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also brought by the power of his grace to a more watchful frame over our hearts, thoughts, and actions, by these trials than formerly. One thing had almost slipped our memory, the knowledge of which will, we hope, rejoice our hearts; that our relations, that are precious to the Lord and to us, bear this our suffering with incomparable patience, rather singing for joy, than weeping for grief. Also our societies, from whence we were taken, are exceeding cheerful, and a very lively spirit of faith and prayer is amongst them; and their meetings rather increase than otherwise. Sure, That the Lord is near, his wondrous works declare; for the singing of birds is come, and the turtle is heard in our land.' And now, brethren, forasmuch as the mercies expected and prayed for by us, are to be enjoyed in the way of righteousness, it greatly concerns us, that we cry mightily to the Lord, as did his servant of old, Isa. lxii. 1. Then shall we have that new name which God will give us, which is expressed in the last verse of that chapter. Now the God of all peace fill you with peace and joy in believing; so pray your brethren through grace."
In the spirit of these pious sufferers, one whose property was seized, told those who took distress, "he never sold anything to so great advantage, for this would bring him a hundred-fold." And another, on goods from his shop to the value of 50s. being seized for a fine of 30s. assured them, "that he parted as willingly with them as with any goods he ever sold +."
When Mr. John James was brought to the bar to receive sentence, he was asked what he had to say for himself, why sentence of death should not be passed upon him. In a manner very expressive of pious submission and fortitude, he answered: "That he had not much to say, only two or three scriptures he would leave with them." The first scripture was Jer. xxvi. 14, 15. "As for me, do as seemeth good unto you. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof." The second scripture was Psalm cxvi. 15. "Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his saints." He also reminded them of that good word of the Lord: "He that toucheth the Lord's people, toucheth the apple of his eye."
The deportment of Mr. Keach, when he stood in the pillory at Aylesbury, was singularly serious, devout, and undaunted. To his friends, who accompanied him, expressing their sense of his sufferings, he said, with a cheerful countenance, "The cross is the way to the crown." When his head and hands were fixed, he addressed the spectators to this effect: "Good people, I am not ashamed to stand here this day, with this paper on my head.
Crosby, vol. 2. p. 93–95.
+ Ibid. p. 249.
My Lord Jesus was not ashamed to suffer on the cross for me, and it is for his cause that I am made a gazing-stock. Take notice, it is not for any wickedness that I stand here; but for writing and publishing his truths, which the Spirit of the Lord hath revealed in the Holy Scriptures. It is no new thing for the servants of the Lord to suffer and to be made a gazing-stock; and you that are acquainted with the Scriptures know, that the way to the crown is by the cross. The apostle saith, that through many tribulations, we must enter into the kingdom of heaven' and Christ saith, He that is ashamed of me and my words, in an adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, before the Father, and before the holy angels.'" After frequent interruptions from the jailer and standing some time silent, disengaging one of his hands, he pulled his Bible out of his pocket, and held it up to the people, saying: "Take notice, that the things which I have written and published, and for which I stand here this day a spectacle to men and angels, are all contained in this book, as I could prove out of the same, if I had opportunity." The jailer took it from him, and fastened up his hand again: but it was almost impossible to keep him from speaking; saying, "It seems I cannot be suffered to speak to the cause for which I stand here; neither could I be suffered the other day (viz. on his trial): but it will plead its own innocency, when the strongest of its opposers shall be ashamed. I do not speak this out of prejudice to any person, but do sincerely desire, that the Lord would convert them, and convince them of their errors, that their souls may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Good people, the concernment of souls is very great; so great, that Christ died for them. And, truly, a concernment for souls was that which moved me to write and publish those things for which I now suffer, and for which I could suffer far greater things than these. It concerns you therefore to be very careful, otherwise it will be very sad with you, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, for we must all appear before his tribunal." Here he was interrupted, but after some time he again ventured to break silence. "I hope (said he) the Lord's people will not be discouraged at my sufferings. Oh! did you but experience the great love of God, and the excellences that are in him, it would make you willing to go through any sufferings for his sake. And I do account this the greatest honour that ever the Lord was pleased to confer upon me.' He was not suffered to speak much more after this, and the officers were commanded to keep the spectators at a greater distance from him. He found an opportunity however to say at one time, "This is one yoke of Christ, which I can experience is easy to me, and a burden which he doth make light;" and to utter also this sentence, "Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." When the
time for his standing was expired, and his head and hands were at liberty, he blessed God, with a loud voice, for his great goodness unto him *.
Such sentiments, such a spirit expressed in the moment of suffering, it may be supposed, would disarm the rage of some, and possess the minds of many in favour of the pious sufferer. But the Baptists did not leave their principles to the recommendation and support, which the conduct and temper of those who, in the profession of them endured cruel trials, might afford. They adopted every method of softening prejudice and conciliating regard, by addresses from the press, and applications to the throne. With this view they published, in 1660, a Brief Confession or Declaration, to inform all men of their innocent belief and practice. It was owned and approved by more than twenty thousand. This was presented to his majesty, and met with his approbation. It was reprinted at London in 1691 +. Petitions also, as we have noticed, were in this year delivered to the king, representing their pacific principles, and imploring his protection. Three persons, of this denomination, about this time published a declaration of their sentiments concerning opposing magistracy, in which they advanced principles to which the most zealous advocates for passive obedience and nonresistance could not object professing that in such instances wherein they could not in conscience obey, they ought "not to resist them, but patiently suffer whatever they should inflict for non-obedience to their requirements §." The persons who signed this declaration apologize for their paucity, and seemed not pleased with their brethren, because they were not of their judgment on this point. But their difference in opinion from other Baptists shews, that a uniformity of sentiment concerning the extent of the magistrate's authority, and the right of resistance, had no necessary and direct connexion with an agreement on the questions concerning baptism. In the year 1661, the hardships under which many of this profession groaned, again excited them to seek mercy from the higher powers. A petition was presented to the king, on behalf of themselves and others, from some confined in the prison at Dover, and another to the duke of York; describing their great sufferings, protesting that innocence was found in them, and that against the king and his government they had done no harm, soliciting with much importunity to be set at liberty, and that they might not be interrupted in their worship of the God of heaven, as they were taught it in his word, which they prized above all the world; and urging, that it might be considered, how disagreeable it is with Christianity, to bring tribulation upon any for conscience' sake, seeing all things in worship must be done in faith and love |].'
Crosby, vol. 2. p. 204-208.
+ Ibid. vol. 2. p. 18;
and Appendix, No. 4. Appendix, No. V.
But the application for redress of their grievances, which particularly deserves notice, was an address to the king, parliament, and people, in a treatise entitled, "Sion's groans for her distressed; or, Sober endeavours to prevent innocent blood," &c. This was not a petition only for toleration for themselves, but an able and spirited defence of the rights of conscience. Its design was to prove how contrary to the gospel "of the Lord Jesus, and to good reason, it is for any magistrate, by outward force, to impose anything in the worship of God on the consciences of those whom they govern; but that liberty ought to be given to all such as disturb not the civil peace, though of different persuasions in religious matters." The question is handled on liberal principles, also with copiousness and strength. The spirit and the reasoning do honour to the people from whom it came; especially when it is recollected, that the assembly at Westminster, and the ministers of London and other parts, had from the pulpit and the press opposed the principles of toleration.
It is argued, that the power of directing conscience by outward force doth not attach itself to the office of magistracy itself, because then all magistrates in all nations have the same power; the Mahometan to enforce the reception of the Koran, the Spaniard to enjoy popery, and every succeeding magistrate to sanction his own religion, to the overthrow of what his predecessor established because the apostles, who command obedience to magistrates, in matters of religion, refused obedience; because all the Scriptures of the New Testament, enjoining obedience to magistrates, being written when the emperors were idolaters; such injunctions cannot be understood as applying to religion: because, if the commands of the magistrate in religious matters were obligatory, there could be no persecutions, and the way to heaven, so far from being strait and narrow, any might be a disciple of Christ without taking up the cross. And the conduct of Gallio, who declined interfering in a matter relative to God's law, and restrained the exercise of his authority to civil injuries only, is with great propriety appealed to, as a worthy example for the imitation of magistrates.
That the Christian magistrate, as such, has no power over conscience, nor authority to impose anything in religion by outward force, is argued from the conduct of Christ Jesus, who never compelled men by force to receive his doctrine; from the conduct of the apostles, and the elders of the primitive church, who disclaimed any such power. 1 Cor. i. 24. Matt. xx. 25. 1 Pet. v. 2, 3. "Why, therefore, (say the authors of this piece) the Christian religion should be built and supported by violence, when the foundation was laid, and the work carried on during all the apostles' days, and some hundred years after, by a quite contrary means, is a question should be resolved by those whose strongest arguments for the support of their religion is, Take him, jailer. For such is the difference between the way which the
apostles and primitive saints took, in carrying on the work of the gospel, and approving themselves to be the ministers of God, and the way now used by the national clergy, than which nothing is more unlike." In the prosecution of their argument, they reason forcibly from the parable of the tares and wheat, as forbidding any outward force or violence to be used upon false worshippers and heretics as such. "Hath the magistrate (it is asked) power to remove those out of the world, that God would have permitted to live?" The fallibility of the magistrate furnishes another argument against the exercise of his power in religion; a fallibility which woful experience hath taught the world in all ages; the magistrate of one country establishing the principles and practices which that of another country condemns and persecutes; nay, the same magistrate, at different periods, reversing his own decrees; and now rejecting what he had just before defended by his pen, or supported by his laws: as was the case of Henry VIII. To this fallibility he is equally liable, whether he confide in his own wisdom, or rely on the authority of popes, synods, or general councils. This point is illustrated by various examples. As to national conventions and synods, so far are they from any show of infallibility, it is justly observed, "that the same complexion and temper the nation is of, wherein they are called, you shall be sure to find them of; because they have their dependency on the authority that calls them together." Among other arguments, it is stated, that for the magistrate to inflict temporal punishments upon any for not conforming to those decrees which enjoin any spiritual worship or service, is a breach of the royal law, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is a rule which all sorts of men, whilst under persecution, are ready to receive and plead. Nor would they who are forward to persecute, be very zealous in their proceedings, if they were sure that those whom they persecute should have power on their sides to "mete the same measure unto them." It is well observed, that such proceedings may sometimes prove inconsistent with the very being of nations. "For, suppose any nation were wholly heathen idolaters, and the word of God coming in amongst them should convert the chief-magistrate, and one-twentieth part of the nation more; must he then with that twentieth part destroy all the other nineteen, if they will not be converted, but continue in their heathenish idolatry? It cannot possibly be supposed to be warrantable. And the reason holds good likewise against the rooting up and destroying heretics out of the world."
These just sentiments are followed by a full answer to the argument in favour of the magistrate's power in religious matters, drawn from the example of the kings of Israel and Judah. In reply to this, it is observed, that the power of those kings to punish idolaters and blasphemers was given them by God, and