringleader." Walsingham, another writer, says, "It was in the year 1381, that that damnable heretic John Wickliffe received the cursed opinions of Berengarius," one of which unquestionably was the denial of infant baptism. The Dutch martyrology, also, gives an account of one sir L. Clifford, who had formerly been a Lolfard, but had left them, and who informed the archbishop of Canterbury that the Lollards would not baptize their new-born children. The fact is, therefore, put beyond dispute, that the principles of the Antipædobaptists were prevalent during the whole of the fifteenth century, though we are unable to trace them as embodied in the formation of distinct churches under that denomination.

In the history of the Welsh Baptists compiled by Mr. Joshua Thomas of Leominster, we have some interesting information respecting a Mr. Walter Brute, who is said to have been a gentleman of rank, learning, and parts, in the diocess of Hereford, about the end of the fourteenth century. This person, though reckoned a layman by the Popish clergy, was indefatigable in propagating the truth himself, "teaching openly and privately, as well the nobles as the commons." In this good work he was assisted by two of his intimate friends, viz. Mr. William Swinderby, and Mr. Stephen Ball, who were both of them preachers of note, and all maintaining the doctrines of Wickliffe. Fox, the Martyrologist, has given a particular account of Mr. Brute, and of his religious sentiments, extracted from the register of the bishop of Hereford. One of his tenets was, that faith ought to precede baptism, and that baptism was not essential to salvation. A commission was granted by Richard II. about the year 1392, addressed to the nobility and gentry of the county of Hereford, and to the mayor of the city, authorizing them to prosecute Brute, on a charge of preaching heresy in the diocess and places adjacent, and also with keeping conventicles. In consequence of this, Mr. Brute retired into privacy, and Swinderby and his friends fled into Wales, to be out of the county and diocess of Hereford. Amidst the mountains and valleys of the principality, they continued for some time instructing all that came unto them. They seem, however, ultimately to have been apprehended and brought to trial, and Fox mentions that Swinderby, the friend of Walter Brute, was burnt alive for his profession in Smithfield, A.D. 1401; what became of the latter, he does not particularly say, but from what he relates of his bold and spirited defence upon his trial, it is probable that he shared the same fate.

Dr. Wall, the learned author of the History of Infant-Baptism, seems desirous of persuading his readers that there were no Baptists in England, when Henry VIII. ascended the throne at the commencement of the sixteenth century, A.D. 1511. But upon that supposition, it is not easy to account for the sanguinary statutes which in the early part of this reign were put forth against the Anabaptists. In the year 1535, ten persons avowing these

« 上一頁繼續 »