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his day. In his Lent-sermons preached before the king, he says, "The Anabaptists that were burnt [during the reign of Henry VIII.] in divers towns in England, as I heard of credible men, for I saw them not myself, went to their death intrepidly, as ye will say, without any fear in the world, but cheerfully."
That the Baptists were very numerous at this period, is unquestionable; and that many of those who were led to the stake in the reign of queen Mary were of that persuasion, is equally clear; though historians have not been very careful in recording their opinions on that point. Indeed, there is no want of proof concerning the hatred in which they were held by the ruling party, one instance of which may be mentioned. In the year 1550, after much cavilling in the state, an act of grace was passed, extending the king's general pardon to all persons, those confined in the Tower for crimes against the state and also all Anabaptists being excepted! In the same year, Ridley, who had recently been raised to the bishoprick of London, held a visitation of his diocess; and among other articles enjoined on his clergy, this was one: "to see whether any Anabaptists or others held private conventicles, with different opinions and forms from those established by law." This excellent young prince, who was of the most promising expectations, and, in the judgment of many impartial persons, the very phoenix of his time, was removed by death in the seventeenth year of his age, and the seventh of his reign; by some, suspected to be owing to poison. Dr. Leighton, speaking of his premature death, says, "This king, a gracious plant, whereof the soil was not worthy, like another Josiah, setting himself with all his might to promote the Reformation, abhorred and forbid that any mass should be permitted to his sister. Farther, he was desirous not to leave a hoof of the Romish beast in his kingdom, as he was taught by some of the sincerer sort. But as he wanted instruments to effect this good, so he was mightily opposed in all his good designs by the prelatists, which caused him, in his godly jealousy, in the very anguish of his soul, to pour out his soul in tears*."
Of the short and sanguinary reign of queen Mary, Mr. Neal has furnished a faithful compendium, vol. 1. p. 58-85, and we have little to add to his narrative. In the first year of her reign, a person of the name of Woodman was cited before the bishop of Winchester, to answer to certain allegations touching his orthodoxy. "Hold him a book (said the bishop): if he refuse to swear, he is an Anabaptist, and shall be excommunicated." This criterion for ascertaining whether or not the poor man was or was not infected with heresy, is no farther entitled to notice than as it proves two things; namely, the existence of Baptists at that time in the country, and the severity of the penal laws against them. On another occasion, when Mr. Philpot was under exam
For Dr. Toulmin's Reflections on the state of the Baptists during the riegn of Edward VI. see vol. 1. p. 57, 58, of this work.
ination by the lords of the council (November 5, 1555), it was remarked by one of his judges, that "all heretics boast of the Spirit of God, and every one would have a church of his own, as Joan of Kent, and the Anabaptists!" A pretty plain indication that the Baptists of that day were not only contending for the divine authority of that institution, but also for the necessity of their separating themselves unto the law of the Lord, and maintaining the importance of their own principles. It is painful to dwell upon the merciless proceedings of this reign, and we shall dismiss it with a few additional remarks.
In the beginning of June 1558, a proclamation was issued, of which the following is a copy.
66 BY THE KING AND QUEEN.
"Whereas divers books, filled with heresy, sedition, and treason, have of late, and be daily brought into this realm, out of foreign countries, and places beyond the seas; and some also covertly printed within this realm, and cast abroad in sundry parts thereof, whereby not only God is dishonoured, but also encouragement given to disobey lawful princes and governors: the king and queen's majesties, for redress hereof, do, by their own proclamation, declare and publish to all their subjects that whosoever shall, after the proclaiming hereof, be found to have any of the said wicked and seditious books, or, finding them, do not forthwith burn the same, shall, in that case, be reported and taken for a rebel, and shall, without delay, be executed for that offence, according to martial law."
A week after the publishing of this proclamation, a meeting of Protestants was detected at Islington, and twenty-two individuals, men and women, were seized and taken before sir Roger Cholmley, who turned them over to the bishop of London, who, in the cruelty of his tender mercies, turned thirteen of them over to the executioners, seven of them to be burnt in Smithfield, and six at Brentford *!
Among those who were committed to the flames in Smithfield, on this occasion, was, Mr. Roger Holland, a gentleman descended from a very respectable family in Lancashire, where several of his predecessors are to be found enrolled in the list of sheriffs for the county. At a hearing before bishop Bonner, lord Strange, son of the earl of Derby; sir Thomas Gerrard; Mr. Eccleston, of Eccleston, with many other gentlemen of the county, appeared to speak on his behalf. In his youthful days, Mr. Holland had been, not only a bigoted Papist, but also a very dissipated and profligate young man. He was, however, converted from the error of his ways by the pious instructions of a servant-maid, in the family in which he resided. She put into his hands some books both in defence of the truth of the gospel, and against the
• Oldmixon's England, vol. 1. p. 284, folio.
errors of Popery. These means were, through the blessing of Heaven, so efficacious, that he became the member of a congregational church in London, married the female to whom he was under such lasting obligations, and sealed the profession of the gospel with his blood: his wife also suffered great affliction for maintaining the same truths. Two others, of the Islington congregation, were taken by Bonner, stripped naked, and flogged in his garden at Fulham, in a most unmanly posture, to such a degree, that a bundle of rods was worn out in scourging them! But on the character of this queen, and the general complexion of her reign, let it suffice in this place to give an extract from an oration, composed by the learned John Hailes, esq.* and delivered to queen Elizabeth, soon after her accession to the throne.
"It was not enough for these unnatural English tormentors (says Mr. Hailes), these tyrants and false Christians, to be lords of the goods, possessions, and bodies, of their brethren and countrymen; but being very antichrists and enemies of the cross of Christ, they would be gods also, and reign in the consciences and souls of men. Every man, woman, and child, must deny Christ in word openly, abhor Christ in their deeds, slander him with word and deed, worship and honour false gods as they would have them, and as themselves did, and so give body and soul to the devil, their master: or, secretly flee, or, after inward torments, be burnt openly. O cruelty, cruelty! far exceeding all the cruelties committed by those famous ancient tyrants, Herod, Caligula, Nero, Domitian, &c. &c. whose names, for their cruel persecution of the people of God, have been, and ever will be, held in perpetual hatred. If any man would undertake to set forth particularly all the acts that have been done these full five years by this unnatural woman (rather say, this monster covered with the shape of a woman), as it is necessary for the glory of God, and the profit of the church, and of this realm, that it should be done, he will find it subject sufficient for a perfect and a great history, and not to be contained in an oration to be uttered at one time by the voice of man. But to comprehend the sum of all their wickedness in few words, behold, whatever malice in mischief, covetousness in spoil, cruelty in punishing, tyranny in destruction, could do; that, all this poor English nation, these full five years, either suffered already, or should have suffered, had not the great mercy of God prevented it+."
Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne in the year 1558; and,
Mr. Hailes, the writer of this oration, was bred at Oxford, and deservedly held in high reputation for his learning. He was highly esteemed by the lordkeeper, sir Nicholas Bacon, and by lord Burleigh; two of the greatest men of that age.
† Oldmixon, p. 293.
though a decided enemy to Popery, or, more properly speaking,
The share which the Baptists had in these severities, will appear from the mention of a few instances. Dr. Wall relates, that about the sixteenth year of queen Elizabeth, a congregation of Dutch Antipædobaptists was discovered without Aldgate, in London, of whom twenty-seven were taken and imprisoned; and
the following month one man and ten women of them were condemned *. Another writer informs us, that it was at Easter, 1575, that this took place, and that four of them recanted at Paul's cross, on the 25th May, and that the rest were banished the kingdom +. The following is the form of their abjuration:
"Whereas, we being seduced by the devil, the spirit of error, and by false teachers, have fallen into these most damnable and detestable heresies, that Christ took not flesh of the substance of the Virgin Mary-that the infants of the faithful ought not to be baptized; and that a Christian man may not be a magistrate, or bear the sword and office of authority; and that it is not lawful for a Christian man to take an oath: now, by the grace of God, and by the assistance of good and learned ministers of Christ's church, I understand the same to be most damnable and detestable heresies; and do ask God, before his church, mercy for my said former errors, and do forsake, recant, and renounce them: and I abjure them from the bottom of my heart, protesting I certainly believe the contrary. And farther I confess, that the whole doctrine, established and published in the church of England, and also that which is received in the Dutch church in London, is found true and according to God's word: whereunto in all things I submit myself, and will be most gladly a member of the said Dutch church; from henceforth utterly abandoning and forsaking all and every Anabaptistical error‡."
This abjuration-oath, which was administered by Dr. Delaune, then minister of the Dutch church, Austin Friars, sufficiently indicates the arbitrary and intolerant spirit of the age. Fuller, the historian, mentions the same facts, with some additional circumstances. "Now began the Anabaptists (says he) wonderfully to increase in the land; and as we are sorry that any countrymen should be seduced with that opinion, so we are glad that the English as yet were free from that infection." He then goes on to relate the apprehension of the twenty-seven Baptists at Aldgate, and adds that two of them were so obstinate, that orders were issued for their being committed to the flames in Smithfield. This induced the celebrated John Fox, the martyrologist, to interpose in their behalf, supplicating her majesty to reprieve them. The letter was written in Latin, but Mr. Crosby has furnished us with the following translation of it:
"Most serene and happy princess-most illustrious queen, the honour of our country, and ornament of the age. As nothing has been farther from my thoughts and expectations, than ever to disturb your most excellent majesty by my troublesome interruption; so it grieves me very much, that I must break that silence which has hitherto been the result of my mind. But, so it now
History of Infant Baptism, book 2. p. 212.
+ D'Assigny's Mystery of Anabaptism, p. 368.
Crosby, vol. 1. p. 68.