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A History of the Baptists
By Thomas Armitage

      We must now look at the Baptists after the Restoration, the most noted of whom is JOHN BUNYAN. He was born at Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628, the famous year in which Charles I was forced to yield the Petition of Right. His education was next to nothing, yet he was favored above the boys of his village, for he attended the grammar school founded by Sir William Harper at Bedford; how long is not known, but at the best his educational attainments were quite scanty. Nature had given him a warm, light, frolicsome heart, which held him ready for any sort of glee and mischief, and under reversed circumstances subjected him not only to the pensive, but the desponding. He early feared God and longed to love him, but his giddiness and love of fun drew him into sin, until he became addicted to wrong-doing, principally lying and swearing. Because his father and himself were tinkers, and Gipsies in England have been tinkers from time immemorial, he was long supposed to be of this alien blood. But the records of his family are now traceable to about A.D. 1200, and the name itself, as then known, Buignon, indicates that the family was of Norman origin. This great descendant of that house was a man of intense feeling on all subjects. The religion of his times was of the most earnest nature, emotional, deep, almost fanatical, and when Bunyan's heart began to yearn after the Lord Jesus, his whole nature was inflamed. If we should take his own version of his case literally, he would compel us to believe that he was a sad scamp in youth and a desperate villain in early manhood. He tells us, however, that he was never drunk nor unchaste, and certainly he was never a thief nor a highwayman. He broke the Sabbath, loved dancing, ball-playing, bell-ringing and rough sports generally, and for these, with lying and profanity, his passionate self-accusings threw him into a deep and terrible sense of guilt. His agonies and conflicts continued for months; he dreamed frightful dreams and saw alarming day visions, heard warning voices and read his doom written in letters of fire. Meanwhile, he was a soldier in the civil war, and at its close married a poor, but godly, orphan girl. Froude says that his marriage speaks much for his character, for 'had he been a dissolute, idle scamp, it is unlikely that a respectable woman would have become his wife when he was a mere boy.' At any rate, his soul-conflict not only continued, but deepened, until his sufferings became unbearable, and he concluded that he was too wicked to be saved and must be lost. One day, when walking alone in the country, a flood of light broke upon his mind with these words: 'He hath made peace through the blood of his cross;' when, he says: I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other. I was ready to swoon, not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and peace.' Soon after this, 1653, Mr, Gifford immersed him in the river Ouse, when he became a member of the Baptist Church at Bedford, as we shall see more fully in the next chapters; and in 1655 he entered the ministry of the Gospel.

      Lord Macaulay speaks thus: 'The history of Bunyan is the history of a most excitable mind in an age of excitement. ' While this consideration does not throw light upon the source and sweep of Bunyan's genius, it may and does suggest a weighty reason why it took the hue and channel that it selected for its expression, both in his personal history and in the sixty works of his pen. The sixty years of his natural life ran through a long list of the most remarkable events of the English annals. In his day the High Commission and the Star Chamber brought before his mind the most vital question of human rights. This Court was empowered on mere suspicion to administer an oath, by which the prisoner was bound to reveal his inward thoughts, opinions and convictions, and thus accuse himself on pain of death. Every day filled Bunyan's ears with some new, romantic and blood-stirring event. He held his breath and turned pale when he heard that Charles lost not only his crown but his head as a traitor, when Cromwell drew the sword for British liberties and progress, when Cavaliers and Roundheads flew in every direction, when the Commonwealth was nourished with the blood of his brethren, and when Naseby, Edgewood and Marston Moor decreed, that no irresponsible tyrant should ever mount the throne again. He was familiar with the mad plots of Oates, Dangerfield and Venner, with the Conventicle Act, the ejection of two thousand men of God from the pulpits in a day, the faithlessness of the second Charles, the hypocrisies of James, the Butcheries of Claverhouse, the infamous mockery of justice in Jeffreys, and the fall of the perfidious Stuarts. The smoke of burning martyrs filled the air over his head, and he saw the blows for freedom which were struck by Hampden and Pym, Sidney and Russell. Howard, the great philanthropist,

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a hundred years afterward, walked the same streets and country roads that Bunyan trod, and, it is said, caught his spirit of prison reform largely from the 'Den' in which Bunyan had lain. The great singers of his day were Herbert and Milton, Dryden and Shakespeare. And the mighty preachers were Howe and Henry, Charnock and Owen, Tillotson and South, Sherlock and Stillingfleet. Bunyan's observation was keen and extensive; he lived in the very heart of England, was an actor in some of its most exciting scenes, and it is impossible but that the spirit of the times moved him at every step. In his day, English literature had become thoroughly imbued with all the elements of poetry and fiction; nay, even of romance. These had come down through high Italian authorship. Not only had the colloquial English descended through Wycliffe, and its higher literature through Chaucer, but they had been largely blended in the Bible, with which Bunyan was most familiar; so that simple, idiomatic Saxon English was prepared to his hand; being full of image and awe, of wonder and grandeur, which he could express to the popular mind in a very racy style. Unconsciously he felt the force of his mother-tongue; it stimulated his genius, became the groundwork of his thought and the model of his utterance; a choice which places him side by side with Shakespeare and the English Bible, as one of the great conservators of our powerful language.

      In a burst of unreasoning loyalty the English people, in 1660, placed Charles II on the throne, without exacting proper guarantees for that liberty which they had bought with their own blood. He had given his word on honor to protect all his subjects in their religious freedom; and then, like a true Stuart, he sold that honor to his lust of power. Hardly was he seated on the throne when Venner' s petty insurrection furnished a pretext for vengeance upon all his opponents, and especially those in the dissenting sects, no matter how much they proved their loyalty. Amongst the first victims of his tyranny we find Bunyan, charged with 'devilishly' and 'perniciously' abstaining from going to church, 'as a common upholder of meetings contrary to the laws of the king,' and with 'teaching men to worship contrary to law.' He was sentenced to Bedford jail for three months, and at the end of that time to be transported if he refused to conform. But his judges kept him in prison for six years: and when released he instantly began to preach again, whereupon he was imprisoned for another six years. Being released still again, he began to preach at once, and was arrested for the third time, but was detained only a few months. His judges were harsh with him, but his real oppressors for these twelve weary years were the king and Parliament, who made it a crime for any one to preach but a priest of the Church of England. It was long supposed that he was imprisoned mostly in the town jail of Bedford, on the bridge over the river Ouse, but it is now clear that his long imprisonment was in the county jail, where his anonymous biographer of 1700 says, that he heard him preach to sixty dissenters and three ministers. There is good ground for believing, however, that he passed

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a considerable period in the jail on the bridge, and that he wrote his Pilgrim's Progress there.

      While we are obliged to reprehend the base injustice which kept this grand preacher pining in a prison, however leniently treated, the fact is forced upon us, that the wrath of man was made to praise God; for had not his zealous servant been compelled to this solitude, we should not have had that masterpiece of literature. His 'Holy War' and other productions would have brought down to us a literary name for him of no mean order, but his 'Pilgrim' is a book for all people and all time. Bunyan's great power is in allegory and this form of it is unique, because its facts and dress are not fantastic, but are inherent in man's common sense and moral nature. His 'Pilgrim' is full of truth — this he drew from the Bible; of history, which he took from Foxe's Book of Martyrs; of terse English, which he learned from Spenser and Chaucer; of human nature, which he borrowed from himself and his circumstances; of hallowed conviction, which he caught from the Holy Spirit; and of uncrippled boldness, which was inspired by his love of soul-liberty. In earlier times some treated this great book with sneer and scorn, but in later days the first critics have vied with each other to exhaust upon it the language of eulogy. Dr. Johnson, Coleridge, Arnold, Macaulay and Froude have pronounced it equally fit for the plowman and the philosopher, the peer and the peasant; and the Queen of England thinks 'Christian,' its great character, a pattern for her grandchildren to copy in the palace. The glorious truth which made the heart of Bunyan beat quicker under the tinker's doublet has since given 'heart's-ease' to many a throbbing bosom which heaves under the purple. And the humbler walks

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of life, from old age to childhood, have made it next to the Bible, the story of their lives. In all souls it has created visions, interpreted dreams, and awakened 'the joy that made me write.' The eight editions through which it passed in thirty years gave but small promise of the progress of its pilgrimage since. No book has been rendered into so many languages, except the word of God itself. To many who are now 'high in bliss upon the bliss of God,' it first set 'the joy-bells ringing in the city of habitation.' The pauper and beggar of London have read it in thoroughfares and squares, and threaded their way by its guidance through Vanity Fair. The Italian has crouched beneath the shade of the Vatican, and trembled to look up lest he should see Giant Pope. The dusky Burman has taken it into the deep jungle, to show him stepping-stones through the Slough of Despond. The darker African has stolen with it into a by-path of the wild woods, and, under the palm-tree, has dreamed of the white man's heaven. The son of Abraham and the daughter of Jerusalem have read its pages to the sigh of the wind amongst the olives and the ripple of Kedron; and the Hindoo, with Bunyan in his hand, has resolved on courage when he crossed the 'deep river;' for angels, such as do not wait upon the banks of his sacred Ganges, beckon him over.

      No wonder that when Mr. Brown, the minister of Bunyan's meeting, lately visited Scotland, a worthy Highlander was startled when introduced to him as 'Bunyan's successor.' Starting back and measuring him from head to foot, he exclaimed: 'Eh, mon! but ye'll ha hard work to fill his shoon!' Dean Stanley says: 'When in early life I lighted on the passage where the Pilgrim is taken into the House Beautiful to see "the pedigree of the Ancient of Days, and the varieties and histories of that place, both ancient and modern," I determined that if ever the time should arrive when I should become a professor of ecclesiastical history, these should become the opening words in which I would describe the treasures of that magnificent store-house. Accordingly, when, many years after, it so fell out, I could find no better mode of beginning my course at Oxford than by redeeming that early pledge; and when the course came to an end, and I wished to draw a picture of the prospects still reserved for the future of Christendom, I found again that the best words I could supply were those in which, on leaving the Beautiful House, Christian was shown in the distance the view of the Delectable Mountains, "which they said, would add to his comfort because they were nearer to the desired haven'" This was a worthy and heart-felt tribute from Westminster to the dreaming tinker whose effigy now adorns the House of Commons, side by side with those of orators, heroes and statesmen in honor of the man, who, though he 'devilishly' abstained from attending the church 'contrary to the laws of the king,' has preached in all pulpits and palaces ever since.

      After Bunyan's final release from prison in 1672, he became pastor of the Church at Bedford, and so threw his life into Gospel labor, that his fame as a preacher increased until he was, perhaps, the most famous minister of his day. The few sermons

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which have come down to us, show that he spoke as he wrote. As in his Pilgrim he embodies more of the Bible than does Milton in his Paradise Lost, so in his sermons we find more true human nature than in Shakespeare. His sentences burn with sacred touches of divine experience and move us with sympathy, so that they must have melted his hearers to tears. They also abound in personification and figure, touched by a little quiet but keen satire, and are rich in reality, tenderness and life. So great was his success as a preacher, that the largest buildings to which he had access in London would not contain the multitudes who flocked to hear him. One of his early biographers says: 'I have seen about twelve hundred at a morning lecture, by seven o'clock, on a working day, in the dark winter time. I have computed about three thousand that came to hear him one Lord's-day at the town's-end meeting-house, so that half were fain to go back again for want of room, and then himself was fain, at a back door, to be pulled almost over people to get up stairs to his pulpit. ' John Owen heard him preach, probably at Zoar Chapel, and when King Charles expressed wonder that a man of his learning could bear to listen to the 'prate' of a tinker, he answered, that he would gladly give all his learning for this tinker's power. In the doctrinal controversies of the times, he gave and took many a hard blow, but his writings leave slight traces of personal bitterness toward his opponents. Indeed, hard feeling seems to have been a stranger both in him and his house. His wife was gentle to a proverb. When he was in prison she went to London to pray for his release, and induced a peer of the realm to present a petition to the House of Lords in his behalf; so the judges were directed to look into the matter afresh. She, therefore, appeared before Sir
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Matthew Hale, Chester and Twisden. With all the simplicity of a woman's love she told her artless story. She said that her husband 'was a peaceable person,' and wished to support his family. They had four helpless children, one of them blind, and while he was in prison they must live on charity. Hale treated her kindly, Twisden harshly, and demanded whether he would leave off preaching if released. In child-like honesty she replied, that 'he dare not leave off preaching so long as he could speak.' Her request was denied and she left the Court in tears, not so much, she said, 'because they were so hard- hearted against me and my husband, but to think what a sad account such poor creatures would have to give at the coming of the Lord. ' Jesus wept because Jerusalem stoned the prophets, and Bunyan's wife was much like him. But, this giant in genius was just as tender-hearted as his wife. Where do we find such pathos in any passage as this, which he wrote in prison:
'The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling off my flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am too, too fond of those great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the hardships, miseries and wants my poor family was like to meet with should I be taken from them; especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides. Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world! Thou must be beaten, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind should blow on thee. But yet, thought I, I must venture all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you. I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children. Yet; thought I, I must do it, I must do it.'
      So loving was Bunyan's disposition, that he kept the heart of the jailer soft all the time. He not only allowed him to visit his church frequently, unattended, and to preach the Gospel, too; but his blind Mary constantly visited him, with such little gifts as she could gather for his solace. She had great concern for him, lest he sorrowed beyond all hope, and often when parting with him, would put her delicate fingers to his eyes and cheeks, to feel if the tears flowed that she might kiss them away. His blind babe died and left him in prison; with O, how many fatherly benedictions upon her sweet memory. It was meet that little, blind Mary Bunyan should enter the Celestial Gate before the hero of the 'DEN,' a true 'shining one' to watch and wait for his coming. Nor did she wait long. In 1688 he went to London to reconcile an alienated father and son, and succeeded. But on the journey a violent storm overtook him, and he contracted a fatal illness which after ten days took him to Jesus, the King in his beauty, and to blind Mary, when he first saw her sweet eyes blaze with light. She raised not a hand to his cheek then, as was her old wont in Bedford, for God had wiped away all tears from his eyes; and since then the old and young pilgrim have dwelt together in the golden city.

      Bunyan died just as the day dawned on England when the second great Revolution was to make her a free nation, in which Baptists could breathe freely. Mr. Froude couples him thus with them, in his biography of Bunyan: 'In the language of the time, he became convinced of sin and joined the Baptists, the most thorough-going

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and consistent of all the Protestant sects. If the sacrament of baptism is not a magical form, but is a personal act in which the baptized person devotes himself to Christ's service, to baptize children at any age when they cannot understand what they are doing may seem irrational and even impious.' [Froude's English Men of Letters] Bunyan's ashes rest in Bunhill Fields, marked by a neat tomb, bearing simply his name. But in 1874 the Duke of Bedford, a descendant of Lord William Russell, the martyr to liberty, presented a most costly and beautiful statue to that city, in Bunyan's memory. The 10th of June in that year was one of the greatest days that Bedford ever knew. The corporation, with many thousands of distinguished persons from all parts of the Kingdom, assembled on St. Peter's green, to unveil this work of art. This was done by Lady Augusta Stanley, sister of the Earl of Elgin and wife of the Dean of Westminster. Although Bunyan's back is still turned toward St. Peter's Church, the bells rang a merry peal, and immense crowds assembled in the Corn Exchange and on the green, to listen to addresses from the Mayor, Dean Stanley, Earl Cowper and many others of great note; and a banquet at the Swan Hotel crowned the day. As was fitting, 4,000 Sunday-school children of Bedford and Elstow consumed a ton and a quarter of cake and six hundred gallons of tea, in honor of the occasion; and with bands of music made a pilgrimage to Elstow, the birthplace of their enchanting dreamer; and the press of the United Kingdom that day called Bunyan blessed. The statue is of bronze, cast of cannon and bells brought from China, weighing two and a half tons. The figure of Bunyan is taken from a painting by Sadler, and is ten feet high. The idea which Boehm, the sculptor, has striven to give, is expressed in an inscription on the pedestal, and is taken from the picture of 'a very grave person.' which Bunyan saw hung in the Interpreter's house:

'It had eyes uplifted to heaven;
The best of books in his hand;
The law of truth was written
Upon his lips. . . .
It stood as if it pleaded
With men.'

      A broken fetter at his feet represents his long imprisonment, and on a tablet beneath is a fac-simile of his autograph in his will, 'John Bunyan.' Three sides of the pedestal contain scenes from 'Pilgrim's Progress,' in, bold relief: Evangelist pointing Christian to the wicket gate; Christian's fight with Apollyon; Pilgrim released from his load and the three shining ones pointing him to the Celestial

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City. The monument stands where four roads meet, but, like its original, it only faces one way and is full of repose, the ideal of that lofty spirituality, which claims the right to look to heaven without a license from the established Church. Bunyan's figure is thus described: 'He was tall of stature, strong-browed, with sparkling eyes, wearing his hair on his upper lip after the old British fashion; his hair reddish, but in his latter days sprinkled with gray; his nose well cut, his mouth moderately large, his forehead something high, and his habit always plain and modest.'

      That Bunyan was an open communion Baptist has never been seriously doubted until the recent publication of his life, by Rev. John Brown, A.M., minister of the bunyan meeting at Bedford.. This work throws new light on many points in his history and is ably written, but because of certain pariah records which it publishes, and which seem to imply that Bunyan's children were christened, after he had united with the Bedford Church, it is needful to examine that subject candidly and carefully. Whether Mr. Brown intended to convey this impression or not, his book is well adapted to place Bunyan's practice in direct contradiction with many of his own utterances, and to render his conduct irreconcilable with the universal testimony of history as to his union with the Baptists. Yet Mr. Brown carefully avoids saying that he was not a Baptist. He quotes Bunyan's words: 'Do not have too much company with some Anabaptists, though I go under that name myself,' and then adds: 'This is plain enough. The only difficulty is how to reconcile his practice with his declaration; for he seems to have had three of his children baptized at church in their infancy, as we gather from the register of the parishes of Elstow and St. Cuthbert's.'

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These words cannot be misunderstood, and their sense is re-affirmed thus: 'There can be little doubt, therefore, that the year after John Bunyan joined the Bedford brotherhood his second daughter, like his first, was baptized at Elstow Church. The third case, that of his son Joseph, is the most remarkable of all, for this child, according to the register, was baptized at St. Cuthbert's Church after Bunyan's twelve years' imprisonment for conscience' sake, and during the time he was conducting the controversy on open communion with D'Anvers and Paul. The fact is curious, and can only be accounted for on the supposition that upon the question of baptism he had no very strong feeling any way.' [Brown's Life of Bunyan, pp. 238,239]

      On this question and others growing out of it, the writer opened a respectful correspondence with Mr. Brown, to which he responded in that manner and spirit which always prompt the high-minded investigator. Under date of May 1st, 1886, Mr. Brown writes concerning Bunyan's own baptism: 'There is no evidence that Bunyan was not immersed. Looking at what he says of himself (vide my 'Life of Bunyan,' p. 238, line 6), I should say he was immersed though there is no record of the fact.' These quotations are sufficient to show that Mr. Brown is not to be considered as saying that Bunyan was not a Baptist, but simply that he could not reconcile his position as a Baptist with the christening of his children. Before examining these records it may be a favor to the American reader, who is not familiar with the vicinity of Bedford in England, to say, that Elstow, Bunyan's birthplace, is a village about a mile and a half from Bedford, and that he continued to reside there probably till about A.D. 1685-86, when he removed to Bedford. At that time this town numbered less than 2,000 inhabitants, and for ecclesiastical purposes, was then and is now divided into four parishes, known respectively as St. John's, St. Peter's, St. Paul's and St. Cuthbert's. The first record to be examined is that of Elstow, which reads thus:

      Elstow: 'Mary, the daughter of John Bonion, baptized July 20th, 1650.' As Bunyan did not unite with Gifford's Church till 1653, three years after this record was made, it has no bearing on the question whether he was a Baptist or not. When Mary was christened, he was, as he tells us himself, leading a wicked life, having no church connection aside from a nominal one in the Church of England. It may, therefore, be dismissed with the remark, that as it leaves nothing to 'reconcile' in his practice, it needs no further consideration. The second entry was made at Elstow, the year after his union with Gifford's Church, and reads as follows: 'Elizabeth, the daughter of John Bonyon, was borne 14th day of April, 1654.' Taking all things into the account and in the order of their dates, with a full knowledge of the circumstances of the case, we shall find this record Bunyan's second public protest against infant baptism, which he pronounced an infirmity of the weak. In his controversy with his strict communion brethren, they charged him with indulging Baptists, in disobedience to the requirements of truth, when he communed with those who had never been baptized upon their faith in Christ. To this he replied: 'But what

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acts of disobedience do we indulge in? "In the sin of infant baptism?" We indulge them not, but being commanded to bear with the infirmities of the weak, suffer it; it being in our eyes such, but in theirs, they say, a duty, till God persuade them.' [Works, i, p. 450] It matters not at this point whether, when Bunyan went with Gifford into the river Ouse, he was immersed or not, though Mr. Brown, judging by what Banyan writes, 'though I go under that name myself ('Anabaptist'), says, 'I should say he was immersed.' This much, however, is clear, that whatever was done to Bunyan in the Ouse, he did there publicly repudiate his own infant baptism. Mr. Brown tells us (page 36) that he finds John Bunyan's name 'in the list of nineteen christenings at Elstow Church in the following form: "1628. John the sonne of Thomas Bounionn, Junr. the 30th of Novemb."' But as Bunyan could not go under the name of 'Anabaptist' on that christening, it follows that when he went with Gifford into the river he deliberately repudiated the infant baptism which his father had imposed upon him in 1628, in the discharge of what he regarded as his parental 'duty,' as a member of the Church of England. It remains to be seen, whether or not, a year after this repudiation, be fell into what he calls the weakness of infant baptism, and which he said was such in his eyes, by taking his own daughter to that same Church of England to christen her, in 'duty, till God persuaded' him otherwise. This, of course, would imply that he recalled his protest against his own infant baptism made a year earlier, and in turn repudiated his believer's baptism, after he had solemnly taken it upon himself as an 'Anabaptist.' This conduct would show any thing but that he had no strong feeling on the question of baptism, for with his very tender conscience he must have had terrible feelings on the subject, if he backed and filled in that way. No; this entry evinces the deepest feeling on the question of infant baptism and is his second public protest against its practice, the first being in himself by his own baptism as a believer, the second in his beloved daughter and her simple birth record.

      The difference between these two entries, the baptismal record of Mary and the birth record of Elizabeth, shows that between the years 1650 and 1654 a well-defined change had taken place in their father's mind on the subject of christening. Had he chosen he could have had Elizabeth christened and her christening entered in the same form as that of Mary, but he chose not to do that; and limiting the record to her birth, it simply says that Elizabeth was 'borne' on the 14th day of April, 1654. The following facts throw a flood of light upon this record, as they prove, that in 1645 Parliament put the recording of births into the hands of the clergy, that in 1653 this registration was taken out of their hands, and that under William and Mary it was restored to them again, and all this for the best of reasons.

      1. In 1645 Parliament had banished the use of the Prayer-book in every place of worship in England and Wales, and had substituted a form of worship called the Directory. This law required all Prayer-books to be given up, and fined any who used one in any place of worship, church or chapel, £5 for the first offense, £10 for

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the second, 'and for the third offense one whole year's imprisonment without bail or mainprise.' It had also enacted, that
'There shall be provided at the charge of every parish or chapelry in the realm of England and dominion of Wales, a fair register book of vellum, to be kept by the minister and officers of the church, and that the names of all children baptized, and of their parents and of the time of their birth and baptizing, shall be written and set down by the minister therein.'
      This act provided for the registration of both births and baptisms, and was careful not to confound the two as one. [Act. 1645, chap. 57. Acts and Ordinances of Parliament, 1640-56]

      2. Down to A.D. 1653, the year in which Bunyan united with Grifford's Church, Quakers, Baptists and all who rejected infant baptism, were subjected to every sort of annoyance for neglecting to go to the recording clergy as thus required, to have their children christened and a record of their birth and baptism made in the 'book of vellum' at the parish church, the Church of England. The same was true also of their marriages and burials.

      3. Having in view their relief, not only in the matter of baptism, but also in that of marriages and burials, Cromwell's short Parliament took this whole matter out of the hands of the clergy, making marriage a purely secular act, stripping birth, marriage and burial of subjection to all ecclesiastical usages, and put the entire keeping of the parish records into secular hands for civil purposes alone. Of course, Baptists, Quakers and all other such subjects loyal to the civil power were delighted to be freed from ecclesiastical contempt in this way, and to comply with a mere civil provision, which in no way conflicted with their convictions of right; and they cheerfully complied with a law which simply required them to record the birth of their children as in duty to the State.

      4. It is of this Act that Gobbet speaks in his Parliamentary History, under date of August 25th, 1653. He writes: 'Great part of this month had been taken up in canvassing a bill concerning marriages and the registering thereof, and also of births and burials. This day it passed the house on this question, and was ordered to be printed and published. This extraordinary Act entirely took marriages out of the hands of the clergy, and put them into those of the Justices of the Peace.' [Vol. ii, (1642-1660), p. 1414]

      The writer has carefully examined this Act and would copy it entire, but as it covers many folios it is too long. It is found in the

'Acts and Ordinances of Parliament, examined by the original record and printed by special order of Parliament, by Henry Hills and John Field, printers to his Highness the Lord Protector, 1658; by Henry Scobell, the clerk of Parliament.'
      For some reason, the Acts of the Commonwealth are not printed with the continuous laws of the realm, but are put in this special collection by themselves, and at the risk of a little tediousness, as this book is very scarce, a brief analysis of the Act may here be given. It directs 'how marriages shall be solemnized and registered, as also a register for births and burials,' but says nothing of baptisms.
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It was extended to Ireland 'from and after December 1st, 1653.' It specially provides for the election of a Registrar by popular suffrage in the parish thus:
I. 'The Inhabitants and Householders of every Parish chargeable to the relief of the poor, or the greater part of them present, shall on or before the 22d day of September, 1653, make choice of some able and honest person (such as shall be sworn and approved by one Justice of the Peace in that Parish, Division or County, and so signified under his hand in the said Register-book), to have the keeping of said book, who shall therein fully enter in writing all such Publications, Marriages, Births of children and Burials of all sorts of persons, and the names of every of them, and the days of the month and year of Publications, Marriages, Births and Burials. And the Register in each Parish shall attend the said Justice of the Peace to subscribe the entry of each such Marriage; and the person so selected, approved and sworn, shall be called the Parish-Register and shall continue three years in such place of Register.'
      II. This Act further provides, that 'All Register-books for Marriages, Births and Burials shall be delivered into the hands of the respective Registers appointed by this Act to be kept as Records.' Thus the clergy were not only stripped of the recorder's office, but the old books of register made previous to 1653 were taken out of their custody and put into secular hands: 'Any law, statute, custom or usage to the contrary notwithstanding,' as the Act states.

      III. The use of the Prayer-book and all religious services at marriages and burials was done away with, and as the Act knew nothing of christenings, of course, the registration of births called for no provision against such services. The parties to be married were to choose whether the Register should publish their intended marriage three Sundays in the church or chapel, or in the market-place next to the said church or chapel, on three market-days in the three several weeks next following.' On the day of marriage, in the presence of the Justice, the man was to take the woman by the hand and distinctly pronounce the following words: I, A.B., do here in the presence of God, the searcher of all hearts, take thee, C.D., for my wedded wife. I do, also, in the presence of God and before these witnesses, promise to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband. ' When the woman had gone through the same form, the Justice declared them husband and wife. The Act then strips the clergy of all power to marry in these sweeping words:

'From and after such consent so expressed and such declaration made, the same, as to the form of marriage, shall be good and effectual in law. And no other marriage whatever within the Commonwealth of England, after the twenty-ninth of September, shall be held or accounted a marriage according to the laws of England.'
      IV. The Act made a number of curious minor provisions which may be named, simply for the gratification of the reader, such as these:
The 'fee for Publications and certificates thereof 1s.; for marriages 1s.' 'From those who live upon alms nothing shall be taken.' The Justice 'in case of dumb persons may dispense with pronouncing the words; and with joining hands in case of persons that have no hands.' After the 29th of Sep. 1653, the age of a man to

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consent to marriage shall be sixteen years, and the age of the woman fourteen years.' All disputes as to the lawfulness of marriage were referred to Justices at the Quarter Sessions.
      Under the well-settled rule in law, that the legislative intent can best be readied by examining all Acts on the same subject-matter and weighing them together, these Acts have been here presented, and so we cannot miss the intent of this particular Act of 1653. As the Act of 1645 had expressly put registration of births and baptisms into the hands of the clergy, and the Act of 1653 had put the registration of births into secular hands and said nothing about records for baptism or christening, taking all public registration out of clerical hands, the entry of baptisms was legally dropped from the public records, under the provisions of the last Act. That this was both the intention and practice under that law is more clearly seen in the further fact, that Acts VI and VII under William and Mary restored registration to the clergy, and made special provision for the record of christenings by those in Holy Orders. This legislation was known as
'An Act for granting his Majesty certain rates and duties upon Marriages, Births and Burials, and upon Batchelors and Widowers, for the term of five years, for carrying on the war against France with vigor.' This Act once more made it the duty of those in Holy Orders: 'Deans, Parsons, Deacons, Vicars, Curates,' to keep 'a true and exact register in writing of all and every person or persons married, buried, christened or born in their respective parishes or precincts.'
      These Acts taken together show how thoroughly discriminating and secularizing the Act of August 25th, 1653, was intended to be, and what a radical change it made both in the public practices and their records. Of course, it aroused the wrath of the State clergy to the hottest indignation. They treated it with every form of contempt which they could devise. When the Directory had pushed the Prayer-book out of use, many hundreds of them, some say thousands, either resigned their livings or were ejected for setting the law at defiance. It absolutely forbade them to use the Prayer-book for the burial of the dead, as well as in their churches. It enjoined that,
'When any person departed this life, let the dead body upon the day of burial be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for public burial, and then interred without any ceremony. . . . For that praying, reading and singing, both in going to and at the grave, have been grossly abused, and are no more beneficial to the dead and have proved hurtful to the living; therefore, let all such things be laid aside.'
      Surely, this was all that the clerical flesh and blood of that day could bear. But now, to follow up that revolution with another, which eight years later not only took marriage entirely out of their hands, but denied them the right to record the births which honored those secular marriages, was unendurable to them. If any body wanted them to christen their infants, the law did not forbid their doing so, in the exercise of their religious rights. But the law would not have their christenings
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entered on the public records as acts of any civil interest or concern. Then, the way in which their former prerogatives were taken from them, was more exasperating still. The new Registrars were to be selected by the popular vote of their own parishioners, over whom they had so unconscionably domineered, and that without regard to the religion of either candidate or voter. Besides, his record of the marriages entered was to be purely secular and to be attested before a Justice of the Peace and not by a priest. And, worse than all, in the eyes of the priest, this Act of August 25th, 1653, left all who rejected the superstition of christening at liberty to enjoy the full rights of Englishmen by recording the 'birth' of their children, and of securing to them all the legal advantages which such a civil entry secured in property rights and courts of justice, without compromising their principles by a. forced submission to infant baptism. Their children could now prove their lineage and derive all the political rights which such entry entitled them to while they lived, and when they died they could be buried decently in ground either 'consecrated' or unconsecrated without anyhow consulting the whimsical dictations of an arrogant priesthood. Such a state of things would suit Bunyan's ideas of liberty exactly.

      Such a right had never been enjoyed by dissenting Englishmen before, and Cobbet well characterizes the Act as 'extraordinary.' Its passage was stubbornly resisted as a bold innovation; and he says that it held Parliament to discussion for a great part of the entire month, which 'canvassing' must have stirred the feeling of the entire realm. Especially must all Baptists and Quakers have been interested, as it took their marriages and burials out of the hands of an oppressive and offensive clergy, and left them at liberty to record the 'birth' of their children and to stop there, as far as christening was concerned; so that they now stood before the law on an equality with their neighbors, free from all ecclesiastical proscription because they refused to have their children baptized. With this legal shield thrown over his head, we can easily understand why honest John Bunyan, who spoke so freely in his writings against infant baptism, as we shall see, felt it his duty as an English freeman to obey the law by entering the birth of his babe on the public records, when English law at last stepped forth sacredly to guard the rights of his conscience while discharging his duty as a citizen. Thus the entry of his child's birth without any entry of her christening stands to the end of time on the Elstow parish Register with the force of his public protest against the superstition of infant baptism enforced by the State. Then was Elizabeth Bunyan christened as a matter of fact? Certainly not. Mr. Brown quotes the entry in the Elstow parish Register and concedes that it certifies only to her birth. He also refers to the law of 1653 in the following words:

'It will be pointed out, perhaps, that the register notes that Elizabeth Bunyan was born on the 14th day of April, and says nothing about her baptism. But it must be remembered that the previous year an Act of Parliament had been passed requiring the date of birth to be inserted in the register instead of that of baptism.'

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      It is a matter of some surprise that the learned biographer has cited this Act in support of his theory. According to his idea, the object of Parliament in passing it was merely to change the form of words to be entered on the register. Upon analysis it is apparent that his claim must be that, although the record says born, she was in reality christened on that day, and that the fact was misstated in order that the law might be technically complied with. The improbability of this supposition is clear from its simple statement, and it, moreover, betrays an entire misconception of the purpose of the statute. It was not enacted simply to alter the verbal formulary used in the records, but to entirely secularize the department of vital statistics, and to allow marriages and births to be publicly recorded, though the clergy had not solemnized the nuptials or christened the children or buried the dead.

      Mr. Brown in furtherance of his argument proceeds as follows:

'To show further that this Act of 1653 sufficiently accounts for the form of entry in 1654, it may be mentioned that in the Transcript Register from Elstow parish that year the name of Elizabeth Bunyan occurs in a list of twenty-three children, all returned under the head of "Christenings," and that the word " borne" and not "baptized" is used in every case.'
      Of course, the writer, on this side of the Atlantic, not being able to inspect and compare these documents must rely on an inspection and comparison made by others. Hence he requested a gentleman of known accuracy in the employ of Her Majesty's government to examine both the original and the transcript registers. He writes July 29th, 1886:
'In the Parish Register at Elstow for April 14th, 1654, 1 find Elizabeth Bunyan recorded as "borne" without any mention of her christening. In all the entries down to the year 1662 each child is so entered. After 1662 the word "Christened" is substituted and the word "borne" drops out. The Register is without headings, only the year and day of the month are entered, then the entries follow to the end of the year, when the same process is repeated. In the archives of the Archdeanery at Bedford, I find the Transcript Registers, and they give Elizabeth Bunyan, daughter of John, as "christened" April 14th, 1654. This stands along with 23 others, total 24. From that date the word "borne" does not occur again. Then as to the headings: as I said, the Elstow Register is without headings, and this order is continued in the Transcripts, which for the whole ten years are not only without headings but without signatures. I had omitted to count the number of entries at Elstow for 1653-54, and was obliged to write the vicar for the information which he kindly supplied in the enclosed letter:
     '"Bedford, July 26th, 1886: Dear Sir: You ask how many were entered on the Register as "borne" during the years 1653 and 1654. In the former year only six were entered as born and in the latter twenty-four. The discrepancy between the original Register and the Transcript is curious. The Canons of 1604 ordered that copies of the Register should be sent annually to the Registry of the Diocese. I suspect this was discontinued during the Commonwealth, and that copies were not made again until after the time of the Restoration, when christenings were inserted and not births. Yours faithfully. James Copner.'"
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      The discrepancy referred to by Mr. Copner (whose own valuable work of Bunyan is elsewhere cited in these pages) is simply that of the use of 'borne' in the original and 'christened' in the transcript. Otherwise it appears that the documents correspond. The investigation reduces itself to the inquiry, which shall be believed, the original register which says that Elizabeth was born on April 14th, 1654, or the transcript which states that she was christened on that day? It is to the last degree improbable that she was both born and christened on the same day, and therefore both records cannot be true. Born in her father's house on the 14th of April, even if he had wished her christened, she could not be taken to the parish church on the day of her birth. But if she was christened on the 14th of April and born at some other time, then the original entry is made a piece of confusion. It was never the custom of the English, or even of the Romish Church, to christen children on the very day of their birth, unless it was feared that the child would die immediately after coming into the world, and so its body was sprinkled to save its soul. Furthermore, it is not claimed that these transcript registers were independent records of facts outside of those contained in the originals. The transcripts were annual copies of the Parish Register sent up on parchment to the Archdeacon by the vicar or rector of the parish in compliance with the canons of 1603. They gave the names of all persons married, baptized, or buried the previous year copied from the Register, and forwarded each Easter. This was to provide for the existence of a duplicate copy in case the parish register should be lost. The transcripts, therefore, always purported to be exact copies of the originals and, in case of discrepancy, the originals would of course govern. We are thus brought to the question, which is entitled to credence: a public record kept and prepared under direction of the law of the land, with prescribed formalities by a duly elected civil officer, or the inconsistent statement contained in an extra-official document, without date or signature, which purports to be a copy of the original and is not a true copy thereof ? Here again the mere statement of the proposition makes only one answer possible. It is a trite rule of the law that, for the purpose of evidence, a copy is not allowable in the presence of the original, and it is not easy to see why Mr. Brown should have brought in a professed copy with the original, especially as the original says one thing and the so-called copy another. In a letter dated May 21st, 1886, he says:
'This Transcript for 1654 is at Bedford in the Archives of the Archdeanery along with those from all the parishes of Bedfordshire. Those for the Commonweath Period were sent up for the whole ten years at once [1650-1660] after the Restoration by the vicar, Christopher Hall, and are complete.'
      It is difficult to imagine any motive for the continuation of the custom of sending an annual transcript during the Commonwealth. The whole department of public records was taken out of the hands of the clergy and made secular, and they could have no reason for adding purely secular records to their canonical archives.
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But with the Restoration the Church was re-established, and the civil function of the priests as registrars restored. Then in the nature of things a new motive would arise—the desire to obliterate as far as possible all traces of the interregnum, and to have the ancient order of things go on apparently as if it had not been interrupted. This statement of Mr. Brown is fortified by the fact that these transcripts are not signed, or in any other manner formally authenticated. All that seems to have been done was to make copies of the Parish Registers, carefully substituting, however, the word 'christened' for "born' in every case, and file them at the Archdeanery to fill the hiatus in the ecclesiastical records. The ecclesiastical motive for this substitution is apparent, but the civil record must stand unquestioned.

      More than enough has been said to dismiss the entry in this transcript register from further consideration, but fortunately Mr. Brown has furnished us with a unique entry which throws additional light upon the general subject and the temper of the clergy in regard to this Act. Nothing better illustrates the peevish resentment of the priests to the Act of August, 1653, than the following note, taken from the Register of Maid's Moreton Parish, in Buckinghamshire:

'A.D. 1653. Now came in force a goodly Act made by the Usurper Cromwell's little Parliament, who ordered not the baptism, but the birth of children, to be recorded in the Parish Register. And though the baptism of some be not expressed here, yet these are to certify all whom it may concern, and that on the word of a priest, that there is no person hereafter mentioned by the then Register of the parish, but was duly and orderly baptized!'
      The animus of the man who boldly foisted this extra-judicial note of interpretation into this Register, is evinced on its face. The legally appointed Register did not write it in 1653; it was smuggled in at a much later date, and for a purpose. It speaks of him as 'the then' Register of the parish, and of Cromwell as the 'Usurper,' forms of expression which the lawful Registrar of 1653 could not have used. The writer of this note understood the Act of 1653 to make a broad distinction between birth and baptism, and says that it 'ordered not the baptism but the birth of children, to be recorded in the Parish Register,' and this distinction the interpolator of the note did not relish. Hence the record at Maid's Moreton expressed just what the Act honestly required: the record of the birth of the children and not of their baptism. He says that the baptism of 'some' was not expressed in the record. And why? Simply because the law did not allow the word baptism in the Register. But as he dared not to alter the record itself, and yet wanted to spite the memory of the 'Usurper,' he must needs bring outside testimony to corrupt the sense of the document. However, he could find no one in Maid's Moreton to serve as his witness but a priest, who was sadly disgruntled because marriage, the registration in parish records, and the right to force christening on all babes, whether their parents wanted it or not, had been taken from him. So, without giving his name or permitting his cross-examination, he is called in to
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give his 'word.' Contrary to the letter and spirit of the Act of 1653, a gloss must be introduced into an official register, and the 'word of a priest' must certify that at Maid's Moreton the 'Usurper' had been cheated, and that, in exact harmony with the priestly wishes of the witness, and to his great delectation these particular children had been 'duly and orderly baptized,' law or no law. This absurd note awakens the suspicion that it might possibly have been written by the 'priest' himself. Yet it serves to show with what accuracy all the provisions of the Act had been enforced, and that, for this reason, the 'priest' wanted to take off the sharp edge of the record itself.

      In plain English, this 'priest' was piqued by the provisions of the Act, and intended to falsify the record, and so far as he could, in his helplessness, to nullify its effect. However, as this is not the record at Elstow, and that attempts no such shameless perversion of the law, the exact truth stands with the Elstow entry, as Bunyan intended it to stand, when it affirms that his daughter, Elizabeth, was 'borne' April 14th, 1654. John Bunyan himself is responsible for this entry, and not a 'priest.' Whoever foisted the word 'christened' into the transcript at Bedford, made at least six years afterward, might have strongly desired that she had been christened, but her father had no hand in making the copy, and, having good reasons for not christening her, simply certifies to the birth of his babe, in the form provided by the then existing law. In view of this original entry at Elstow, Bunyan may consistently ask, 'What acts of disobedience do we indulge in? "In the sin of infant baptism?'" The record that he made leaves nothing in his conduct to 'reconcile' with his professions as a Baptist, nor can he be held responsible for the substitution of a word in the professed copy which he never put into the original.

      This record leaves the great writer where he put himself and where his brethren have always put him. Douglas says of the English Baptists: 'As to the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, they confined these to persons who had made a scriptural and credible profession of their faith in Christ; and with reference to the former, they regarded it as the great line of demarkation between the Church and the world. Such were the views of Bunyan, and the generality of the Baptists in former days.' [David Douglas, History of the Baptist Churches in the North of England, 1846, p. 306]


[From Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, Volume I, 1890, via reprint, 1988. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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