History of the Baptist Churches in the North of England, From 1648 to 1845
Correspondence between Baptist Churches - Letter from Coleman-street - From the Western Association - From Swan-alley - Mr. Henry Jessey - Marriage Record - Troubles at Hexham and Newcastle - Letter to Swan-alley - To Leominster - Mr. Tillam goes to London and Cheshire - Letter from Mr. Tillam - From Warrington - Hill Cliffe – Letters - Newcastle and Hexham - Elizabeth Eeslop - Letter to Sir Thomas Liddell - Lady Liddell - Troubles Mr. Tillam leaves Hexham - His Works - Character - Mr. Gowe.
1653. By the middle of the year 1653, in consequence of the dispersion of the army of the Commonwealth throughout England, "Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, Baptist principles were considerably diffused, and attempts were made to maintain a close communication between the different churches, however widely scattered.
It was with a view to this object, that the church in Coleman-street, under Mr. Hanserd Knollys, of which church Mr. Tillam had been the messenger and evangelist to the north; the church in Swan-alley, under Mr. Henry Jessey; and the church in Black-friars, under Mr. John Simpson; unitedly sent a letter to the church at Hexham, inviting them to greater intimacy and brotherly communion. An immediate answer to this letter does not appear to have been sent; but the receipt of the letter had been acknowledged by Mr. Tillam, in a letter he wrote on the 26th July, to Mr. Tombes, of Bewdley, in Herefordshire. On the 3rd of September, a letter was sent to the church in Coleman-street, under Mr. Knollys, to which they had a
reply, dated the 27th of the same month, which throws some light on the subjects of controversy between the churches of Newcastle and Hexham. From this letter we give the following extract: --
* * * * * "Beloved brethren, these may also give you to understand yt we read yor letter, dated the 3d of this instant, yt which was very wellcome to us, not only for hearing of yoar affairs in ye appearance of ye Lord amongst you, for ye which we have cause to rejoice in or God, and give thanks to or father, as it is meet for us so to doe, because we hear of the groth of yr faith and that your love to each other aboundeth, wee desire allso to glory in or God, for the patience and faith in all the persecutions and tribulations that you doe and have endured yt you might he counted, through grace, worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you suffer, being not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord Jesus, you therefore are partakers of ye afflictions of ye gospel.
"We rejoiced allso, in yt you endeavoured to answer those particular objections, that or brethren at Newcastle had against you, that thereby, if ye Lord please, we may allso endeavour to satisfie them. To that end, we have written a letter to them, wherein, we have given to them a copy of ye answers for their objections, in ye which, we are satisfied. Only this, we see no clear rule, nor example for ye presenting of little children in or arms to Christ for a blessing, though it be, we confess our dutie to pray for them, yt the Lord would bless them. But in your expressions, wee understand that, through grace, you would not goe beyond rule nor come short therein, which gives occasion to hope, that you will goe no further therein than rule will lead you unto. And then, we doubt not, but we and or brethren, shall be one with you yt you endeavoured to answer those particular objections, that or brethren at Newcastle had against you, that thereby, if ye Lord please, we may allso endeavour to satisfie them. To that end, we have written a letter to them, wherein, we have given to them a copy of ye answers for their objections, in ye which, we are satisfied. Only this, we see no clear rule, nor example for ye presenting of little children in or arms to Christ for a blessing, though it be, we confess our dutie to pray for them, yt the Lord would bless them. But in your expressions, wee understand that, through grace, you would not goe beyond rule nor come short therein, which gives occasion to hope, that you will goe no further therein than rule will lead you unto. And then, we doubt not, but we and or brethren, shall be one with you.
"As concerning the ministry by which many of us, through grace, have been converted, and if so, let us bless God for it, whoever he was pleased to make instrumental therein, and leave them to stand or fall to their Master. We speak this the rather, that this might remove, and not cause discord amongst brethren, because we are not much concerned in it, whether they are the ministers of Christ or noe.
"But as to our brother Kaye, whom, as we understand, being chosen by mutual consent of the church of Xt, according to the order of the gospel, to be their minister, being fitted by the Lord thereto, we dare not but owne him as a minister of Xt, and so will our
brethren allso, wee hope, at Newcastle, if they see no clear ground to the contrary.
"As for singing of Psalms, with the world, that is, with the multitude where you meete, that as you have borne testimony against it, so you would shune the appearance of it, from ye first to ye last. We write it to take off all occasions of offence, yt through grace, you yt have received grace from Xt, may so walke in him, that you may be perfectly joyned togeather, in one mind and in one judgment, according to the mind of Xt. yt you may be at peace among yourselves, and then, the God of peace, will be wt you. We have desired in or letters to or brethren at Newcastle, yt they would give you a meeting, and, that you would speak togeather face to face, and the like, we shall earnestly desire of you to give them a meeting ; and if so, we desire that nothing be done through strife or vain glory, but in all lowliness of mind, each esteeming other better than themselves, and let this mind be in you, yt was in Jesus Xt, 2 Philippians vi. 7, 8, and wee doe yt more earnestly intreat you to have some conference with them yt, if the will of the Lord be, you may remove all difference and divisions amongst you, that every high thing in any of you, that exalteth itself agt the knowledge of God, may be cast downe, and that all may be brought into captivity to ye obedience of Xt, yt Xt may be all and in all to you and amongst you.*
"It hath pleased the Lord, we hope, to put into the heart of the churches of London, that there might be more knowledge taken of all the churches of Christ in ye nation, whereby they may ye better know, how to owne them, and demeane themselves to each other upon all occasions, confirming their love to each other, that they may serve one another in love, as becometh saints, and, therefore, it would much sadden or spirits if there should be any occasion, given or taken, amongst you, yt you might not be upon the hearts of the churches in owning you as other churches. But if the Lord please to make us one, we hope it will be much refreshing, and rejoice our spirits. We would allso advise you, if you think meete, yt our
* A meeting had already taken place on 16th of 6 mo. (Aug.) probably the result of the letter sent from the church at Coleman-street to the church at Newcastle, as referred to in the above letter. Hence, it is said to have taken place by order of the London and Newcastle churches. The deputation consisted of "Capt. Sympson and Capt. Mason, with Br. Blenkensop," and, "they hearing of our constitution and condition, sweetly and lovingly owned us as their brethren, which was farre from the rugged and unbrotherly carriage of Mr. Gower," &c.
Br. Kaye with some of the brethren there, may be at your meeting, that so their state may be more fully known to or bren at N.[ew] C.[astle] that if they may understand, that both you, and them, are churches constituted according to ye gospel of Xt. we doubt not, they will be satisfied therein, and we shall be certified thereof, sudainly by them, the which will give an occasion to glory in or God and to be more intimate in or hearts with each other. We desire to salute or brethren at Stokesley, praying for you all, that whatever you have heard and received from the Lord Jesus, you may hold it forth, and hold it fast, till he come. In the meantime, the Lord make you p[er]fect in every good worke to doe his will, and worke in you that wch is well-pleasing in his sight, and confirm you therein to the end yt you may be blameless in the day of or Lord Jesus. Farewell in the Lord.
Your brethren in ye truths of Christ.We shall desire ) W. Howard John Perry, Elders, to heare of ye receite ) Tru: Canfields, Will Jennings, hereof, with all ) John Posser, Theodore Jennings, conveniency ) Wm. Spier, J. Armiger, Theo. Buttivant, John Watson."
The feeling expressed on the part of the London churches, referred to in this letter, for union with the churches in the provinces, had heen experienced simultaneously with the feelings of the brethren in the west of England and Wales, on the same subject. In Wales an association is said to have been formed in 1650, by the Baptist churches in Ilston, Slanafan, Hay, and Olchor; and just a little before the present period of our narrative, a number of churches in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, Worcestershire, and London, united in corresponding with the other churches in England. A specimen of this correspondence we have in their letter to the church at Hexham. It was sent from the churches in the west, to the church in Swan-alley, Coleman-street, London, then under the care of Mr. Henry Jessey, and forwarded by Mr. Jessey and his people
to the church at Hexham, 2d 8th month, (October) 1653. It evinces the deep interest the churches took in each other at that time, and is well worthy of preservation and perusal.
"To the Church of Christ at Hexham.
"DEARLY BELOVED BRETHREN IN OUR LORD CHRIST,
We salute you in the Lord, praying for the multiplying of grace and peace upon you from God ye father of or Lord Jesus Christ. The report of the works of God in you, and for you, in persuading your hearts to ohey his will, in being baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, while many, in all places, endeavour to deter people from ye embracing the plain precept of Christ, and by all sorts of arts, seek to darken the truth, and continue ye p[ro]phane abuse of infant sprinkling upon superstitious and Judaizing grounds, by which the reformation of the churches is hindered, and not only so, but, that he hath kept you, from those errors of universal grace, sufficient, but becoming effectual by the motion of man's will, not determined by God, and such other errors that corrupt other baptized people. And that he timely disproved the counterfeit Jew, who was likely, either to have corrupted you, or brought you unto obloquy. And the keeping you (as we hope) unspotted from the world, hath filled our hearts with joy, and enlarged our hearts in thanksgiving, and, so much the rather, because, we hope, that from you, the truth of God may spread farther, and that, your holy conversation may provoke those that are yet averse from the right ways of the Lord, in wch you walk, to consider their wayes and enquire after the mind of the Lord, earnestly. And, for all wch reasons, and that there might be a holy union and correspondence held, between us, and you, as those that are members of one body and one spirit, are called in one hope of or calling, have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, &c., have judged it our duty to write unto you, that we might congratulate with you, for the mercy and grace of God vouchsafed to you, and assure you of or readiness to assist you, in anything, that may tend to your edification, and to concur with you in any worke whereby the kingdom of Christ may be advanced and the opposite dominions of what sort soever may be depressed.
As for ourselves, though we are confident yt he who hath,begun ye good work will perfect it, &c., yet being sensible yt you have potent adversaries, who will endeavour, with all cunning and
violence, to cast you down to the earth, that you may lose your crowne, we think it safe for you to be exhorted to look to your garments, that they he kept clean, yt you may be the sons of God; without rebuke, &c., and because yr steadfastnesse will rest much, on yr order and unity, we beseech you to mark them that cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine you have received, and avoid them. And that you obey them that are over you in the Lord who watch for your souls as &c. Whatever difference may arise, labour to compose it among yourselves to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory, &c. Love and humility will help much to unity. Take heed of lightnesse and inconstancy. If any have private opinions let them not be devulged, but each one seeke privately information of their teachers, or such as are most able, and not zealously promote them, without regard to the churches' peace. Let every one study to be quiet and to doe his own businesse, remembering that as in one body all members have not the same office, so it is in the church, and therefore each member is to keep his owne place, and therein abide with God.
Brethren, if it had seemed good to the Lord we should have been glad, if our dwelling had been nearer, that we might have visited you in person, but the Lord otherwise ordering it, we have contented ourselves only at this tyme to signifie our mind to you by writing, hoping to heare from you, of the grace of God to you, in preserving aud increasing in you, ye knowledge of Xt. and love of God unto eternal life. We farther signifie to you our longing to have with you and all the baptized churches ythold ye faith purely, such communion as yt we may by letters, or messengers, in some meeting or meetings, communicate to each other, our knowledge for ye certifying of each other, and retayning of consent of doctrine, among the churches. And we further desire, there maybe some certain way, of approving and sending teachers from the churches, and of signifying to all the churches of or communion, who are approved or who are disallowed as teachers, or in case of the removal, as brethren, that ye churches of God may not be deceived, by such imposters as the counterfeit Jew with you; and that popish and other devillish practices, to divide or corrupt them, may be prevented, though we hope the pastors in every church will be very watchful in this thing. For present we have no more to write you, but to intreat your prayers for us, and we for you, yt you may stand complete in all the will of God, to
whose tuition we commend you, and remaine, your strongly enchained brethren in the bond of perfectnesse ye unfeigned love of you in the Lord.
In the name and for the church at Weston-under-Penniard, in Herefordshire,
John Skinner, Teacher.
John Street, John Skinner, Thomas Rudge, Brethren.
In the name of the church meeting at Abergaening, (or Abergavenny,) Monmouthshire,
In the name and for the church baptized in the Forest of Deane in the County of Gloucester.
Will. Skinue and John Mills, Elders. Francis Pobb.
In the name and for the church meeting in Coleman Street, Swan Alley, London, (it coming, to us) 2d of ye 8th month, 1653,
Henry Jessey, Teacher.
John Bagget, George Waddle, Brethren.
In the name and for the church at Lintile, in Herefordshire,
John Tombes, Pastor.
John Patchale, John Wamklen, Eldrs.
In ye name and for ye church at Beaudly, in Worcestershire,
Thos. Bolstonne, Phillip Mun, Robt. Girdlad, Eldrs.
In the name and for ye church at Netherton, Glour-shire,
Richd. Harrison, Paule Frum, Will. Drew, Eldrs.
In the name and for y e church, in ye citie of Hereford,
R. London, Cha. Powell, Steven Chamberlain.
In the name and for the church at Wormbredy,
"The messengers from this or church, and that wth or bro. H. Knollys, and from Mr. John Simpson and others, meeting at Blackfriars, wrote a large letter to you, many weeks since, about a nearer communion, and provoking to pray for the out-pouring
of the Spirit, and for furnishing ministry, magistracy, &c.; but we received no answer back though you seem to say that you received that letter, in your letter written by Mr. Thomas Tillam to Mr. Tomhes, dated ye 5th month, 26, 1653."
At the time that this letter was sent to the church at Hexham, Mr. Jessey and his people at Swan-alley, Coleman-street, took the opportunity of sending them a private letter of Christian friendship. It bears the same date with the other, 2d d. 8 m., or Octr., 1653.
"To our beloved brethren and sisters, the Church of God, meeting at Hexham.
"Faith working by love be increased through the good knowledge of God our Father, and of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Dearly beloved, it was matter of joy to us, that by a hand of Providence, this larger letr, from churches in Herefordshire, with, whom we have communion, was sent to one of us, to be sent to you, wherein we doe severally accord, our hearts joining fully in the contents thereof, rejoicing to behold of late this good spirit that dwells in the churches (which are his temples) so uniting and knitting them together, in the bond of love, and so seeking to enjoy, more communion together, amongst such as are sound in ye faith, and that desire to walke as becomes the gospel.
And much refreshing hath or gracious God afforded to our spirits lately, at the return of a messenger and teacher of or, and of another, of the church meeting at Great All-hallows, London, (of which church 200 have been baptized within these 3 years) who were sent to visit the chs nearer us, than you, in the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk, and to understand their way and order, and to further love amongst them all, that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and communion with them. Who returning have related to us wh what sweetness in love and heart mettings in beholding the Lord's love to them herein, they were received in the Lord by several churches, about ten in Essex, as many in Suffolk, and as many in Norfolk, sound in the faith, and holy in life, though differing with some, about the subject and manner of the ordinance of Baptism, or some about such laying on of hands, or blessing children, or singing psalms, or hymns, or spiritual songs,
as they were advised by those messengers. And though every truth is good, yet, we desire that in churches, all truths be ma- naged, in the wisdom of the Spirit and in all love, considering 1st Corinthians xiii. 18, Romans xiv. xv., and Ephesians iv.
"We are not wanting to propound these 6 things, that should once be laid down, that are spoke of Hebrews vi. 1, 2, and we endeavour to inform all therein yt we iudge faithful, being propounded to us. But if some cannot receive what is held out about Baptisme, laying on of hands, or singing, &c., and yet shew forth teachablenesse and peaceablenesse, we dare not exclude such, from this visible kingdom of God merely for weaknesse' sake. Some grounds for such practice are laid down in that book called "A Store-house."* If any of us be otherwise minded, we are to waite in God's way, until he shall reveal some thing. If herein we are not satisfied as we are, we shall be glad if there be mutual help herein, or els, so farre as wee have attained let us mind ye same things, and be as helpful to each other as we can. By what we have heard of you, we judge you are a church of Christ, wth wch he hath communion, and therefore, we are willing to have communion wth you as occasions may be, and wee do intreat you to seek ye: face of ye Lord in our behalf, yt we may walk worthy in all pleasing, so as to glorify his name, and to give no just occasion of offence to Jew or Gentile, to one or other, and we hope that herein allso we shall be mindful of you. Being
Your loving bre: and fellow servants, and fellow heirs, though most unworthy
In the name of, and) Henrie Jessey, Teachers.
for the church meet-) George Barret,/
ing at Swan-alley,) Matt. Strange
Coleman-street.) George Ware, Tho. Shefold/ Bre:"
* A work written by Mr. H. Jessey. Mr. Jessey was born at West Kowton, N.B.. Yorkshire. He was ordained in the Establishment in 1627. He became a Dissenter in 1634, and left his charge at Aughton, Yorkshire. He was solicited to take the charge of the Independent Church, formed by Mr. Jacob in 1614, which he did in 1637. He was baptized by Mr. H. Knollys, in 1645. During the Commonwealth he was Rector of St. George's, Southwark; but was ejected in 1662. He was a very learned, pious, laborious, and liberal man, but much persecuted and imprisoned. He died 4 Sep., 1663, aged 63.
Answers to both these letters were sent by the church of Hexham, but owing to the troubles in which Mr. Tillam felt himself involved, by the conduct of Mr. Gower of Newcastle, he delayed the replies till the beginning of 1654.
In the meantime, Mr. Tillam was called to unite two of the members of the church in holy matrimony. The union of believers only, in this relation, has been the general opinion and practice of the Baptist churches. This was especially the case at this period. As to the mode, it seems to have been of the simplest character. Nothing is said of preliminary banns though it is probable these were not dispensed with there is only a short record of the matter in the church-book, signed by a few witnesses. The record runs to the following effect.
"These are to declare, to all to whom it may concern, that Anthony Hunter of Holmsterly, in the parish of Medomsley, and Ellinor Labbourne his wife, of the said parish, were marryed upon the 13th day of November, 1653, being the Lord's day, in the house of Mr. Thomas Tillam, minister of Hexham, before us whose names are here underwritten as witnesses of the said marriage.
P. Hobson, Jane Rookby, Edward Steanerson, Jane Tillam, his S marke, Rob. Selbie, Edward Croser, John Shouellar." Alice Swann
About a fortnight or three weeks after this marriage had taken place, we find Mr. Gower, of Newcastle, pursuing Mr. Tillam with a vindictiveness, which has too much the appearance of personal enmity. The original spring of such determined opposition, we have not the means of even conjecturing, but it is clear to perceive that whatever failings there might attach to Mr. Tillam, they were pursued with a rigour and bitterness.
quite inimical to the mild and forbearing temper inculcated by the gospel of Jesus. In the church-book there is, at this period, the following notice of this affair: --
The beginning of the 10th m. (Decr.) 1653, a charge came from the church at Newcastle to the brethren at Derwent Side, consisting of 12 Articles against Mr. Tillam, wherein manifestly appeared a subtile design to breake, or divide, the church of Hexham. To which, the person concerned returned - as was needful - a speedy answer which was approved, a Christian, sober and faithful answer, and such as they did hope, would amount to the .satisfaction of those, that follow after such things as make for peace amongst brethren, and, as such, it was subscribed by the whole churche's full consent.
John Thirlwell, Stephen Anderton."
John Readshaw, / Deacons, &c
Notwithstanding Mr. Gower laboured with the church at London, from whom Mr. Tillam was a messenger, but God blasted all his endeavours, and wonderfully preserved the integrity of his dispised servant, giving him still a large roome in the hearts of his people of that Society. Ever praised he his most glorious name.
1654. During the first three months of 1654 we find no entry in the Hexham church-book, but on the 20th. 2. m. (April) the following letter bearing this date was written:
"For our dearly beloved Brethren and Sisters walking in communion wth ye Reverend Mr. Henry Jessey, in Swan-alley, Coleman-street, London.
"Grace and peace be shed abundantly upon you, by the Spirit, from God or father, and from ye Lord Jesus Christ.
"Dearly beloved in the Lord,
It hath been several times upon our hearts, to return an answer to your gracious Epistle, sent to us many months since, but by reason of some who seem to be contentious, wee have hitherto been hindered. For as the opposition hath been great wch wee have met with from all hands, ever since wee first made a visible p[ro]fession of ye despised truths of the Lord Jesus, so, specially, those conflicts have been most sad, which for some months last past, we have had with ye brethren of a neighbouring church, who p[ro]fesse to walke by the same rule with us. A spirit of rigidnesse doth so farre sway among them, yt they cannot owne us, because we can owne unbaptized churches and ministers, as churches of Xt, and ministers of Xt, though wee doe allso judge, in those churches and ministers, some thing as to order wanting, wch God, in his owne time, may reveal unto them. Although from others we have endured cruel buffetings, yet these have made long furrows upon us. Neither yet are our breaches healed, though we waite and pray, for ye healing of them.
"But our thanksgivings unto our God are, upon every remembrance renewed in yr behalfe, for the gracious healing frame of spirit, which breathe in, and throw, yr lines to us. It was sweet, refreshing unto our spirits, and we were comforted in your ioy to hear of the prosperity of Sion, and yr behalfe, for the gracious healing frame of spirit, which breathe in, and throw, yt, in several counties ye standard of yr behalfe, for the gracious healing frame of spirit, which breathe in, and throw, ye Lord Jesus is set up, and many there be yr behalfe, for the gracious healing frame of spirit, which breathe in, and throw, yt flock unto it, who are sound in yr behalfe, for the gracious healing frame of spirit, which breathe in, and throw, ye faith and holy in their conversation.
"Holy and beloved brethren, our desires and prayers to God are that we may be one with all those, who have union with the Father and ye Son, by his Spirit, in all ye ordinances of ye gospel. As to the deformities wh are found in ye churches of ye saints, if but merely circumstantial, we desire to walk by the same rule with you, Philippians iii. 15, 16, and as many as walke according to it, peace shall be upon them. It would bee exceedingly for our consolation if (as oft as God shall give you an opportunity) we may heare of yr affairs, and of every designe wch God shall put into
shearts, and of ye rest of ye precious churches of Xt neare unto you, for ye promoting in ye world ye royall interest of ye Lord Jesus. Finally, brethren, we pray for you and desire you to continue in prayer for us, that wee may be kept stedfast and unblameable, in faith, and holiness, always abounding in ye worke of our Mr., yt at his coming he may find us so doing. In whom weeYr fellow servants and companions, Tho. Tillam, Stephen Anderton, John, Ward.Signed by ye appoint- )Thomas Ogle, Rowland Harrison./ ment of ye Church ) John Thirlwell, 2nd, 20th, 1654.) John Redshaw ) Deacons"
Along with this letter there seems to have been one sent to the churches in Herefordshire, &c., in answer to the one sent to the church at Hexham, through the church in Swan-alley. There is no date to it, hut it stands next to the above letter in the church-book. Delay in answering is equally complained of; and as they were requested to answer the epistle, through the same medium they received it, so, it is most likely to have been sent along with the above. We give the following extract:
"To the Church of God wch is at Lemster, (Leominster) with all those holy societys, walking in brotherly communion under ye vigilant guard of faithful overseers.
Holy and beloved, your evangelical epistle many months since received amongst ns, was even as health to our navel and marrow to our bones. ----- And as we desire unfeignedly to thank God for that eminent worthy in our Israel,* so, for you all,
* This is supposed to refer to Mr. John Tombes, of Bewdley, &c., Herefordshire. Mr. Tombes was born in 1603. He was ordained in the national church, and settled at Leominster, about 1630. About 1646, he was baptized as a believer, and settled at his native place, Bewdley. He was one of the most learned men of his day, and wrote and disputed much respecting infant Baptism. In 1653, he was appointed one of the tryers of ministers, by Parliament, and held his living of Bewdley. He conformed to the Church, as a lay communicant, after the Restoration, but would take no charge. He died, May 25, 1676, aged 73. Mr. Tillam and he were very friendly.
in beholding the blended band of love, so firmly fastened about so many pretious congregations, which makes you so amiable in our eyes, as in the eyes of him whose heart yr chain has ravished. [Here they refer to the conduct of the Newcastle Church in terms much the same as in the letter to Swan-alley.] But now as God seems to moderate the spirit of our brethren, and hath kept us sound in ye faith, not any of us touched with yt Arminian poyson that hath so sadly infected other Baptist churches; only those deluded soules called Quakers, have been very active in those parts, and have seduced two of or society and six of Newcastle church. And, now, dearly beloved, having truly acquainted you with our state ------ we being about seventy persons ----- the greater number men, all kept alive from ye first almost two years, (until now)."
The epistle concludes with good wishes, and is signed only by Mr. Tillam.
Sometime between the 6th and 28th of May, Mr. Tillam appears to have gone to London, and to have visited other churches. We give an extract of a letter he wrote on this occasion, as evincing the several usages of the Baptists at this period.
"My dear ones, in the spirit of truth and love, you will not surely be offended, yt the hand of my Father hath drawn me to ye great city, to obey him in those pretious truths, which he pleased to make known unto me, and which he hath filled brimfull of mercy in ye practice of. For after I had enjoyed heavenly communion wth my pretious brethren of Coleman St., and had acquainted them with my purpose to obey Xt in ye 4th principle, and had received this gratious letter to ye sis. in Cheshire, from them, I departed in much love, to ye melting of my hard heart, and having found many congregations in ye practice of the ordinances I wanted, I was, by a blessed hand, guided to my most heavenly Br. Doctor Chamberlen, one of ye most humble, mortified soules, for a man of parts, yt ever I yet met with, in whose sweet society, I enjoyed ye blessing of my God, by the laying on of their hands, and after a love feast, having washed one another's feet, we did joyfully break bread, and concluded with an hymn: in all wch the singular majesty of Xt shined forth to ye mighty conviction of some choyse spectators. And now, what am I to whom God should make known his truths p[ro]fessed, even of late by
some of his eminent servants, and amongst ye rest by Mr. Tombeas. Brethren be earnest wth God that I may walk worthy of bis mercie bestowed upon me, and that I may have a prosperous and speedy returns to you; and God is my witness, how greatly I long after you all in ye bowels of Jesus Xt. ------ I thank and heartily salute you all. Oh that you could embrace it as ye mind of Xt to greete one another with a holy kisse. Oh how amiable is it in ye churches where it is practised."
There is no date to this letter, but it is probable, that it was sent to Hexham along with another, that at this time is dated, Warrington, - 4 m. - June 26th day, 1654. Mr. Tillam, in the above letter, mentions his having received a letter from the church at Coleman-street, to the church in Cheshire. It seems, as already intimated, that this was the ancient church of Hill Cliffe, near Warrington. It is probable that some of the members lived at Warrington, and that the church at Hill Cliffe had meetings there. It is known that they were a zealous people, as they afterwards laid the foundation of a church, in Liverpool. No other church is ever referred to in Cheshire, but one, and as Hill Cliffe is very ancient, it seems most likely to have been it; and from the interest Mr. Tillam seems always to have taken in it, and the affectionate manner in which they refer to him in their letter, and the relationship they say they have in him, in common with the church at Hexham all seem to render it highly probable, that it was the church of which Mrs. Tillam was a member, and which, Mr. Tillam had visited on a former occasion, mentioned in our narrative.
As this is, perhaps, the only ancient document of this church in existence, we give it entire.
"DEARLY BELOVED IN YE LORD, OUR HOPE AND JOY,
"The choicest graces and spiritual blessings, be multiplied and continually flowing into yr souls, from yt eternal fountains where
Refreshing streams of divine consolations have (through grade) been conveying unto us by his eminent (by us intirely affected) servant of Jes. Christ,* who we trust, will be instrumental in ye hand of our God, whom we serve, to carry on both you and us in this our pilgrimage, in a p[ro]gresse of grace, soe as, one day, he may present us with exceeding joy, one pure and spotless virgin, before our Redeemer, when he of whom ye Lord hath made such a blessed use, shall shine as a starre in glory.
Pretious brethren! that we faint not in this our journey, how necesaarie is't, yt our joynt interest, be mutually improved, at the throne of grace, in each others behalf, that in these dangerous declining times, when 'tis evident or grand adversary, perceiving his tottering kingdom, near a fall, is employing his utmost force and deepest subtiltye, to delude and draw poore soules from their p[ro]fession.
"Wee desire, to magnifie the name of or God, for that refreshment to or spirits, received by yr sweet epistle, wherein doth appear ye steadfastnesses of yr faith in Jes. Chr. mauger all ye malice manifested by ye endeavours of ye enemie, and his instruments, some of whom have been busily employed in those parts, to the saddening of many, yet through mercy, we stand, to ye praise, of ye glory, of yt grace, which we acknowledge our support.
"We bless God, for ye continual enlargement of yr hearts, to ye liberty of or dearly beloved brother's stay with us, though God is pleased to order it now but short.
"Brethren, we beseech you, pray for us, yt ye knowledge of Jesus Christ, may increase among us, yt we may come to a more cleare approbation of ye great mistery, 'God in Christ and Christ in us' united, and made one with him, by ye eternal Spirit. Then shall we p[er]fectly see, ye tabernacle of God dwelling with wth men and have occasion (from such blessed communion) to rejoice wih joy unspeakable, aud full of glory, when all doubts and distractions will be passed away; noe night or cloud to interpose between or soules, and ye love of or pretious Redeemer. Ah! this would be a pretious pledge, or earnest, of yt glorious condition, into wch we shortly shall be translated, when wee have a full enjoyment of him, whom now our soules are thirsting after, in unconceivable and eternall joy.
* Supposed to be Mr. Tillam.
Peace be to all, wth love and faith, from God or father and Lord Jes. Chr. in whom wee are entirely yr affectionate brethren.Warrington, 4 m. 26 day, 1654.Will. Booth, Robt. Millington, Tho. Holland,
Peter Eaton, John Sproson, Chas. Holland,
John Tomleson, Tho. Pollings, Ric. Amery.
Soon after Mr. Tillam went to London, a letter came to the church at Hexham, from the church at Newcastle, informing them of a letter Mr. Tillam had sent to them regarding the conduct of Major Hohson, already referred to. Mr. Tillam, it seems from the letter, had received his information from Mr. Hammond, who was probably the minister of St. Nicholas', Newcastle, and who wrote against the false Jew; hence the Newcastle church affirm of him, that "wee feare he hath prejudiciale thoughts, not only against Major Hobson, but against Mr. Tillam, and all who are opposite to him, and that we judge you are sensible of as well as wee." Then they mention that they had searched the business to the bottom, and had found out that what was reported of the Major, referred to what they call, "the days of his wantonnesse," and that now "he is not a lover, but a loather, of such unworthy practices."
"Now, dear friends," they add, "wee could not but lett you know so much, being persuaded, you knew of the letter Mr. Hammond wrote to Mr. Tillam, and Mr. Tillam to us, and wee are ye rather pvoked to write to you, fearing such reports may cause yr spirits to slight and question ye gracious and kind dealings of God with his soul. Besides, wee had some information, that this report is, ----- by some reported to ye men of ye world, but at present, wee can not accuse and pticular, untill we are farther informed; but, if any such things should be, wee judge it very unsuitable to ye rule of truth. ----- So desiring, that the God of all grace, to keep you, and us, from embracing of, or acting in,
any thing, but wt we may cheerfully looke God in ye face in ye greate day of ye Lord, to whose grace we leave you and remaine,To this letter the church at Hexham sent a reply, about two months after, in which they affirm to the following effect:Yr desirous brethren in truth and love,if ye way were clear in all gospel bonds,Tho. Gower, James Turner, By ye appointment of ) Geor. Oliver, the Ch. at Newcastle.} Lewis Fnnst, Joh. Carrath."
Wee are so farre from judging bro. Tillam to have acted disorderly, yt wee are satisfied his carriage, in yt businesse, was according to ye mind of Christ, and wee dare affirme it before ye Lord, yt he had been both wicked and unfaithful, to his Mr. and you, his people, if he had not put you upon ye enquiry into such reports, whether they were true or not. His worke was only to be a monitor to you, not an accuser of yr bro. Hobson. ----- We desire you would seriously lay to heart how mightily ye Lord Jesus suffers through our divisions. Oh what a vast deal of ground, ere this day, had ye Lord Christ gotten in ye kingdom of Satan, and Antichrist (wch stands yet little or nothing broken in these pts) had a healing spirit timeously interposed itself, so yt we might, as one man, put our shoulder to ye worke. Consider, we pray you, whether may not ye apostacy of some, ye staggerings of others yt yet stand, ye discouragement of weake ones, whose faces are Zionward, yet do keepe at distance (not thinking it safe to close with those who are not at unity among themselves). Consider, wee pray you, whether all of these and many more shall not be scored up, upon ye account of or unhappy differences. We leave these upon yor spirits. The Lord make them of weight with you yt yet at ye last if it be ye will of God all bitternesse may be taken out from among us, and an happy composure among
them, who professe themselves yrs in the unity of Faith and Baptism.
Signed by the appointment of the ) Rich. Orde,
whole ch. of Xt. at Hexham, ) John Ward, Elders.
6 m., Augt. 3d. day, 1654. )A speedy answer was sent to this letter by the church at Newcastle, in which they still complain of the church at Hexham, as giving them no satisfaction, but the contrary. Major Hobson's name is not mentioned, but the burden of the complaint is, that they had come out of Babylon by halves only, and add --(A number of names here follow.)
"Therefore pray, consider, and forsake yt wch is sinfull. "We meane all those ownings and pleadings for yt wch you have pleaded in answer to our charge, wth all other things, yt are iustly a cause of difference between us, and yt ye truth of God does not approve of.
We have this to add, yt if you desire a p[ar]ticular answer to ye answer to or charge, we shall be ready to give it you, in a suitable and seasonable time, for yr p[ar]ticular satisfaction. Only, we desire you will bee pleased to send us a coppy of yr commission to preach, wch you had from ye p[ro]pagators; and, a coppy of ye order, by wch you went to Hexham, and a coppy of ye order, by wch you receive yr maintainance.
From ye church of Christ at Newcastle,)In ye behalf of ye whole, I being
apppointed, do subscribe
to or dear friends at Hexham, 27th of) Tho. Gower."
ye 6th m., 1654.
To this letter, we have a reply, by Mr. Ward, who enquires, "what is meant by coming out of Babylon by halves," and reiterates what was said in the end of the former letter from Hexham to Newcastle, respecting the baneful effects of their difference on the world. This letter is without date, but was probably written in the month of September.
The last letter that we have between these churches, is also without date, but was, probably, written soon after.
The complaint in it is, that Mr. Tillam had spoken of the conduct of Major Hobson to the world, stating it to Mr. Liddell of Ravensworth; also to Thomas Gibson and Crane Liddell of Hexham, which was overheard by Ed. Rowland; and likewise to Mrs. Fenwick. All this, they say, Mr. Tilliam had denied, to their wonderment. They also wonder that Mr. Tillam should not have told the Major of his fault, when he asked him to preach at Hexham, but told it to others. We have not Mr. Tillam's reply, but as the church in Coleman-street, and several of the members of the church of Hexham withdrew soon after this, it is probable, that there might be some fault on the part of Mr. Tillam here. The captious rancour, however, with which he was pursued, is most distressing to reflect on.
In the month of September, this year, Mr. Tillam and his friends were highly gratified by the kindly attentions of certain individuals in high quarters, to one of the members of the church at Hexham. This person was a poor female named Elizabeth Heslop. She was the twentieth female baptized by Mr. Tillam, was unmarried, and appears to have been employed in servitude. In the records of the church, there is a letter of recommendation preserved, relative to her uniting with any Baptist church she might happen to visit, while in pursuit of her employment. This letter is dated llth 7 month (September) 1654.
A letter bearing date the same month, and the same year, we find addressed to Sir Thomas Liddell. This letter has for its object, the expression of the gratitude of the church, for the kindness of Sir Thomas and his Lady to this poor female. She appears to have become the subject of deep affliction soon after she had left the neighbourhood of Hexham, and had been most kindly attended to in the depth of her distress, at Ravensworth. Castle. The following is an extract from this letter.
"From ye church of Christ assembled at Hexham, Mon. 7th, 1654.
FOR THE RIGHT WORSHIPFULL SIR THOMAS LIDDELL.
The many and sweet experiences wch this poore despised church hath had of your and your pretious Ladie's* favours, have solemnly engaged us to honour you, and we looke upon it as a duty incumbent upon us, to acquaint you that you have a large interest in our hearts, and a choice room in our prayers. It hath heene many times as marrow and fatnesse to our spirits, when wee have heard of yr love wch you beare to ye meanest yt heare anything of ye image of ye Lord Jesus. But, Oh! what consolation was it to us when wee heard of yr bowels, and tender affection, towards our dearly beloved, but now (alas) sadly afflicted sister, Elizabeth Heslopp. In this day of her deepe distresse. In our greatest sadnesse for our sister, was even as life from the dead, to heare of those yearnings of bowels wch yr ever to be honoured Lady had concerning her, her many thoughts of heart for her ---- her sympathizing wth her ---- her care and endeavour how to bring her back and your receiving into yr house and respects, a poore afflicted member of Jesus Christ this is such an eminent act of yr goodnesse, yt it hath even overcome our hearts, and all our thanks are below it. Only, this confidence wee have in or King (whose wee are and whome wee serve) that hee will not suffer goodnesse to goe unrewarded. If but a single cup of cold water, given to one yt belongs to Christ, hath yerily a reward, wee believe and doe assure ourselves yt ye good things ministered to our sister, in the day of or master his appearance, will be found to your praise and honour. Christ scores up yr favrs to her, upon his owne account. His answer in the day of his returne, Math, xxv. 40, will be a satisfactory requital. In the meantime, wee will not cease to make mention of you in our prayers, yt God would comfort yr hearts, even in ye like measure, as she and wee have been consolated in yr loves. That hee would shew mercy to you, in the houre wherein you shall stand most need of it. That
* Lady Liddell was the daughter of the distinguished Sir Henry Vane, a man remarkable equally for his piety and his statesman like ability. This may account in some measure for the attentions of a Cavalier family to a poor Baptist female, and also the communications between them and Mr. Tilliam.
hee would reveal, whtsoever of his counsell and will are wanting in you. That he would water with ye dews of his grace the sweet pledges of yr loves; those olive branches that are planted about yr table. That he would recompense yr loves sevenfold into ye bosom here, and fitt and prepare you for yt glory Wch wee wait for and presse after, in waies of his owne apoentment. To his embraces wee commend you, and take leave to subscribe ourselves,
Your thankfull servants for Xt.'s sake,John Thirlwell, John Joblin, Tho. Tillam, Henry Angas, Hugh Heslop, St. Anderton. John Johnson, Rich. Orde
1655. However much the mind of Mr. Tillam, and the minds of the members of the church at Hexham, might be consoled, by the pleasing incident alluded to in the above letter, their joy was not of long continuance. The year 1654 had scarcely passed away, and 1655 had scarcely begun to dawn, than their troubles, arising from the external opposition of the church at Newcastle, and the internal dissensions that prevailed among themselves, rose to a greater height than at any previous time[.] This circumstance is alluded to, in the following note, in the Hexham church-book: "Greate storms and commotions by Mr. Gower, more then ever, so farre prevailing with the church in Coleman-street, as to a disowning of Mr. Tilliam, and all that are in the practice of laying on of hands." Also, "Mr. Anderton first endeavoured a schisme about imposition of hands, but failing therein, he opened his mouth in blasphemy against Mr. Tillam's doctrine, and plunged himself into other grosse evils, for which he was, by the elders, with joynt approbation of the church, delivered unto Satan, with Tho. Ogle."
It would appear, then, that imposition of hands was one of the twelve charges that Mr. Gower had against Mr. Tillam, and probably the principal of them. This imposition of hands was attended to, on the baptism of
individuals, on the blessing of young children, and when ministers and deacons were ordained; as also on the departure of ministers visiting a church. This is what is alluded to in the Hexhain church-book, as the fourth principle, in reference to the six principles, referred to by the Apostle in Hebrews vi. 1, 2. Those who were baptised and admitted to the communion of the church, are said to have been so under the fourth principle.
The whole charges seem very frivolous, and surely not such, on the principle of the law of love, as to require any church to be disowned as a sister church in the Lord Jesus. It is true, indeed, our Lord never intended it to be an ordinance in his church, that his ministers should like him, take little children up in their arms to bless them; but there can be no harm, surely, in praying for them, and telling parents their duty respecting them. So likewise, a Baptist minister may hear a Paedobaptist minister preach and pray, and even commune with him at the Lord's Supper, without dishonouring the Christian name. Without incurring the censure of others, he may, also, in obedience to the appointment of the Lord, live of the gospel he preaches to others. We are not prepared to defend the conduct of Mr. Tillam in the case of Major Hobson; but all the circumstances are not before us; and the bitter manner in which he was treated on other matters, makes us cautious of our condemnation of him in this.
Such, then, were some of the charges brought by Mr. Gower against Mr. Tillam, and on account of holding such matters as these, he regards both him and the chnrch at Hexham as having come out of Babylon only ly halves. Such a spirit as this does much more to injure Christianity, by lessening its holy dignity before the world, than all the sneers, ridicule, or arguments ever used by infidels against it.
The result of the whole was, what might have been
easily predicted, Mr. Tillam feeling himself unhappy in the church, gave up his ministry among them. He left Hexham in the year 1656. He is said to have afterwards gone to Germany, where, as a heliever in the personal reign of the Saviour on earth, at the time of the millenium, he expected that reign to commence. It is also said, he died in Germany, but in what part we are not told. It is not improbable that he was connected, ultimately, with some of the churches of the Mennonites.
That the leaving of Mr. Tillam must have been a very painful matter to him, will appear from the perusal of part of a letter which appears to have been written, during his journey to London and other places in the South of England, early in 1654.
"O my beloved brethren, my sons, my daughters in Christ, my owne children in the faith, I cannot tell you how well I lova you. Does not every artist love, prize, and praise his own workmanship? It is the joy of my soul that yee, even yee, are my workmanship in ye Lord, for I have begotten you through the gospel either from prophaneness to hollinesse, or, at least, from error to order. And now the God of order stablish you yt you may be found compleat in all the will of God; delivered from the confused noise of many waters, in the obscure parts of your present abode, which obstruct that sweet silver single stream the still and soft voice of the gospel that makes glad the city of God, and will, assuredly, lead and conduct your precious souls through tha gate into the city." * * * * *
The remainining part of this letter lias been already inserted, page 57.
Mr. Tiilam was an author. He wrote a treatise on the Sabbath, and another on the Millenium. He also published the confession of the False Jew, and the account of his Baptism; and, in reply to the publication of the ministers of Newcastle respecting the pretended Rabbi, he wrote a small tract with a view to vindicate
the matter as far as practicable. The writer has seen these works, but they are now rarely to be met with.
As to Mr. Tillam's character, it is evident that he was a man of piety and energy. His education appears to have been respectable. His hand-writing is beautiful; and his spelling and grammatical construction, for his time, are good. He seems to have been a very affectionate man, as the spirit of holy love, as well as sacred energy, seems to breath in all his letters and doings. Like most good men, however, his virtues were not full-orbed. Perhaps his prudence was not so conspicuous as some other parts of his character. His conduct in the case of Ramsay, the pretended Jew, evinces this[.] Perhaps it was his warm-heartedness, mingled with a portion of indiscretion, that may have exposed him to the stinging reproofs, numerous accusations, and unrelenting rigour of Mr. Gower. Taking him, however, all in all, the impression on the mind, arising from the perusal of his history, is favourable. From his coming from London to the North of England, in the end of the year 1651, to the end of the year 1655, his career at Hexham and the vicinity appears to have been eminently useful; and, but for the infirmities of human nature in himself, and other Christian brethren, and especially one, his course might have been much longer, and perhaps, on the whole, equally brilliant with what it had been.
As to Mr. Gower, we can affirm but little respecting him. In the archives of the church at Hexham we have several letters from the church at Newcastle, which probably were of his dictation, though they appear to have been transcribed by Mr. Tillam. He was, it is probable, from his situation, Mr. Tillam's equal, if not superior, in point of talent. He, evidently, from his letters, possessed logical power; but we should have respected his character more, had he not been so rigid
in his views, and had he discovered less asperity to a ministerial brother, who, whatever were his foibles, was at least a pious Christian, a zealous minister, and an affectionate, though an imperfect man. Still we cannot but respect the memory of Mr. Gower, as having laid the foundation of the Baptist cause in Newcastle; and if we had more data, we should, probably, have drawn a still more favourable opinion of his ministerial capabilities, his Christian character, and his friendly qualities.
In bringing to a close, this first period of our history of the Baptists of the North of England, we regret that our facts are so scanty, especially with regard to Broughton and Newcastle. The difficiency, however, is in some degree supplied by the notes of Mr. Larkham, and particularly by those of Mr. Tillam, and the letters of the different churches and individuals, which he so carefully preserved. Let us be grateful for what God has wrought in former days, in a part of the world, in which we are so much interested. Let us, for our own sakes, and the sake of our families, preserve from oblivion the knowledge of that working, and see that we and they apply that knowledge to the cultivation of our hearts, the holiness of our lives, and the manifestation of our united energies, to preserve, invigorate, and extend the same sacred cause
[End of First Period]
[This document on microfilm is available here.]
[From David Douglas, History of the Baptist Churches in the North of England, From 1648 to 1845, London, 1846, chapter 4, pp. 44-69. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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