« 上一頁繼續 »
appeal, they were returned to him; but, being cast at the sessions, he was fined 607. which was at last remitted to 231. For nonpayment of this sum he was committed to the jailer's hands, though the vicar of the parish, touched with remorse for his share in the prosecution, offered his bond to pay the whole fine within a quarter of a year *.
It was remarked by one who had been bound over to several assizes and sessions for having religious assemblies held at his house, that the justices, who in criminal matters were often silent, and generally cool and disposed to lenity; when any person or accusation came before them concerning dissenters, were very forward speakers, and zealously aggravated the charge.
But nothing more strongly marked the malignant temper of the times against the Baptists, than the publication of a pamphlet, in the year 1673, avowedly designed to raise an abhorrence of the sect, and to stand "as an eternal memorial of their cruelty and hatred to all orthodox ministers." It was entitled, "Mr. Baxter baptized in blood." The story it exhibited was, that Mr. Josiah Baxter, a godly minister of New-England, for no other reason than because he had worsted the Baptists in a disputation, had been murdered in his own house, amidst "the howlings, groans, and screechings, of his dear relations, lying bound by him;" and it represented this murder as committed with circumstances of peculiar atrocity and cruelty he being first stripped and severely whipped, and then unbowelled and flayed alive. To give it the air of authenticity, the pamphlet was pretended to be published by the mournful brother of the said minister, an inhabitant of Fenchurch-street, London; and it was actually licensed by Dr. Samuel Parker. This vile tale had its origin in invention and malice alone; for the king's privy council examined the case, and detected the forgery. It appeared, on the oaths of the officers in Fenchurch-street, that no such person as Benjamin Baxter, the pretended publisher, had, in their memory, lived there and on the affidavits of a master of a vessel, and of a merchant who sailed from Boston about twenty days after this murder was said to be committed, it also appeared, that no such fact had taken place, nor had there been such a person as Mr. Josiah Baxter. The whole story was pronounced by an order of council" altogether false and fictitious;" and Dr. Parker confessed his mistake and credulity in licensing the pamphlet, and acknowledged, by a testimonial under his hand, his conviction. that the whole was "both false and groundless." Mr. Andrew Marvel, not without intimating a suspicion that Dr. Parker was concerned in the fabrication, says, that "from beginning to end there never was a completer falsehood invented f." It grieves and shocks a good mind to think that, in any age or party, men can be found to invent and countenance such groundless and malevolent forgeries.
Crosby, vol. 2. p. 244-258.
Ibid. vol. 278-294.
Besides this general survey of the persecutions to which the Baptists were exposed throughout the kingdom, it may be proper briefly to notice two or three particular cases.-One is that of Mr. John James, the minister of a congregation of Baptists, who observed the seventh day as a sabbath, and assembled in Bulstakealley. Towards the end of the year 1661, they were interrupted in their worship by a justice and headborough, as Mr. James was preaching, whom they commanded in the king's name to be silent and come down, having spoken treason against the king. As Mr. James proceeded in his discourse, without noticing his summons, it was repeated with a threat of pulling him down. On this the disturbance grew so great, that Mr. James was obliged to stop; but still refusing to leave the pulpit, he was pulled down, and haled away; and the hearers were carried, by sevens, before the justices sitting at the Half-moon tavern, and those who refused the oath of allegiance were committed to prison. Mr. James was examined in the meeting-house; insult and threats accompanied the interrogatories, and he was committed on the charge of speaking treasonable words against his majesty. On this charge he was tried, condemned, and executed. Previously to the execution, his wife delivered to the king a petition, stating his innocence, and the character of the witnesses against him, signifying who she was, which the king received with a taunt: "Oh! Mr. James! he is a sweet gentleman ;" and when she attempted to follow for some farther answer, the door was shut against her. On the next morning, she renewed her attendance and suit: and his majesty replied, "that he was a rogue, and should be hanged." A lord in waiting, asked who was meant, the king answered, "Oh, John James, that rogue; he shall be hanged; yea, he shall be hanged*."
The celebrated Mr. Benjamin Keach had also no small share in the sufferings of the times. He was seized, when preaching, and committed to jail; sometimes bound, sometimes released upon bail, and sometimes his life was threatened. Troopers, who were sent down into Buckinghamshire to suppress the meetings of dissenters, entered into an assembly where he was conducting the worship, with great violence, and swearing that they would kill the preacher. He was accordingly seized, and four of them declared their resolution to trample him to death with their horses. They bound him, laid him on the ground, and were going to spur all their horses at once upon him, when their officer, seeing their design, rode up towards them and prevented its execution. Mr. Keach was taken up, tied behind one of the troopers, across his. horse, and carried to jail; where he suffered, some time, great hardships before he was released.
In the year 1644, Mr. Keach printed, at the request of friends, without his name, and with a recommendatory preface by another hand, a little piece entitled "The Child's Instructor; or a new
• Crosby, vol. 2. p. 165–171.
and easy Primmer." In this book were advanced several principles contrary to the doctrines and ceremonies of the church of England; viz. That infants ought not to be baptized; that laymen having abilities may preach the gospel: that Christ should reign personally upon the earth in the latter day, &c. Soon after this tract was printed, and Mr. Keach had received some copies of it, his house was searched for it, all the copies of it they found were seized, and he was bound over to the assizes in a recognizance of 100%. and two sureties with him in 501. each. On Öctober 8, Mr. Keach was brought to the bar of Aylesbury, where the assizes were held, before lord-chief justice Hyde. The judge not only interrogated him, whether he were the author of the Primmer, but by unjust reflections and angry insults, endeavoured to incense the jury against him, and to render him odious. Mr. Keach was refused a copy of his indictment till he had pleaded to it. In the course of the trial, abuse and contempt was cast upon him from the bench. The jury were intimidated, when they hesitated on their verdict. Mr. Keach was convicted: and the sentence passed was, that he should be committed to jail for a fortnight, stand in the pillory for two hours on the following Saturday at Aylesbury, with a paper on his head with this inscription: For writing, printing, and publishing, a schismatical book, entitled, The Child's Instructor; or, a new and easy Primmer;'" that the same punishment, under like circumstances, should be inflicted on him on the next Thursday at Winslow: that there his book should be openly burnt before his face, in disgrace of him and his doctrine: that he should be fined 201. and that he should remain in jail until he found sureties for his good behaviour and appearance at the next assizes; then to renounce his doctrines, and make such public submission as should be enjoined him. No pardon could be obtained, nor the least relaxation of the sentence, which the sheriff took care should be punctually executed*.
The spirit of persecution thus raged against this people: but not without a mixture of events, which were adapted seriously to affect the minds of their persecutors, and to alarm them to reflection. On the day of the king's proclamation at Waltham near Theobalds, there was a man who at the bonfire in the evening expressed a rage against the dissenters, and the Baptists in particular, by violence of language and oaths; and as he threw fagots into the fire, cried, "Here is a Round-head; here is an Anabaptist!" he was struck with death that night, and never saw the morning. A minister at one place inveighing in his sermon against this fact, fell into a swoon, and was speechless for two hours, so that it was apprehended that he would never recover out of the fit. At Brockington in Gloucestershire, a young woman, who had bitterly reviled them, giving a sudden shriek, as
* Crosby, vol. 2. p. 185-209.
the preacher was discoursing on Jude 14, 15, dropped down in the religious assembly, and never recovered. The sufferings and character of the dissenters were made a jest upon the stage at Oxford. In a play acted there by the scholars, one personated the old Puritan; who broke a vein and vomited so much blood, that his immediate death was apprehended, and he lay sometime dangerously ill. Two of the actors, and a woman that joined them in this dramatic exhibition, were cut off by death*. Some remarkable calamities befel those who were instruments in the prosecution of Mr. John James+. One of the actors in the rude and unnatural treatment of Mr. Shalder's corpse, after it was interred, died suddenly; and another languished for some time, terrified with the remembrance of the insults he had offered to the dead. A woman named Anne Clemens at Chipping-Norton, distinguished by her rage and malice against the dissenters, fell into such circumstances of poverty, as to be obliged to sell her land, and mortgage her house for near its worth. Not one of her children, who resided in the neighbourhood, was in a comfortable condition; and she herself was so reduced as to beg alms of those she had hated and persecuted. Her affliction was heightened by a diseased appetite, which called for as much as would satisfy two or three persons; and by a disposition to breed vermin, so that though her clothes were not only washed but ovened, she could not be kept clean. Richard Allein, an active informer, and violent in his conduct towards the dissenters, fell into afflictions that shortened his days. His eldest son was killed at London; and about the same time, another was accused and convicted for robbing on the highway, and by great friends and fees escaped with his life. An officer in the county troops of Oxford, with an income of 701. per annum, before he could accomplish his design of suppressing the dissenters, sunk in his own estate, died greatly in debt, and his son's children became common beggars. One Werg, a forward and active constable, did not long survive the expiration of his office, and imputed his death to watching one cold night to take the dissenters at their meeting. Five persons, who received pensions as spies and informers, were observed not to prosper afterward, and every one of them shortly died. An Irish peer, and three Irish justices of title and rank, bitter persecutors, it was remarked, while they were directing their whole power to the ruin of the dissenters, were themselves ruined, their estates were sold, and their families became extinct. Whereas sir Littleton Obaldiston, a justice of peace, who had been heard to rail at the dissenters, and acted with others in committing them to prison, afterward laid aside his enmity, was instrumental in releasing several, and conducted himself in a friendly manner; and it was noticed, that his estate continued to his prosperity. And it was remarked, that Howard, esq. a justice and officer
* Crosby, vol. 2. P. 30-34.
Ibid. p. 172.
Ibid. p. 241.
in the county troops in Oxfordshire, who had from an enemy become a friend to the dissenters, though he adhered to the established worship, was the only one of those who had molested and harassed them that was living on the 30th of December, 1707, being then an old man, full of days, wealth, and honour*.
It becomes us, I am sensible, to be very cautious how we construe the events which are common to all men. "There is usually (says an excellent writer) much rashness and presumption in pronouncing, that the calamities of sinners are particular judgments of God; yet if, from sacred and profane, from ancient and modern historians, a collection were made of all the persecuting tyrants, who delighted in tormenting their fellow-creatures, and who died not the common death of all men, nor were visited after the visitation of all men, but whose plagues were horrible and strange, even a sceptic would be moved at the evidence, and would be apt to suspect that it was to T, that the hand of God was in it +."
But the history, which we are detailing, presents objects to our consideration more pleasing than the sufferings of the persecuted, or calamities that befel persecutors. It records the virtues which the persecuted displayed, and the consolations in which, under their heavy trials, they rejoiced. We see the power of faith and piety, when we hear the Baptists confined in Reading jail declaring, "Our Lord and King, whom we serve, hath brought us under his own pavilion: and his banner over us hath been and still is love, and hath been teaching of us these lessons following. 1st. In the loss of all outward things, having Christ, we enjoy all things, and are satisfied in the Lord: we shall take the spoiling of our goods with far more comfort, than the enemy will do in the spending of them, for that word, Job xx. 22, 23, is very much on our hearts concerning him. 2dly. We hope we have learned, in whatsoever condition we are, to be therewith contented; and are persuaded in our hearts, this is given us in answer of many prayers breathed forth unto the Lord on our behalfs. 3dly. That whereas formerly we could hardly part with anything for the Lord, we are now made willing by him, to part with all things for him, and to say with good old Eli, It is the Lord, let him do what he pleaseth; and that in Job is set before us for our example, upon whom the ends of the world are come; "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not,' &c. 4thly. We have since our confinement tasted a greater sweetness in the promises of the Lord than formerly; and particularly these places following, we have sweet experience of, and we can truly say by experience, That faithful is he that hath thus promised, for he hath also done it: it is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.' Phil. iv. 19. 1 Pet. v. 7. Deut. xxxiii. 25. We are
* Crosby, vol. 2. p. 259–263.
+ Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. 3. p. 247. 1754.