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spirit and diligence in inquiry, must be praised by all candid persons. They arose out of those who, being tired with the yoke of superstitious ceremonies, the traditions of men, and corrupt mixtures in the worship of God, resolved, by the grace of God, not to receive or practise any piece of positive worship which had not precept or example in his word. On this principle they pursued their researches, which they accompanied with fasting and prayer. When, after long search, and many debates, it appeared to them that infant baptism was a mere innovation, and even a profanation of a divine ordinance, they were not brought to lay it aside without many fears and tremblings, lest they should be mistaken, considering how many learned and godly men were of an opposite persuasion; and gladly would they have had the concurrence of their brethren with them. But since there was no hope of this, they concluded that a Christian's faith must not stand in the wisdom of man, and that every one must give account of himself to God; so they resolved to practise according to their own convictions. They were persuaded, that believers were the only proper subjects of baptism, and that immersion, or dipping the whole body into water, was the appointed rite. But as this was not practised in England, they were at a loss for an administrator to begin the practice. After often meeting together to pray, and confer about this matter, they agreed to send over into Holland Mr. Richard Blount, who understood the Dutch language, to a Baptist church there: he was kindly received by the society and their pastor; and upon his return he baptized Mr. Samuel Blacklock, a minister; these two baptized the rest of the company, to the number of fifty-three. Some few others of this persuasion were among the original planters of New-England. They who continued in England, published, in the year 1615, a small treatise to justify their separation from the church of England; and to prove that every man has a right to judge for himself in matters of religion; and that to persecute any one on this account, is illegal, antichristian, and contrary to the laws of God, as well as several declarations of his majesty.
The title of this pamphlet is as follows: "Persecution for religion judged and condemned, in a discourse between a Christian and Antichristian: proving, by the law of God, and by king James's many declarations, that no man ought to be persecuted for his religion, so he testify his allegiance by the oath appointed by law." The style of this work is easy, correct, and, considering the age when it was composed, very perspicuous: the reasoning strong and conclusive; and the dialogue well maintained. It presents a favourable specimen of the principles and abilities of the authors. They inveigh against the pride, luxury, and oppression, of the bishops; declare their respect for magistrates; protest against the political errors of the Papists; condemn those who through fear comply with any external wor
ship contrary to their own conscience; and refer, for evidence of their sentiments, to the confession of faith published in 1611.
But the principal glory of this piece, is the manly and explicit avowal which the authors make of the true principles of Christian liberty, at a time when they were either unknown, or opposed, by almost every other party. They preserve a just distinction between civil and religious concerns; and while they fully allow the magistrate his proper authority in the former, they boldly maintain every man's right to judge and act for himself in the latter. In a dedication to all that truly wish Jerusalem's prosperity and Babylon's destruction, they declare, "We do unfeignedly acknowledge the authority of earthly magistrates, God's blessed ordinance, and that all earthly rule and command appertain unto them: let them command what they will, we must obey, either to do or to suffer. But all men must let God alone with his right, who is to be Lord and Lawgiver of the soul; and not command obedience for God when he commandeth none." "If I take (says Christian, in another place) any authority from the king's majesty, let me be judged worthy of my desert; but, if I defend the authority of Christ Jesus over men's souls, which appertaineth to no mortal man whatsoever, then know you, that whosoever would rob him of that honour which is not of this world, he will tread them under foot.-Earthly authority belongs to earthly kings; but spiritual authority belongeth to that spiritual King, who is King of kings*."-When we consider the state of the times, this intrepid and dignified language must excite our just admiration.
In the year 1618, another vindication of their principles came from the press, entitled, "A plain and well-grounded Treatise concerning Baptism." It was a translation from a Dutch piece, and is thought to be the first that was published in English against the baptism of infants. But the vindication of their principles procured them no security against the power of persecution. They were inveighed against from the pulpits, and harassed in the spiritual courts. Their goods were seized, and their persons confined by long and lingering imprisonments, under which many of them died, leaving widows and children. This drew from them, in 1620, during the sitting of parliament, an humble supplication to king James, representing their miseries, avowing their loyal and blameless behaviour, and remonstrating against the cruel proceedings under which they suffered, as unbecoming the charity and goodness of the Christian religion, tempting men to hypocrisy, and exhibiting the marks of antichrist, and humbly beseeching his majesty, the nobles, and parliament, to consider their case, and according to the direction of God's word, to let the wheat and tares grow together till the harvest. Notwithstanding the odium cast upon them, and the severities used against them, they
* Persecution judged and condemned, passim.
maintained their separate meetings, had many disciples, and supported an exemplary purity of character*.
Mr. Neal states that, in the year 1644, there were forty-seven congregations of this denomination in the country, and seven in London. It cannot be doubted, that they gradually rose into such a number. Mr. Crosby says, that the Baptists, who had hitherto been intermixed with other Nonconformists, began to form themselves into separate societies in 1633. The first instance of this secession was that of part of the Independent congregation, then under the ministry of Mr. John Lathorp, which had been gathered in 1616, and of which Mr. Henry Jacob was the first pastor. The minister of these separatists was Mr. John Spilsbury; their number is uncertain, because, after specifying the number of about twenty men and women, it is added--with divers others. In the year 1638, Mr. William Kiffin, Mr. Thomas Wilson, and others, adopted the same opinions concerning baptism; and having been, at their own request, dismissed from the Independent church, joined the new congregation. Mr. Neal is mistaken, when he represents this separation as taking place under Mr. Jessey; who did not settle with it as a pastor till about Midsummer 1637 and did not change his sentiments on the questions concerning baptism till the summer of 1645, when he was baptized by Mr. Knowles. The division of the people into two congregations, one continuing with him, and the other joining themselves to Mr. Praise-God Barebones, on the 18th of May 1640, arose not from any difference of sentiment about baptism, but from their becoming so numerous, that they could not meet together in one place without being discovered+.
In 1639 another congregation of Baptists was formed, which met in Crutched-friars; the chief promoters of which were, Mr. Green, Mr. Paul Hobson, and captain Spencer. A pamphlet appeared at this time, under the title of "New preachers, new;" designed to hold up to scorn and contempt the leading members of this church. Among other foolish things, it is remarked, that "Green the felt-maker (that is, a hatter), Spencer the horserubber, Quartermine the brewer's clerk, and some few others, were mighty sticklers in this new kind of talking trade, which many ignorant coxcombs call preaching." Green appears to have been a very zealous man, and to have excited no inconsiderable attention by his preaching. In the pamphlet above mentioned, some account is given of " a tumult raised in Fleetstreet, by the disorderly preachment, pratings, and prattlings, of Mr. Barebones the leather-seller, and Mr. Green the felt-maker, on Sunday last the 19th of December (1641). Barebones is called a reverend unlearned leather-seller, memorable for his fiery zeal, and both he and his friend Green were apprehended while
• See Crosby's History of the English Baptists, vol. 1. p. 88-139.
"preaching or prating amongst a hundred persons," on that day. The following extract from this pamphlet is too good to be lost.
"After my commendations, Mr. Rawbones (Barebones I should have said), in acknowledgment of your too much troubling yourself, and molesting others, I have made bold to relate your last Sunday's afternoon work, lest in time your meritorious painstaking should be forgotten; (for the which, you and your associate, Mr. Green, do well deserve to have your heads in the custody of young Gregory, to make buttons for hempen loops!) you two having the Spirit so full, that you must either rent or burst, did on the Sabbath aforesaid, at your house near Fetter-lane, and in Fleet-street, at the sign of the Lock and Key, there and then, did you and your consort, by turns, unlock most delicate strange doctrine, where was about thousands of people, of which number the most ignorant applauded your preaching, and those that understood any thing derided your ignorant prating. But after four hours' long and tedious tattling, the house where you were was beleaguered with multitudes that thought it fit to rouse you out of your blind devotion, so that your walls were battered, your windows all fractions, torn into tattling shivers; and worse the hurly-burly might have been, but that sundry constables came in, with strong guards of men to keep the peace, in which conflict your sign was beaten down and unhinged, to make room for the owner to supply the place-all which shows had never been, had Mr. Green and Mr. Barebones been content, as they should have done, to have gone to their own parish-churches. " The same writer, addressing Green, asks, "Do not these things come from proud spirits, that, Mr. Spencer a horse-keeper, and you a hat-maker, will take upon you to be ambassadors of God, to teach your teachers, and take upon you to be ministers of the gospel in these days of light. Consider, I pray you, that our Lord would not have had the ass, Matt. xxi. 3, if he had not stood in need of him. Now the truth is, the church hath no need of such as you, an unlearned self-conceited hat-maker. It is true, that in the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign, the Papist priests and friars being dismissed, there was a scarcity for the present of learned men, and so some tradesmen were permitted to leave their trades, and betake themselves to the ministry; but it was necessity that did then constrain them so to do: but thanks be to God, we have now no such necessity, and therefore this practice of you and your comrades casts an ill aspersion upon our good God, that doth furnish our church plentifully with learned men; and it doth also scandalize our church, as if we stood in need of such as you to preach the gospel. This you call preaching, or prophesying; and thus, as one of them told the lords of parliament, that they were all preachers, for so they practise and exercise themselves, as young players do in private, till they be by their brethren judged fit for the pulpit, and then up they go, and, like mountebanks, play their part.
Mr. Green, Mr. Green, leave off these ways: bring home such as you have caused to stray. It is such as you that vent their venom against our godly preachers, and the divine forms of prayer, yea, against all set forms of prayers; all is from antichrist, but that which you preach is most divine: that comes from the Spirit, the other is an old dead sacrifice, composed (I should have said, killed) so long ago that it now stinks. It is so that in the year 1549, it was compiled by Dr. Cranmer, Dr. Goodricke, Dr. Skip, Dr. Thirlby, Dr. Day, Dr. Holbecke, Dr. Ridley, Dr. Cox, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Harris, Dr. Redman, and Mr. Robinson, archdeacon of Leicester; but what are all these? they are not to be compared to John Green a hat-maker, for he thinketh what he blustereth forth upon the sudden, is far better than that which these did maturely and deliberately compose!"
This extract is interesting on various accounts: the pamphlet from which it is taken is evidently the production of one of those clerical bigots of the establishment, of whom abundance are to be found in every age, since national establishments of Christianity were introduced; a privileged order of men, who, having found out the means of making their profession of religion subservient to their worldly interest, take it mightily amiss that any persons should presume to disturb them in their slumbers, or caution their fellow-creatures against being deceived by them. Hence all their cant and whining about "learned and godly ministers," as though any body complained of either their learning or their godliness; or as though their having been licensed by their fellow-creatures to officiate in parish churches, were a substantial reason why another, who obtains his livelihood by honest industry, should not raise his voice in defence of the despised truth of the gospel, hold forth the word of life, and contend for the laws and institutions of Christ, against all who would corrupt them by human traditions. It is interesting, too, as furnishing a pretty correct idea of the manner in which the earliest Baptist churches in this country conducted their public worship. Taking the New Testament for their guide, they seem evidently to have discarded "the one-man system," as it has been significantly termed, and which obtains so universally in our day. We may also learn from it the opposition which the Baptists of that day had to sustain, in yielding obedience to the will of their God and Saviour.
But there are accounts of some societies existing in the coun-· try, long before these congregations in London were formed. There is great reason to believe that the Baptist society at Shrewsbury has subsisted, through all the revolutions of time to this day, from the year 1627*. The congregation at Bickenhall, now at Hatch, six miles from Taunton, in Somerset, had, according to the opinion of its oldest members, about twenty years ago, sub
* A Letter from the Rev. Josiah Thompson to the Editor.