History of the Baptist churches in the North of England from 1648 to 1845
By David Douglas
Stokesley Revival - Mr. Kaye Muggleswick - Revival - Baptists in Scotland - The army - General Mont - General Lilburne - Mr. Hiekborngill - Mr. Stackhouse - Church at Leith - Letters - Churches in Scotland, &c. - Baptists and Presbyterians - Letters to General Lilburne - Lilburne's history - Baptists, in the army, - leave Scotland
1653. About a fortnight after the affair of the Jew, in Newcastle, Mr. Tillam was called to a scene of labour, much adapted to animate his spirits, after his disappointment in that matter. This was Stokesley, in Yorkshire, a small town, neat, clean, and interest[ing]ly situated, at the base of the Hambleton Hills, and on the skirts of the romantic and beautiful vale of Cleveland. It lies about twelve miles from Stockton- on-Tees.
Baptist principles, at this stirring period, had found their way to the above-named place. A Mr. William Kaye was then, as is affirmed in the archives of the church at Hexham, the minister of Stokesley. "Whether or no he was the minister of the established church here, we are not informed. Be this, however, as it might, he and nineteen of his members had invited Mr. Tillam to come from Hexham, and baptize them. Mr. Tillam cheerfully obeyed the summons, and he, with seven of the members of the church at Hexham, on the 3rd of July, proceeded to Stokesley, and there immersed, in the Divine name, Mr. Kaye and his nineteen friends. This, Mr. Tillam calls "a greate worke," and "a worke of wonder, calling for our high praises." Expressions these, which indicate a deep interest in the cause of God, and a lively sense of gratitude, that he had been honoured by
enaging in it. Neither pastors nor Christian churches, can be useful to their fellow beings without this state of mind. Affection is an active principle, and delights in exercise. The kindliest Christian emotion now subsisted between the ministers, and the churches, at Hexham and Stokesley; and that emotion shewed itself in a desire, on the part, particularly of the latter people, to correspond with those who had helped them on their way, in doing what they regarded as the will of God. Mr. Kaye and his people wrote to Mr. Tillam and the church under his care, an excellent letter, expressing their sympathy with them, and particularly with Mr. Tillam himself, in the midst of all his personal trials. "Christ," say they, "must have his cross carried, and none more fit than we to beare it." It is such a feeling as this, that enables any minister, or Christian, "to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, for his body's sake, which is the church." May all the churches of the saints cherish such a truly Christian emotion!
A revival of Religion in one place often leads to a revival in another. The church at Hexham was greatly invigorated by what had taken place at Stokesley. At Muggleswick, also, a village lying about twelve miles south-east of Hexham, eight persons, living in the village, or neighbourhood, were baptized. These had all "been ignorant, either of the way of salvation, or of the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom; and, doubtless, Mr. Tillam and his friends must have been greatly delighted. The event seems to have excited considerable attention in the vicinity, as numbers of persons had assembled together, to see the newly-made converts immersed in water, probably in the Derwent, whose stream, on its deeply indented and picturesque banks, passes the village. Three Paedobaptist ministers, among others, had assembled to witness the scene, and to assist each other in
holding a disputation on the subject of baptism. The scene was altogether novel, as it is a circumstance in no way questionable, that professed believers had never been baptized by immersion, in that neighbourhood, at least since the days of Austin, the first Popish missionary from Rome, or some of his successors in the dark ages. Who these ministers were, we are not told; but as the names of old Duery, Braidley, and Boyce occur, persons formerly alluded to, and all living at this time, at Muggleswick, or the neighbourhood, these three might have assembled to witness the strange sight. But as the two former seem to have been very ignorant personages, and as there appears to have been little communication between them and Mr. Boyce, (the interloping Presbyterian, as he was called,) so it seems not improbable that Mr. Boyce, similarly to what happened a century afterwards in the vicinity of Hexham, had invited two other Presbyterians to combat the redoubtable Anabaptist minister, Mr. Tillam, lately come from London.
The disputation began. Mr. Tillam triumphed. Six persons, on the spot, owned the fact, by requesting to be baptized. "Mr. Tillam," they affirmed, "had triumphed by a more correct exhibition of the truth." These parties were baptized, and added to the Baptist church at Hexham. Circumstances of the greatest consequence to the cause arose from this incident.
A spirit of friendly intercourse between the different Baptist churches existing at this period, began now to shew itself. A correspondence that we have in the manuscript-record of the church at Hexham, throws farther light on this matter. This record refers to several letters that had passed between that church and certain messengers they had sent to visit the churches in Scotland, and also to letters between one of the churches there and the church at Hexham.
Owing to the Scotch nation having espoused the cause
of Charles the Second, Cromwell led the forces of the Commonwealth into that country; and, after gaining the battles of Dunbar and Worcester, reduced the kingdom, incorporating it with the Commonwealth of England; after which General Monk was sent with a small army to hold it in subjection. In this army there were many Baptists who were very zealous in supporting and extending their principles. This zeal was increased, when Monk left the army, to command the fleet against the Dutch, in the beginning of 1653, leaving Major General Robert Lilburne in command of the troops in Scotland. General Lilburne himself was a Baptist, and gave to the Baptists every facility to promote their peculiar views of Divine truth, and any Baptist minister from England, who visited Scotland at this time, met with his warm regards and especial protection.
We have an instance of this, in his treatment of the messenger of the church at Hexham, Mr. Edward Hickhorngill, already mentioned. The general's head quarters were at Dalkeith, about six miles south of Edinburgh. Young Hickhorngill repaired thither, and was kindly welcomed by the commander-in-chief. He was invited by him to become a chaplain in the army. Owing, however, to a change in his views, regarding taking a salary for ministerial employment, he declined, but with a view to his being religiously useful in the army, he became a lieutenant in the regiment of Colonel Daniel, stationed at St. Johnston, or Perth. Mr. Hickhorngill wrote a number of letters, but we omit them, as they chiefly have regard to the above matters.
The general was still anxious to employ gifted brethren, as chaplains in the army, and requested Mr. Hickhorngill, in corresponding with his friends at Hexham, to solicit any one, capable of the service, to come as soon as possible, to become his own chaplain. The reason of his urgency was, "That there were diverse honest
Scotch people that longed to be gathered into the same gospel order with themselves, but they wanted a faithful pastor."
To this request the church at Hexham immediately responded, by sending one of their brethren, a Mr. Thomas Stackhouse, to be their messenger; bearing with him a general recommendation to any of the churches he might visit. Mr. Stackhouse went to the commander, who kindly received him; and he was equally welcomed by his Baptist brethren in general, in the different places he visited.
At Leith, the port of Edinburgh, a Baptist church had been formed; composed, in all likelihood, of a portion of the detachment of the army stationed there, and some of the inhabitants. Mr. Stackhouse visited this church, and was treated, as he mentions in his letter to the church at Hexham, "in a most brotherly manner." Having ministered among them for a short time, he returned to Hexham, bearing with him a letter from the church at Leith, to the brethren on the banks of the Tyne, of which the following is an extract :* * * * "Beloved brethren, we are delighted to hear of that eminent work of God, which hath sprung up amongst you in those parts, in that he is pleased to add unto his church daily such as shall be saved, and to make you or any of you instruments in his hands to gather together the outcasts of Israel, and to bring poor souls out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. * * He hath said the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established, &c.
* * * "Dear brethren, we trust your eyes have beheld the outgoings of God in these things, and do hope your hearts are made alive, in some measure, to the consideration of it, and, likewise, are made willing to wait upon the Lord in all obedience, and so, we entreat you, not to be weary in well-doing, for the expectation of the poor shall never be forgotten.
"Now brethren we commend you to God and the word of his
grace, &c. Your faithful brethren in the faith and fellowship of the gospel.Mr. Stackhouse appears, very soon after this, to have returned to Scotland. He, probably, had come back to Hexham to settle his affairs there, and again returned, either to be chaplain to the general, or to take charge of the church at Leith; or, it may be, to combine both relations in his own person. In writing history, where our information is scanty, and we are furnished only with leading particulars, we are led to fill up the outline by conjectures the most probable. On his return, whatever was its object, Mr. Stackhouse carried with him the following letter, to the church at Leith, in answer to theirs sent by him:
Signed in the name and by the appointment)
of the church at Leith,) JOHN CARLILE.
3rd month 25th day.) THOMAS POWELL."
"To the Beloved Spouse of the Lord Christ walking in the blessed order of the Gospel, at Leith in Scotland.
"Precious brethren, in the endeared bowels of unfeigned love, we desire to breathe our salutations into your bosoms, as those who have had rich experience of your heavenly frame of mind in your Christian embraces of those members of the body who by Providence have been cast among you; and especially, of your saint-like conduct unto, and tender regard of, this our dearly beloved brother, Mr. Tho. Stackhouse, in whose gospel-like visit we have been greatly refreshed, as also by the fair salutes from you our much-honoured sister church. We glory in the service where-in you have employed him, for ye enlargement of the borders of or Lord Jesus; whom we heartily bless for his supporting grace in these shaking, revolting times, preserving this our beloved Brother steadfast? in the faith, and now we return him to yor lovely communion, in the unspotted robes of Christ's righteousness, humbly begging of God that a thousand-fold may be repaid into yr bosomes for those Christian encouragements which from you have greatly cheered the spirits of
Yr faithful and affectionate
Brethren in ye gospel"
In these letters, passing between the churches of Leith and Hexham, as well as between the Baptist churches in general, at this period, we perceive how much they wished to cherish towards each other the feeling of Christian affection. This was right; but the propriety of the language they employed may be questionable. It was an imitation, and, in part, a use of the language of the New Testament. Considering the time in which they lived, and the circumstances in which they were placed, this was not surprising. The Bible was but partially circulated throughout the country. It had long been altogether suppressed. Forty years had scarcely elapsed since the translation under King James had been made, and come into general use. It is not wonderful then, that in the epistolary correspondence of the age, especially among those who wished to come in all things as near to the scripture model as they possibly could, there should be a considerable use and imitation of the language of the first Christians, in their intercourse with one another. In reviewing this, however, at the distance of two hundred years, we are apt to think the use of scripture language is somewhat immoderate, and the imitation of their endearing expressions a little too luscious, reminding us frequently of the super-politeness of some in modern times a language that savours more of affectation and hypocrisy, than of the truth, and the genuine simplicity of nature. The simple language of nature, without the affectation of simplicity, is the language of truth, and consequently much more acceptable to God, and useful to man, than the imitation of the language of others, however sacred that language may be.
With regard to the church at Leith, little more is known of it than what is found in the archives of the church at Hexham. The only other reference that has as yet been found regarding it, is in a preface
to a fourth edition, published at Leith, of the Confession of Faith of the Baptists, originally published in 1646, already mentioned. The preface is dated, "Leith the 10th of first month, vulgarly called March, 1652-3, and signed in the name and by the appointment of the church of Christ, meeting at Leith and Edinburgh, by Thomas Spencer, Abraham Holmes, Thomas Powell, John Brady."*
In many, if not all, of the garrisons and military stations throughout Scotland at that time, the views of the kingdom of Christ, held by the Baptists, made a considerable impression. Like the Methodistic and dissenting soldiers of modern times, as well as those in the early ages of Christianity, the soldiers in the army of the Commonwealth, who held Baptist sentiments, were zealous to diffuse the principles of their faith; from the deep conviction that they were intimately connected with the honour and truth of Christianity, as well as the salvation of the souls of men. Hence we are told, that many persons, at this time, were immersed in the water of Leith, which passes Edinburgh on the North, and falls into the Frith of Forth, at the town of Leith. Among these, it is stated, was Lady Wallace of Craigie. At Cupar, in Fife, too, where there was a troop stationed, a certain individual of the name of Brown, probably the chaplain of the troop, preached the gospel, and baptized several of the regiment in the river Eden+ So far back also as October, 1651, it is affirmed, that at a ministers' meeting in Edinburgh, some of the assisting elders ventured to give it as their opinion, that children should not receive the sacrament of baptism till they could give a confession of their faith. Some ministers
* See Rippon's Register, 2nd Vol., page 361; and New Evan. Magazine, 10th Vol., page 210.
+ Lament's Chronicles of Fife, as quoted in the circular of the Baptist Union of Scotland, for 1843.
also, are said to have embraced these views. Alexander Cornwall, of Linlithgow, and Thomas Charteris, of Stenhouse, baptized, it is said, old people, maintained Anabaptism, and would not baptize infants.*
At Dalkeith, also, the head quarters of the army, and residence of the General, there can be little doubt that a society of Baptists would be formed; as the General desired Mr. Hickhorngill to announce to the church at Hexham, as already stated, that there were several honest Scotch people, that wished to have a pastor, and to attend to the order of the gospel. This appears also to have been the case at Perth. In a post- script to one of Mr. Hickhorngill's letters, we have the following intimation: "I am at present Lieut, to Capt. Gascoigne, in Col. Daniel's regiment, in this garrison of Johnston's, disposed hither, by my old friend, Col. Lilburne, it being the first vacancy in Scotland after ye resignation of my chaplain's employment. The brethren here, at Johnston's, are in good health, and would be glad to hear ye same of you, and of the presence of the Lord with you. St. Johnson's, 7 her. 53."
There is a letter from Edward Limbrough, one of the members of the church at Hexham, dated Jadburt, doubtless Jedburgh, in Roxburghshire, Scotland. In this letter he complains of being in a state of spiritual barrenness and deadness, owing to his want of the means of grace he had formerly enjoyed with his Christian brethren. He also affirms, that his lot was "cast in those parts where there are no visible saints, but in the midst of a rugged generation, being led by their priests, who bear rule over them by their power, and the people delight to have it soe. But I hope their folly will be made manifest by the day." Mr. Limbrough does not state the object of his sojourn in Scotland, or who sent
* See Johnston's Circular Letter of the Baptist Union of Scotlan
him thither, but only, that he had been sent there by Providence. His hopes, however, that the benighted Scotch Presbyterians would see the folly of the priestcraft by which they were bound, by the light shining around them, may refer, if not to his publicly attempting to preach the gospel among them, yet to his private instructions relative to Christian institutions, and the nature of the kingdom of the Saviour in the world.
The army that Cromwell left in Scotland, under the command of General Monk, was but 6000 men, but it was filled with -what the historians of that period called fanatics. Cromwell is said to have done this as a check on General Monk, whom he treated with all the caution of distrust. Hence, we find it said, that "this body of troops committed to him, was composed of the most restless and most fanatic of the army. He was aware of Monk's aversion to these gentry, and knowing also the degree to which Monk was suspected by them, he calculated that they would watch each other." In a note on this sentiment we find the following remark: "The fact was, the army in Scotland had been already filled with these people by Lilburne, a fanatic Anabaptist, who had been left in command there."* This note is not correct. The command of Lilburne was after Monk had been installed Commander-in-chief in Scotland, and it was only during the absence of Monk, for about twelve months, in consequence of the Dutch war, that Lilburne held the command. This was in 1653 and the early part of 1654, the period to which our narrative has particular reference. Lilburne then could only be said to have invited their increase; and abetted their zeal. In this, no doubt, as a Baptist himself, he acted conscientiously. In one of the letters of Mr. Hickhorngill,
* See memoirs of George Mont, duke of Albemarle, from the French of M. Guizot, translated and edited with additional notes and illustrations, by the Hon. J. Stuart Wortley. Page 76.
we find him referring to his having been often solicited to take the charge of the church at Leith, "by the chief of them, as Major Holmes, Major Edw. Harrison," &c. This Major Holmes, is most probably, the Abraham Holmes, whose name is appended to the confession of faith, published at Leith, referred to above. A Major Holman, or Holmes, is said to be major of Monk's regiment.* This evinces that the church at Leith, was chiefly, if not entirely, composed of the English soldiery.
Some excesses of zeal, on the part of the Baptists in the army and their chaplains, are represented as having been checked by General Monk, on resuming his command, in 1654. They are mentioned as "having driven the Presbyterian clergy from their churches and pulpits," and otherwise behaving rudely towards them, in the exercise of their religious duties.+ This representation, though probably over-charged, as the Presbyterians, bloated with national and religious antipathy, were the bitter enemies of the Anabaptists, as they called them, and General Monk was not their friend, had, in all probability, a degree of truth in it. In the bosom of the English soldier, even though under the influence of religion, there would, doubtless, be the remains of national prejudice, mingled with a portion of the contempt which the conqueror feels for the conquered. The ardent zeal also, of men but newly converted to opinions which they deemed more pure, more spiritual, and more truly scriptural and Christian, than those held by the ignorant and priest-ridden members of the religious establishments, on both sides of the Tweed, might tempt them to use language and perform deeds, which, in their cooler moments, on a calm and enlarged view of their own principles, they might have been disposed altogether to condemn. Their principles,
See Guizot as above, page 84.
See also page 77.
indeed," were incompatible, not only with persecution, but with the false position they then occupied as soldiers; and this they were taught, at no distant day, by the iron hand of Cromwell. He that taketh the sword is in danger, sooner or later, of being injured by it.
But to return to our narrative. The messengers of the church at Hexham continued in Scotland, and maintained a friendly correspondence with those they had left. In a letter to his brethren on the Tyne, Mr. Stackhouse laments, in feeling terms, the defection of his brother, Mr. Edward Hickhorngill, from his religious principles. On hearing this, the church at Hexham wrote an epistle, full of tender and kind admonition, to Hickhorngill, which produced the effect of bringing him, apparently, to a sincere repentance, as evinced in a letter to the church at Hexham, in September, 1653.
There is an allusion to the apostacy of this young man, in the following letter, sent by the Hexham people to General Lilburne, by Mr. Stackhouse, in the previous month of June:
"To the right Honble Major General Lilburne, Commander in Chief, Scotland, these present, Dalkeith.
"It hath been matter of great joy and consolation to our spirits, ever since we heard of ye glorious appearances of the divine nature in you, which manifests itself thorow [sic] your love which you have to all saints, and particularly towards us. We desire to admire the goodness of our God in it, that we, who are less than the least of all saints, should have favour given us, in yr eyes whom God hath so highly honoured, and sett in a place of such eminency. Whiles yt or sometimes precious (but now deluded) brother, Mr. Edd. Hickorngill, continued his stedfastuess; Oh how welcome were his letters to us, and caused many thanksgivings by us unto our God, in yr behalf; when, in them, was made known unto us, ye interest you were pleased to vouchsafe him in your favour, and not only him, but even this whole church. For whom we not only give thanks, but also for our Brother Charles Bond,
whose bowels you have sweetly refreshed, taking (him) (as we heare) into a family relation to you. But most especially, that we be not tedious unto you, wee desire, with all thankfulnesse, to acknowledge your continuing love to us, in your courteous and respective entertainment, of ye bearer hereof, or dearly beloved Brother, Mr. Thomas Stackhouse, who upon his return to us made known, yr sweet and gracious deportment toward him, and yr loving invitation of him that he would come unto you. We have therefore (having first sought ye face of or Father thorow prayer being assembled in one (place) with or consent, sent him, and by this our epistle commend him unto you, and desire, you would own him, as one, whom we have in high repute, for the gracious appearances of God which we have seen in him, and of whom we have this confidence, that he will approve himself both to God and his people, such an one as we would. Now ye Father of mercies, and God of or comforts, who hath given us so great consolation thorow yr bowells of love, return into yor bosome sevenfold, that you may be comforted of God, in what hour soever you shall stand most need of it; and this confidence have we in our King, that since he hath promised that he will not let a cup of cold water given to one that belongs to him, goe unrewarded, surely he will not forget those refreshings wherewith you have exceedingly made glad the spirits of those who cease not to make mention of yr Honr in their prayers.*From the church) Edward Browell, Henry Aneas, of Christ Assembled at) Michael Aydon, Tho. Tillam, Hexham, 22nd D of) John Orde, Stephen Anderton, ye 4 month, 1653) John Thirlwall, Tho. Ogle, Richard Orde, John Carnaby
* Major General Robert Lilburne was the elder son of Richard Lilburne, Esq., of Thickley Punchardon, in the neighbourhood of Bishop Auckland. He was born at his father's estate, in 1613. During the great civil war, he took part with the Parliament, and held an important station in the army. In the year 1647, he was appointed governor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and in the end of the following year he sat as one of the judges on the trial of the King, and was one of those who signed the warrant for his execution. It is probable, that soon after this, he became a Baptist. As mentioned, on the removal of Monk and Deane to the Fleet, he was invested with the chief command in Scotland, in 1653. In 1654, he was elected, along with his relative George Lilburne, of Sunderland, to represent the county of Durham. In the last year of the Commonwealth, 1659, he represented Malton. On the Restoration, he was tried as a regicide, and offered no defence. He was banished to the island of St. Nicholas, near Plymouth, where he died, in 1665, in the 52nd year of his age. His brother John, famous for his turbulent existence, died in the year 1657.
In the preceeding narrative of the Baptists in Scotland, at this period, we have attempted to bring into a focus, all the information we can find in the archives of the church at Hexham, together with the other feeble glimmering of light to be found in other quarters, tending to illustrate it. The period of the sojourn of the English army in Scotland, was from September, 1650, after the battle of Dunbar, till they left Edinburgh, on the 18th November, 1659, and passed the Tweed at Coldstream, 1st January, 1660, led by Monk, to the re-establishment of the Stuart family on the throne of Britain. From 1653, the period of our narrative, to their leaving the Scottish soil, the Baptists in the army would, doubtless, to the utmost of their power, exert themselves to propagate their principles. Monk, indeed, did all he could to repress them. All that Presbyterian zeal and literature could effect against them, was put forth, under the guidance of the distinguished Dr. Samuel Rutherford, Hugh Binning, and others; but they still persevered. We have scarcely any account, however, of the extent of their success, but the Baptists in and around Edinburgh are said to have promoted "a petition for universal toleration to all Scots, except Papists and prelatists." This was in 1659, the last year they were in the country. As no traces of Baptist churches are to be found in the annals of Scottish ecclesiastical history at this time, or long afterwards, it is probable that but a very partial impression had been made on the natives of the country, relative to the embracing of Baptist principles.
[From David Douglas, History of the Baptist Churches in the North of England, From 1648 to 1845, London, 1846, chapter 3, pp. 30-43. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
The entire text on microfilm can be accessed here.
More British History
Baptist History Homepage