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A Narrative of Surprising Baptisms
From The Story of the Baptists
By Richard Cook, 1884

Balthazar Hubmeyer

      Still, for a long period, the persecutions continued throughout all Switzerland, which so far from checking Anabaptism, seemed to stimulate its growth. It was either, go to the Reformed Church, or die. They preferred death. Here are a few instances out of the many. Balthazar Hubmeyer was one of the most distinguished Anabaptists who felt the severity of the laws and the persecuting spirit of the Swiss reformers. Hubmeyer was a learned and eloquent Catholic priest, and was called Doctor, by the Romanists. He was born in Bavaria, in 1480. In 1516, we find him preaching in the cathedral at Ratisbon to great crowds of people, at which time he began to take sides with the reformers, preaching against many Romish errors. He soon fully embraced the Reformed doctrines and practices, and became the friend of the Swiss reformers, and with Zwingle, lived in the most intimate intercourse. He had translated the Gospels and the Epistles into the language of the German people, to whom he now also preached the gospel. He came, finally, to regard infant baptism as a popular error and renounced it. After pleading in vain with his friend Zwingle, and his associates to do the same, he was baptized, with over one hundred others, by William Roubli.

      Hubmeyer, himself, soon after baptized three-hundred upon profession of their faith. He was siezed and imprisoned at Zurich. It was said by his enemies that he recanted, but on one occasion when a large concourse of people were collected in the great church by the leaders, and Zwingle and his companions were there to hear the recantation, he disappointed them. They waited in breathless silence to hear him condemn Anabaptism. When he did break the silence with his voice, it was to re-assert that infant baptism was without the authority of God. His voice was drowned in the uproar of the horrified people, and above the din was heard the voice of Zwingle. They had argued with him in prison, and (these Protestant reformers!) had even applied the tortures of the rack, to convince him that he was wrong, but he would not deny the truth, so he was hurried back to prison. It is said that he made a recantation afterwards, and was released from prison, but he was still confined to the city of Zurich, from which he soon escaped. He was not long allowed the liberty of preaching Christ, for he was again arrested, and taken to Vienna, where he was burned to death, March 10, 1528; and at the same time his devoted wife was drowned in the Danube, by the same unpitying hands. His last words were; "With joy I die that I may come to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." His wife urged him to constancy. He has left many writings to live after him. [pp. 62-64]

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Rev. Francis Cornwall, A. M.

      Rev. Francis Cornwall, A. M., was educated at Cambridge. While undergoing imprisonment in the reign of Charles I., for refusing to perform some of the ceremonies connected with the Episcopal service, a woman came to him, who had some doubts as to whether infant baptism could be proved from the Scriptures. Mr. Cornwall, who considered the Scriptures the only rule of faith, made diligent search, but was unable to find the doctrine of infant baptism in the Bible, and was convinced that believers, only, were the proper subjects of baptism. After this he was baptized by Rev. William Jeffery, became a zealous Baptist, and made an appeal to the Westminister Assembly of divines, then sitting, in a work he published, entitled; "The Royal Commission of King Jesus." In it he says; "How shall I admit the infant of a believer to be made a visible member of a particular church, and be baptized before it be able to make confession of its faith and repentance?" This book was distributed among members of the House of Commons, and produced great excitement. Before this, Mr. Cornwell made known his change of sentiment, in a sermon at Cranbrook, in Kent, 1644, in the presence of a body of ministers, several of whom were greatly startled when in preaching from Mark VII. 7; "In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men;" he boldly declared that Pedobaptism was an anti-christian innovation, a human tradition, and a practice for which there was neither example, precept, or the direction of the word of God. One of the ministers present, Christopher Blackwood, an able preacher and a graduate of Cambridge, who took notes of the sermon to reply to it, was convinced by it and baptized. "There is in this parish church, (Cranbrook,) at present, a baptistery, built for the purpose of immersion. It is a brick cistern, placed against the wall within the church, above the floor. There are steps, both outside and inside, for the convenience of the persons baptized, while the administrator stands by the side of the baptistery, to immerse the person, without going into the water. It is supposed that this was built by the vicar, a Mr. Johnson, at the beginning of the last century. Since the memory of a person now living at Cranbrook, it has been twice filled with water for Mr. Johnson to baptize adults." Mr. Cornwell collected a company of baptized believers in Kent, who formed themselves into a church, "according to the pattern of the first churches of Judea," and of which he became, and remained, the faithful pastor, until his death. He was succeeded in the pastorate by his son. Neal calls the father "one of the most learned divines that espoused the cause of the Baptists." An ardent advocate of religious liberty, he was also a strenuous opposer of persecution for conscience' sake. [pp. 91-93]

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Persecution of Baptists in the 17th Century

      During the contest between King Charles and the Long Parliament, the Baptists were forgotten, and the persecution of them discontinued, so that they rap idly increased in numbers. When King Charles I had the power, the Presbyterians suffered persecution along with the Baptists. But as soon as the Presbyterians gained the control of the government, they persecuted the Baptists, who, just before, had been their companions in suffering. Milton, who lived at that time and took part in the discussion in favor of religious liberty, wrote;

"New Presbyter is but old Priest, writ large."

      The leading men of that day among Presbyterians were bitterly opposed to religious liberty. Dr. Featley, one of their most distinguished men, wrote a book entitled; "The Dippers Dipt, or the Anabaptists ducked and plunged over head and ears, at a Disputation in Southwark." He says; "This fire, which in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James, and our gracious sovereign [Charles I.] till now was covered in England under the ashes; or, if it brake [sic] out at any time, by the care of the ecclesiastical and civil magistrates, it was soon put out. But of late, since the unhappy distractions which our sins have brought upon us, the temporal sword being other ways employed, and the spiritual locked up fast in the scabbard, this sect, among others has so far presumed upon the patience of the State, that it hath held weekly conventicles, re-baptized hundreds of men and women together in the twilight, in rivulets, and some arms of the Thames, and elsewhere, dipping them over head and ears. It hath printed divers pamphlets in defence of their heresy, yea, and challenged some of our preachers to disputation. Now, although my bent has always been hitherto against the most dangerous enemy of our Church and State, the Jesuit, to extinguish such balls of wild fire as they have cast into the bosom of our Church, yet, seeing this strange fire kindled in the neighboring parishes, and many Nadabs and Abihus offering it on God's altar, I thought it my duty to cast the water of Siloam upon it to extinguish it." After quoting these words, Spurgeon remarks; "The waters of Siloam must have been strangely foul, in Featley's days, if his 'Dippers Dipped', is to be regarded as a bucket full of the Liquid. The neighboring region which was so sorely vexed with 'strange fire', was the borough of Southwark, which is the region in which the church, now meeting in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, was born. We are not aware that any of its pastors, or indeed any Baptist pastor in the universe, ever set up for a priest, and therefore the Nadabs and Abihus must be looked for elsewhere, but Dr. Featley, no doubt, intended the compliment for some of our immediate ancestors." [pp. 94-95]

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Samuel Oates

      Richard Baxter argued that Baptist ministers ought not to be tolerated in England, any more than highway murderers, because baptizing over head in cold water, is likely to result in the death of the person baptized, (so he said,) and, therefore, is a violation of the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."

      A Baptist minister, living in Baxter's time, whose name was Samuel Oates, while engaged in a missionary tour in the county of Essex, England, in the year 1646, baptized several hundred persons who had been converted under his preaching. One of the converts having died a few weeks after, Mr. Oates was actually committed to prison, put in irons, and indicted for murder. Fortunately, however, it was proven on the trial that the young woman, who had died, was in good health for some time after her baptism, and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, [p. 98]

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Westminister Confession

      One of the most important events of this period, was the framing of the great Presbyterian Confession of Faith, known as the Westminister Confession, by an assembly of divines, convened by order of Parliament for the purpose, and which sat from 1643 to 1649. Neal says; "There was not one professed Anabaptist in the (Westminister) Assembly," and it is a cause for astonishment that a single member of it should advocate the Baptist and apostolic practice of dipping. The celebrated Dr. Lightfoot says; "So many were unwilling to have dipping excluded, that the vote came to an equality within one, * * * twenty-four for the reserving of dipping and twenty-five against it." In the final vote a few more names were added to the majority. Dr. Lightfoot was himself a Presbyterian and a member of the Westminister Assembly. According to him, this company, not of divines, but of uninspired men, by a majority of one, and then of a few more, rejected the mode of baptism prescribed in the inspired word of God, and refused to permit its use in the Presbyterian church. This is still the law among Presbyterian churches of British origin to-day, in Scotland, Ireland and England, and in all American Presbyterian churches. And according to the law established in that , human council, by a small majority, a Presbyterian minister can be deposed from the ministry for immersing persons, even though he may believe it to be scriptural baptism. [pp. 98-99]

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Colonel John Hutchinson

      Colonel John Hutchinson was another distinguished Baptist, well known to history. He was governor of Nottingham during the time of the civil wars, and afterwards a member of the House of Commons. In the field and in the senate, he distinguished Himself as a person of great courage, and as a man of learning and eloquence, and his speeches always commanded attention. He was, also, one of the judges who condemned Charles I., but on account of his great moderation and kindness when in office and in power, he had so gained the esteem, even of his enemies, that when the other judges were executed, his life was spared. After having been arrested on suspicion of treason, he was sent to the Tower, and finally to Sandown Castle, where, without a trial, he was con fined until his feeble health gave way, and he died in 1644 from the hardship and exposure of imprisonment. The circumstances which led him to become a Baptist are very remarkable. While Colonel Hutchinson was governor at Nottingham, the Presbyterian minister, in the great church there, who was very bitter against his brother ministers, urged him to suppress the meetings of the Baptists. The Colonel at first invited the persecuted chaplains to hold meetings in his house, where the people flocked in great numbers, and excited the envy of the Presbyterians. Yielding at last to their solicitations, he broke up a private meeting in the cannoniers chamber, where some notes against pedobaptism were found and brought to the governor. These notes were examined by his wife, who, having more leisure then, than he, read them and compared them with the Scriptures. She was convinced that the practice of baptizing infants was not to be found in the Bible. Having communicated her doubts to her husband, he examined the subject to satisfy her. He first searched the Scriptures alone. Then he read all the eminent writers on both sides of the question. After a thorough and impartial investigation, he was fully convinced that infant baptism was without scriptural authority. After the birth of their child, he invited the Pedobaptist ministers of the place, to a dinner. Here he frankly told them his doubts in regard to the baptism of infants, and asked them, if they could give any scriptural reason for the practice. After hearing their arguments, Colonel Hutchinson and his wife both declared themselves to be dissatisfied with the practice, believing it to be contrary to the word of God. They then asked the ministers, what, in view of their doubts, it was their duty to do with their own child. Most of them said that they ought to conform to the general practice of other Christians, even if it were not clear to themselves. One, of them, however, Mr. Foxcraft, said that unless they were convinced that the word of God warranted the practice, it would be sin for them to conform to it. Colonel Hutchinson and his wife, concluded not to have their child baptized. This was in 1647. From this time, ministers and people reviled them and treated them with malice, although the Colonel and his wife still attended their meetings and did not withdraw their benevolences and civilities from them. His wife remarked that he might have said to them as his master said to the old Pharisees; "Many good works have I done among you: for which of these do you hate me?" [pp. 106-7]

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Henry Jessey

      Henry Jessey was one of the chief men of Cromwell's time, and was a man of learning, having graduated at Cambridge University. He was converted while at college, and served for some time as an Episcopal clergyman, but was dismissed for nonconformity, and became pastor of an Independent church, in London. His congregation became agitated on the question of baptism, and some of them, remarkable for piety and judgment, left and joined the Baptists. This led him to study the subject for himself. He was first convinced that baptism ought to be performed by immersion, and that sprinkling was a modern corruption brought into use without just reason, either from Scripture or antiquity. He announced to his people, that all the children brought to him, he would baptize by dipping, according to the scriptural form of the ordinance. And this he did. A controversy on the subject of baptism, in 1644, led him into continued investigation, and he began to see that none but believers should be baptized. But before announcing his sentiments on the side of believers' baptism, he consulted with Dr. Goodwin, Philip Nye and others, upon the subject. Their arguments for infant baptism failed to satisfy him, and following his convictions, he was immersed, June 1645, and became the pastor of a Baptist church in London, where he remained nearly twenty years, until his death. Much of his time was spent in translating the Bible into English, a work for which he was well qualified by his familiarity with the original languages in which the Bible was written. His habit was to carry about with him his Hebrew and Greek Testaments, calling the one, his "sword and dagger," and the other, his "shield and buckler." He enlisted the aid of other men of learning, both of his own and other countries, and so anxious was he for the completion of the work, that he would often exclaim, "O that I might see this done, before I die!" But in this he was disappointed. The restoration of the monarchy and the changes which followed, interfered with the completion of the work, and he died without seeing it published. [pp. 109-110]

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Henry Denne

      Henry Denne was also a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and spent ten years in the ministry of the Episcopal Church. He was an earnest, faithful, and fearless preacher. In the year 1641, he preached a sermon at a visitation meeting at Baldock, at which a large number of the clergy and ministers from the neighborhood were present. He denounced the vices of the clergy, and the corruptions in doctrine and worship. He condemned persecution as a sin and a wrong, and declared if those in authority were as diligent freeing the church from the unworthy among themselves, as they were in discovering and persecuting nonconforming ministers, it would be much better. This sermon made a profound impression and created for him a great reputation as a preacher. The opposition of his enemies tended to drive him out of a church, where he saw so many evils, while the plain teachings of Scripture led him to the Baptists. He was baptized in the year 1643, by Thomas Lamb, a Baptist minister of London, and, having preached with great success, formed many churches. He was arrested and imprisoned for preaching against infant baptism, and immersing believers. On being released, he went about preaching and baptizing, in various places, with like success. To escape the persecution of his enemies, he entered the army, where he was known as "Parson Denne." At one time, he came near losing his life. Having become, in some way, implicated with a mutiny of some soldiers, he was sentenced, along with several others, to be shot. When he stepped out, expecting to be executed, he was told that mercy had been extended to him. On hearing this announcement, he wept, and declared himself unworthy of such a favor, and that he was more ashamed to live than afraid to die. He was pardoned in this case, because he had been esteemed for his piety, and had received his sentence with such a manly acknowledgment of its justice, together with such an humble confession of his fault.

      His after life, at least, proved that he was worthy of the favor shown him. In the year 1653, he left the army. Full of missionary zeal, he went about preaching the gospel in destitute towns. He was a man of note and a leader among the Baptists of his day. He wielded the pen with ability, and wrote a reply to Dr. Featley's book, "The Dippers Dipt." He first met Featley in prison, where both were suffering for conscience' sake. He also held a discussion with the doctor, himself, and engaged in a public disputation with Dr. Gunning, a celebrated minister, who afterwards became a bishop. This controversy was listened to by thousands of people, and the lady, at whose suggestion it was held, was afterward baptized by Mr. Denne. After an active and useful life, he died, sometime after 1670. it is remarkable, how many ministers and laymen left the Pedo-baptist ranks in those trying days, to join the Baptists. [pp. 110-12.]

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Vavasor Powell

      Another victim of the persecutors of those times, was Vavasor Powell, who is called the "Whitefield of Wales." He was born in 1617, was learned in the languages, and while a young man received ordination as a minister of the Episcopal Church and for awhile officiated at Clem. He confessed afterwards his unfitness for the sacred office, because he slighted the Scriptures and was a stranger to secret and spiritual prayer, and a great profaner of the Sabbath. One day as he was preaching on the Sabbath, a Puritan rebuked him which led him to be concerned for his soul. He was afterward converted and joined the nonconformists, being baptized on profession of his faith in 1636, and finally became a Baptist minister. His eloquence and zeal made him very popular as a preacher and at the same time exposed him to the hatred and malice of his enemies. He was imprisoned thirteen years, or nearly all the time from the restoration to his death. On one occasion while preaching, he was seized along with sixty or seventy of his hearers. As it was too late to take them to the magistrate, the mob who made the arrest placed their prisoners in the church. Here in the midst of the night, Mr. Powell preached a sermon to his fellow prisoners from Matthew 10:28; "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The next day they were taken to the office of the magistrate who was not at home when they arrived. While they were waiting for his return Mr. Powell again preached, having among his hearers the family of the magistrate, who on his return home, was not a little annoyed at finding his house turned into a conventicle. But his daughter, who had been deeply impressed by the sermon, pleaded for the preacher's release, which was reluctantly granted.

      In 1642, he was compelled to leave home in order to escape persecution, and came to London where he preached with great acceptance, he being equally fluent in English and in Welsh. Afterwards he went into Kent, where he preached and labored with great success. After three years he returned to Wales, where he remained fourteen years, going about from place to place, preaching and planting churches. Often he would ride a hundred miles in a week, preaching at every place where he could gain admittance by night or day. There was scarcely a church, chapel, or town hall, in all Wales, in which he had not preached. In the year 1660, he was again persecuted and thrown into prison. Fortunately he had been in prison only nine weeks, when, at the coronation of Charles I., a general pardon and jail delivery were proclaimed, and he was released. At another time he was confined in a loathsome prison in London for two years. Here his health was permanently impaired by the noisome effluvia to which he was exposed. He was removed to South Sea Castle where he was confined for five years longer. After his release he returned to Wales, where he resumed the work of preaching. But here he was again arrested on the charge of an Episcopal clergyman, who accused some of his hearers of going to their place of meeting, armed to resist the authorities in case of interference. Although this charge was false, and could not be proven, Mr. Powell was still retained in prison. By the intervention of his friends, he was taken to London for trial. The court decided that the proceedings by which he was imprisoned, were illegal, yet the magistrate committed him in defiance of law and justice, to the Fleet prison, where he remained until he died, in the year 1670.

      His sufferings were great but he bore them all with patience. During his last illness, which continued about a month, his physician forbade much talking, but so great was his zeal, that he could not refrain from speaking and singing and praising God, until he was exhausted. Thus his last days were spent in rapturous praise and joyous worship, so that his gloomy prison became to him a palace of beauty and delight, where he waited till death came and "dissolved the earthly house," and the ransomed spirit took its flight to the mansions on high. Mr. Powell was one of the many Baptist preachers who from the earliest period down to the present day, have become famous for piety, eloquence, and suffering for Christ in the principality. The name of Christmas Evans, born in 1766, stands among the illustrious preachers of the world. [pp. 132-134.]

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Benjamin Keach

      Another of the illustrious men who suffered for conscience' sake during the persecuting reign of Charles II., was Benjamin Keach. He was born February 29, 1640, and was one of the most celebrated Baptists of that day. He suspected the validity of infant Baptism because of the silence of the Scriptures about it, and was converted and baptized at the age of fifteen.

      The church discovered his talents, piety, and consecration to the service of God, and called him to the work of the ministry in his eighteenth year. He became pastor of a church for the first time when 28 years old. His first church was in Southwark, London. For four years they were obliged, for concealment, to meet in a private house in Tooley street, but in 1672, they were permitted, by the Act of Indulgence, to build a house of worship. Mr. Keach was so successful in his ministry, that the house was frequently enlarged to accommodate the growing congregation until it was capable of holding nearly 1000 persons.

      Mr. Keach, in leaving Buckinghamshire in 1680, sold all of his property. On his way to London with his wife and three children, the stage coach was beset by highwaymen, who robbed the passengers of every thing of value. The robbers left him without money, with wife and children among strangers, but he found friends who relieved his immediate necessities. The plainness and fearlessness of Mr. Keach as a preacher exposed him afterward to persecution. Once he was seized by four dragoons, who bound him and laid him on the ground, intending to trample him to death with their horses. But just as they were about to put spurs to their horses to execute their murderous design, a humane officer rode up and ordered them to desist. The historian, Crosby, who was a member of his church, says of him, however, that he aimed to avoid hard censures of those differing from him, and was of a peaceful disposition.

      Mr. Keach was a voluminous writer and his works are classed by Crosby as “practical, polemical and poetical." Some of his books are still held in high esteem. One of the least of his publications brought upon him a great deal of suffering. It was written by him at the age of 24, and was called "The Child's Instructor; or a New and Easy Primer." This little book contained an exposition of Baptist views, and was declared to be “Seditions and venomous," and "contrary to the Book of Common Prayer and the Liturgy of the Church of England." The Chief Justice, Hyde, afterwards Lord Clarendon, pronounced sentence, as follows, against him: "That you shall go to gaol for a fortnight without bail mainprize, * * and to stand in the pillory at Aylesbury in the open market * * from eleven o'clock to one. * * And the next Thursday to stand in the same manner, and for the same time in the market at Winslow; and there your book shall be openly burnt before your face, by the common hangman. * * And you shall forfeit to the king's majesty the sum of twenty pounds, shall remain in gaol until you find sureties for your good behavior, and appearance at the next assizes, there to renounce your doctrines, and make public submission as shall be enjoined you."

      The pillory was a very cruel mode of punishment, and was usually inflicted only on the vilest criminals. The crowd were accustomed to pelt the helpless victims with rotten eggs, and even with stones, sometimes causing death. But when the people saw Mr. Keach in the pillory, they treated him with great respect, knowing him to be a good man. His wife and many of his friends gathered around him, encouraging him with their kind words of sympathy and love. He spoke to those who were about him, saying; "Good people, I am not ashamed to stand here this day, with this paper on my head. 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 that 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.” He was interrupted by a drunken priest, and then by the jailer, and forced to stop. Finally he managed to slip his hand loose and taking his Bible from his pocket he said: "Take notice that the things that 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." The jailer took the book from him and fastened up his hand again in the hole. It was impossible, however, to silence him, and he said : "Good people the concernment for souls is very great, so that Christ died for them, and truly a concernment for souls was that which made me to write and publish those things for which I now suffer, and for which I could suffer far greater things than these." The officers interfered and compelled him to be silent for a time, but after a while he ventured to speak again; "O, did you but experience the great love of God, and the excellencies that are in him, it would make you willing to go through any sufferings for his sake, and I do account this the greatest honor that ever the Lord was pleased to confer upon me!" The two hours expired and he was released from the pillory. He was subjected to the same penalty at Winslow where he lived.

      Mr. Keach was a man of weak constitution, and in 1689, was thought to be near his end. His physician and friends, gave him up. Hanserd Knollys, another eminent Baptist minister, knelt by his bedside, and offered a very earnest prayer, entreating that God would spare his life, and add to his days the time granted to Hezekiah. Mr. Knollys then hastily left, saying, with emphasis; "Brother Keach, I shall be in heaven before you." It is a remarkable fact that Mr. Keach not only recovered, but lived just fifteen years according to the prayer offered in his behalf. [pp. 144-148.]

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Jeremiah Ives

      Some of the ministers of this period were not without learning. Jeremiah Ives was a man of great natural abilities and considerable learning. He was thirty years pastor of a church in the Old Jewry, London; and was so celebrated for his tact and power in numerous disputations, that Charles II., invited him to court, to hold a discussion with a Roman Catholic priest, who was told that his opponent was a clergyman of the Church of England. Mr. Ives assumed the robes of an Episcopal minister at the king's request, without knowing the deceit intended. He pressed the priest very closely and argued that notwithstanding the antiquity of the doctrines and practices of Rome, that they were not apostolic because unknown in any writing of the apostolic age. "That argument," the priest replied, “would be of as much force against infant baptism, which was also unknown in the apostolic age." Mr. Ives readily granted it, intimating that he rejected infant baptism on the same ground; whereupon the priest abruptly closed the discussion, saying, "that he had been cheated; he had come to dispute with a Church of England clergyman, but it was evident that this was an Anabaptist preacher." This behavior of the priest afforded great amusement for the king and his court. [p. 157]

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Dr. DuVeil

      Among the men of note who embraced Baptist sentiments in these times, was Dr. DuVeil, both M. D. and D. D. He was a Jew, born at Metz, and educated in the Jewish religion. In the course of his studies he was led to compare the Old and New Testament, and was led thereby to espouse Christianity. His enraged father sought his life, but he escaped. Having joined the Catholic Church he was advanced to positions of great honor. Being called upon to write against the Huguenots he studied their principles and history, which led him to become a Protestant. About 1677 he came to England where he enjoyed the friendship and respect of bishops Conton, Tillotson, and Lloyd, and others of the greatest dignity and worth, on account of his eminence, piety and learning. Having free access to the library of the bishop of London, he there met with some Baptist books, and afterwards sought out Hanserd Knollys, and the learned John Gosnold, into the fellowship of whose church he was soon baptized. Of course many turned their backs upon him at once, but Dr. Tillotson who respected a man for what he was, and not merely for his opinions, continued his friendship. After becoming a Baptist, DuVeil wrote a commentary on the Acts, proving therein, Baptist principles. Previously he had published a learned exposition on other portions of God's word. [pp. 160-161]

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DuVeil, a convert from Judaism, who had * * * been applauded by no less a man than the eloquent and powerful Bossuet, became a Baptist preacher, and closed his life and labors in our communion." [p. 102]

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Bristol Baptist College

      Passing over any further reference to the sad fate of this good and innocent victim of tyranny, let us consider the origin of the Baptist College founded at Bristol in 1770. It is the oldest Baptist theological seminary in the world. The following incident led to the origination of this useful institution, which still exists and flourishes.

      Edward Terril was baptized and joined the church at Broadmead, 1658, where he was a most useful member for thirty years, during which period he suffered imprisonment several times for conscience' sake. He was a respectable school teacher and valued an education in ministers. Hence he left, by will,. a sum of money, $500. a year, to the pastor of the Broadmead church, "provided he be an holy man, well skilled in the Greek and Hebrew tongues, in which the Scriptures were originally written; and devote three afternoons in the week to the instruction of any number of young students, not exceeding twelve, who may be recommended by the church, in the knowledge of the original languages and other literature." Special provision was made by him for students in destitute circumstances. These were noble gifts and led to the establishment of a theological school at Bristol for the education of students for the Baptist ministry. The church record tells us that he "was a great benefactor to the church," Bristol College is now one of the flourishing institutions of the land. [pp. 164-165]

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John Gill, D. D.

      John Gill, D. D. was the great contemporary and fellow- laborer of John Brine, and may be ranked as "the most learned man, in some respects, that has appeared in our denomination." He was born, November 23, 1697, at Kettering, Northamptonshire, where Andrew Fuller afterwards became pastor. Before he was 11 years old, he made rapid advance in Latin and Greek, at school. He was taken from school, however, on account of the bigotry of the teacher, who insisted upon the attendance of the scholars upon prayers at the parish church on week days. He then tried to get admission into a seminary for the ministry, but was refused because too young. But, brave and determined as he was, though young he spent part of his time with his father in his business, the woolen trade, and part in study. Even before this he resorted so frequently to the booksellers for the purpose of reading, that it became proverbial to say that a thing was as certain as that John Gill was in the bookseller's shop. John, however, was not to be laughed out of anything. He pursued his studies with such ardor, that, before he was nineteen, he had read the principal Greek and Latin classics; had gone through a course of logic, rhetoric, natural and moral philosophy, and acquired a considerable knowledge of the Hebrew tongue. Religion was dearer to him, however, than learning. "His learning and his labors were exceeded only by the invariable sanctity of his life and conversation."

      It was in 1716 that he joined the Baptist church of his native place, upon the profession of his faith in Christ, and by baptism. The church called him at once to the ministry, and, after studying with a minister, he in 1720, became pastor of the church near London, of which Mr. Keach had been pastor, and whose son-in-law, Mr. Benjamin Stinton, his successor, had just died. Here he was very successful in gathering a congregation, and in saving many souls.

      He was only 23 years of age, but "he now applied him self with intense ardor to Oriental literature, and, having formed the acquaintance of a very learned Jewish Rabbi, he read the Targums, the Talmud, and every book of rabbinical lore which he could procure." "In this line he has none to excel him in the annals of literature. His great learning induced the Ministry of Aberdeen, unsolicited, to make him doctor of divinity. His commentary on the Bible in nine large folio volumes, which was originally given to his people in expository sermons from the pulpit, is a very valuable and learned work. At the close of this Herculean labor, he was not satisfied to rest, but wrote his 'Body of Divinity' which contained his thoughts upon practical and doctrinal divinity. This he also first preached. He was the author of several other learned works." Great student as he was, he labored in his study to within two weeks of his death, which took place, Oct. 14, 1771, in the 73rd year of his age, and the 5ist of his pastorate.

      There are two of his valuable utterances which are especially worthy of mention as showing his good principle and piety. In 1730 he was to deliver one of nine lectures, delivered once a week, meant to correct certain infidel and erroneous sentiments then beginning to prevail. Dr. Taylor, one of the lecturers, spoke in severe terms of Calvinistic doctrines. Dr. Gill began a controversy with him, when some of Dr. Taylor's friends told Dr. Gill that he would lose the esteem and subscriptions of some wealthy persons if he did not desist. Dr. Gill replied; "Don't tell me of losing; I value nothing in comparison with gospel truths. I am not afraid to be poor."

      A short time before he died, he said; "I depend wholly and alone upon the free, sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love of God, the firm and everlasting covenant of grace, and my interest in the Persons of the Trinity for my whole salvation, and not upon any righteousness of my own, nor on anything in me, nor done by me under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Not upon any services of mine, which I have assisted to perform for the good of the church, do I depend, but upon my interests in the Persons of the Trinity, the free grace of God, and the blessings of grace streaming to me through the blood and righteousness of Christ, as the ground of my hope. These are no new things to me, but what I have been long acquainted with, what I can live and die by." [pp. 190-193.]

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Samuel Harriss

      Among the noble sufferers, was Samuel Harriss, styled "the apostle of Virginia "; and born in that state in 1724. He was a member of the legislature, colonel of militia, captain of Mayo Fort, commissary for the fort and army, judge of the court, sheriff, and church warden. He was a remarkable man, and became serious and melancholy without knowing why. By reading and conversation, he discovered that he was a hopeless sinner, and that a sense of his guilt was the cause of his gloom of mind. He ventured to attend Baptist preaching," and obtained relief by faith in the Saviour. Semple thus graphically describes his conversion: "On one of his routes to visit the forts in his official character, he called at a small house, where he understood there was to be Baptist preaching. The preachers were Joseph and William Murphy. * * Being rigged in his military dress he was not willing to appear in a conspicuous place. He seated himself behind a loom. God, nevertheless, found him out by his Spirit. His convictions now sunk so deep, that he could no longer conceal them. He left his sword and other parts of his rigging, some in one place, and some in another. The arrows of the Almighty stuck fast in him, nor could he shake them off, until some time after. At a meeting when the congregation rose from prayer, Colonel Harris was observed still on his knees, with his head and hands hanging over the bench. Some of the people went to his relief; and found him senseless. When he came to himself, he smiled, and in all ecstacy of joy, exclaimed, 'Glory! Glory! Glory!'" Daniel Marshall baptized him in 1758. From that time his life was one act of devotedness and zeal. Practising rigid economy in his house, he employed his whole surplus income in advancing the cause of religion. At the time of his conversion, he was engaged in erecting a large mansion for the accommodation of his family, in a style suited to his rank and station; it was turned into a meeting-house, and he continued to reside in the old building, * * * He began at once, like Paul, to preach. "There was scarcely any place in Virginia, where he did not sow the gospel seed. * * His excellency lay chiefly in his addressing the heart, and perhaps even Whitefield did not surpass him in this. When animated, himself, he seldom failed to animate his auditory. Some have described him as pouring forth streams of celestial light, shining from his eyes, which whithersoever he turned his face would strike down hundreds at once. He was often called 'Boanerges'." He died in 1794. "Shubael Stearns, Daniel Marshall, and Samuel Harriss were the principal founders of the Baptist interests in the South. They were the first three, and their names should be held in everlasting remembrance".

      Col. Harris' standing did not save him from persecution. Once he was arrested and carried into court, as a disturber of the peace. A Captain Williams, vehemently accused him as a vagabond, a heretic, and a mover of sedition everywhere. The court ordered that he should not preach in the country again for the space of twelve months; or be committed to prison. He told them that he lived two hundred miles away, and was not likely to disturb them again for a year, and was dismissed. On his way home, having gone farther, he came again into Culpepper, where this happened, and attended a meeting. He presently rose and said; "I partly promised the devil, a few days past, at the court-house, that I would not preach in this country again in the term of a year. But the devil is a perfidious wretch, and covenants with him are not to be kept; and therefore I will preach. He preached and was not molested. On another occasion, he was pulled down, while preaching, and dragged about sometimes by the hair of the head, and sometimes by the legs. At another time he was knocked down by a brutal fellow, while preaching. Having gone once to Hillsborough to preach to prisoners, he was locked in himself and kept for some time. [pp. 220-223.]

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John Waller

      John Waller was born in Virginia in 1714. He was of an honorable family, "manifested a great talent for satirical wit," and was educated for the law, but gave way to his unbridled inclinations to vice, and became a gambler. His wickedness and profanity, obtained for him "the infamous appellation of "Swearing Jack Waller." It was frequently remarked, that there could be no deviltry among the people, unless he was at the head of it. Once he had three warrants served on him, at one time. Sometimes he was called the devil's adjutant to muster his troops. To these failings may be added his fury against Baptists. He was one of the grand jury that presented Louis Craig for preaching. Craig ad dressed the jury thus; "I thank you gentlemen of the grand jury, for the honor you have done me. While I was wicked and injurious you took no notice of me, but since I have altered my course of life and endeavor to reform my neighbors, you concern yourselves much about me." * When Mr. Waller heard him speak in this manner, and observed the meekness of his spirit, he was convinced that Craig was possessed of something he had never seen in man before. He thought within himself, that he would be happy if he could be of the same religion as Mr. Craig. From that time he began to attend their meetings, and feeling himself to be a sinner, to call upon the name of the Lord. His convictions were so deep and pungent that he abstained for several months from all but necessary food, and was almost driven to despair. But on his knees in prayer he, at last, found peace. He was baptized in 1767, began to preach at once, and was greatly blessed in his ministry. His death in 1802 was truly glorious, and while his pains appeared to be excruciating, yet no murmur was heard from his lips. [pp. 223-224.]

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Adoniram Judson

      On the 19th of February, 1812, four American missionaries embarked in the brig "Caravan," from Salem, Massachusetts for Burmah. They arrived at Calcutta, June 17th. Two of them were Adoniram Judson, and his wife Ann H. Judson. He was born in Maiden, Massachusetts, August 9th, 1788, and was educated at Brown University. He entered the Theological Seminary at Andover, in 1808, and was converted soon afterward, and joined the Congregational church.

      While at Andover, he and a few other pious students turned their attention to foreign missions, and, impressed with the wretched condition of the heathen, resolved to devote themselves to the work, and presented themselves to their older brethren in the ministry and the churches, as ready to be sent abroad for that purpose. This led to the formation of the "American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions" in June, 1810. And Judson and wife, with others, were sent to Burmah by the board.

      The long voyage to Calcutta was partly occupied by Mr. Judson in examining the subject of Christian baptism. There were two reasons for this special study. First, he hoped to have conversions among the heathen, and what to do about the baptism of children and servants he did not know. Then he was going to reside for awhile among the Baptist missionaries at Serampore, and expected that they would introduce the subject of baptism, and that he would be called upon to defend his views.

      Hear the result in his own words: "I could not find a single intimation in the New Testament that the children and domestics of believers were members of the church, or entitled to any church ordinance in consequence of the profession of the head of their family. Everything discouraged the idea. When baptism was spoken of, it was always in connection with believing. None but believers were commanded to be baptized, and it did not appear to my mind that any others were baptized."

      "I knew that I had been sprinkled in infancy, and that this had been deemed baptism. But throughout the whole New Testament I could find nothing that looked like sprinkling in connection with the ordinance of baptism."

      He felt that he had never yet received Christian baptism, and that his only consistent course was to join the Baptists. This plunged him into great difficulty and distress, and it cost him a struggle to decide.

      "Must I, then, "he asked, "forsake my parents, the church with which I am connected, the society under whose patronage I have come out, the companions of my missionary undertaking? Must I forfeit the good opinion of all my friends in my native land, occasioning grief to some, and provoking others to anger, and be regarded, henceforth, by all my former dear acquaintances as a weak, despicable Baptist, who has not sense enough to comprehend the connection between the Abrahamic and the Christian system? All this was mortifying; it was hard to flesh and blood. But I thought, again, it is better to be guided by the opinion of Christ, who is the truth, than by the opinion of men, however good, whom I know to be in an error."

      "If I quieted my conscience in regard to my own personal baptism, and concluded that, on account of my peculiar circumstances, it was best to consult my own convenience, rather than the command of Christ, still the question would return, with redoubled force: How am I to treat the children and domestics of converted heathens?" Mrs. Judson, in a letter to a friend, said: "An examination of the subject of baptism commenced on board the Caravan. As Mr. Judson was continuing the translation of the New Testament, which he began in America, he had many doubts respecting the meaning of the word baptize. After arriving at Burmah, he continued the examination of the foundation of the Pedobaptist system. The more he examined, the more his doubts increased; and, unwilling as he was to admit it, he was afraid the Baptists were right and he was wrong. I felt afraid he would become a Baptist, and frequently urged the consequences, if he should. I always took the Pedobaptist side in reasoning with him, even after I was as doubtful of the truth of their system as he. We procured the best authors on both sides; compared them with the Scriptures, examined and re-examined the sentiments of Baptists and Pedobaptists, and were finally compelled, from a conviction of truth, to embrace those of the former."

      They requested baptism at the hands of the Baptist missionaries at Serampore, who were "extremely surprised," for nothing had been said upon the subject by either party. They were baptized on the 6th of September, 1812, in the Baptist chapel at Serampore. Luther Rice, who was ordained with Mr. Judson, and who arrived in India a short time afterward, also joined the Baptists. The effect of the baptism of Judson and his companions, upon the Baptists of America, was truly startling.

      "It came," says Dr. Caldwell, "like a voice from heaven, laying almost a divine command upon them to go up and possess the land." Missionaries, competent and on the ground, were provided at their hand, whom they must take, or fly in the face of duty, and Providence itself. They were confronted by an unexpected opportunity, obligation even, to begin at once, and in earnest, a mission in the East. The fields and the pioneers had been selected for them. [pp. 322-325.]

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[In Progress]

[Richard Cook The Story of the Baptists, 1884. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.



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