William Tiptaft's instinctive attitude to baptism is still more significant. I can find no allusion to it in all his copious letters of this period, nor does he ever speak of his own baptism,* or give a hint that his new chapel at Abingdon was being furnished with a baptistery, though I presume that it must have been. He mentions casually that Mr Husband, the ex-vicar of a neighbouring parish whose secession preceded his own, had licensed his house for divine worship, and was baptizing in a mill-dam close to his old church, an old lady of eighty being amongst the baptized. In July 1834 he writes: 'I spoke to a large multitude assembled together to see Husband baptize four members. I was enabled to speak plainly on the occasion.' And he adds: 'We still talk about baptizing and forming a church here (at Abingdon), but there are so few that I can fully receive in heart and I feel myself so unfit for a pastor. . . . There is nothing worth living for in this vain world. Vanity is stamped upon all created good, and my desire is to die to the world and to be alive unto God.' The great question for him is 'Are we in the right way? Is life communicated to our souls? What is all our preaching, reading, praying and professing, if we have not the root of the matter in us?' No mention either of Baptism, or of the Lord's Supper! Year followed year and they were still talking of the matter.
It was not indeed until January 1843, more than eleven years after he had left the Church, that William Tiptaft was finally able to overcome his scruples, and before a 'very large concourse of people both times', to baptize seven women and five men after the morning service, and six women and five men in the afternoon. 'What a different feeling I had in going down from the pulpit to baptize', he writes, 'from what I used to experience when I had to descend from the pulpit in the Church of England to sprinkle infants, and to give a flat contradiction to what I stated in the pulpit respecting regeneration, etc., at the same time encouraging the blind and ignorant godfathers and godmothers in their sin and mocking of God, who came forward so boldly and carelessly to make such awful vows and promises. I am satisfied that many things may be bought too dear, even gold; but one thing cannot, which is a good conscience.'
* The Minute-book of the old Baptist Chapel at Devizes, Wiltshire, records that: 'On Lord's day, 17 June 1832, Mr William Tiptaft, a clergyman of the Church of England, was baptized in the Chapel by Mr Hitchcock.
[From J. C. Philpot, The Seceders, BofT edition, pp. 120-121. Document provided by Ron Crisp and scanned by Jim Duvall.]
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