THE Baptists have been very careful, in all their Confessions, to define the character of those who constitute a Christian church. Smyth says, "The outward and visible church consists of regenerated and believing men, as much as men can judge thereof, who bring forth fruits worthy of amendment of life, although hypocrites and feigners are often hidden among the repenting" (Article lxvii). The Confession of the Seven Churches says: "Jesus Christ hath here on earth a spiritual kingdom, which is His church, whom He hath purchased and redeemed unto Himself as a peculiar inheritance; which church is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world by the Word and Spirit of God, to the visible profession of the faith of the Gospel, being baptized unto that faith, and joined to the Lord and to each other by mutual agreement in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances commanded by Christ their head and King." Other and later Confessions agree in the main with both. But as "a holy and sanctified people," acknowledging Jesus Christ as their sole governor and king, they also regarded themselves as entrusted with the power of admonishing the disorderly, or cutting off those who should "offend." The Confessions of both sections of the Baptists are equally explicit on this point. The Confession of the Seven Churches declares: "Christ hath given power to His church to receive in and cast out any member that
deserves it; and this power is given to every congregation, and not to one particular person, either member or officer, but in relation to the whole body, in reference to their faith and fellowship; that every particular member of each church, how excellent, great, or learned soever, is subject to this censure and judgment: and that the church ought not, without great care and tenderness, and due advice, but by the rule of faith, to proceed against her members " (Articles xlii. and xliii). More briefly the Confession presented by the General Baptists to Charles the Second, states: " that the true church of Christ ought, after the first and second admonition, to reject heretics; and, in the name of the Lord, to withdraw from all such as profess the way of the Lord, but walk disorderly in their conversations, or in any wise cause divisions or offences, contrary to the doctrine of Christ which they had learned."
This indicates the general basis on which the discipline was founded. But the discipline itself dealt with many other things besides the exclusion of unworthy members. There was a degree of oversight of the whole members, which appears little less than inquisitorial. The muster-roll of the members was called over on certain days, with almost military strictness, as if they were an army campaigning. And so, in a spiritual sense, they deemed themselves. In the Maze Pond church, and doubtless many others in the Seventeenth Century, it was customary, before the administration of the Lord's Supper, to read over the church register, each communicant answering to his name. Absentees were visited, and, if no satisfactory account were given, they were reproved. One day, fourteen were absent, and the messengers who visited them reported that certain of them were absent " under some inward discomposures," that one had to go into the country, and that others had " differences with a member of the church," which were now in the course of being removed. The Fenstanton church also adopted this rule: "If any members of the congregation shall absent themselves from the assembly
of the same congregation upon the first day of the week, without manifesting a sufficient cause, they shall be looked upon as offenders, and be proceeded against accordingly." The Broadmead church "had all the members names engrossed in parchment, that they might be called over always at breaking bread, to see who did omit their duty." "For the prevention of jealousy," another church decrees that absent members were to "certify beforehand when any occasion hindered them from coming to the assembly." Even wives who might be "kept back by the threatenings of their husbands," were not excused, "unless they were restrained by force."
But while the men who were of "the Particular way" showed a commendable desire to preserve the purity of their several churches, the men of "the General way" carried their discipline to a degree of strictness which will now be hardly credited. The power to exercise this discipline was claimed by the whole church as such. "Mind well," says William Jeffery, "the power to judge of differences, and to deal with members, lies in the body, the church; not in the officers distinct, or apart from, the, church." "It is of necessity," says Grantham, "that the church of God hath power, and a holy way allowed of God, to purge herself from evil workers." They were, therefore, anxious that as many of the members of the church as possible should be present at their "meetings for discipline;" and a neglect of them, except for very urgent reasons, was deemed worthy of censure. The church at Canterbury, for example, agreed in 1668, "that in case any member neglect such meetings as are appointed for discipline, they shall send the cause by some member that day, or otherwise declare it themselves the next first day, and upon the failure of this, the person shall be reprovable."
Strictness of Discipline. The oversight of the several members was minute and persistent. Their general conduct, their domestic life, their business,
their connections in civil society, their recreations, and even their dress, were all deemed legitimate subjects for the strictest supervision. As it was impossible for one minister to undertake any effectual superintendence of large societies, "the General men" discouraged, in the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, the formation of large churches. "A church ought not to consist of such a multitude," says one of their earliest teachers, " as cannot have particular knowledge of one another." The difficulty of supervision was met, partly by the plurality of elders or ministers, and partly, when the societies were large, by subdividing the church-members into districts, and appointing to each a separate overseer. Sometimes the deacons undertook the work of superintendence, assisted by some experienced member of the church. At others, a number of district officers were chosen, under the general title of "helps in government." Their duties were denned as "taking particular care of each member in their respective divisions, of their conversation and carriage; taking also a strict note of what disorders may arise, and bringing them regularly before the monthly church-meetings." The "meetings for discipline" were held monthly, quarterly, or yearly, as the churches might severally determine.
The Broadmead church appointed a monthly meeting of the brethren only, to consider of persons or things amiss in the congregation, and so appointed the first sixth day of the week, or Friday, that should happen in any month; and afterwards it was altered to the first second day of the month.
Besides this formal oversight, by officers appointed for the purpose, each particular member was expected to report, at the earliest opportunity, any breach of good conduct on the part of another member, and any omission of this duty, or even delay in its execution, was declared to be "suffering sin in his brother, as obstructing his recovery, and bringing the church into communion with the sinner." To prevent, however, a frivolous or malicious use of this individual duty, the accuser
was expected to state the case in writing, to sign his name to the accusation, and to hand a copy of the charge itself to the person accused. Some of these accusations are laconic enough. We give a single illustration, a literal copy of what was presented to the Baptist church, Dockhead, shortly after the Rev. Richard Adams removed from that church to become minister of Devonshire-square:
"Sir,I accuse Mrs. S of swearing and lying, and backbiting and ingratitude. "Dec. 11, 1704."
In this case, however, the accuser, according to the law of every Baptist church, must already have twice admonished Mrs. S; and on her refusal to hear the second admonition, "Eliza W "was expected to bring the matter before the church. There are but very few cases on record of personal offences being brought thus prominently forward; but in this instance Mrs. Shad been guilty, not only of "sinning against" her sister, but "against the Lord." "Sins which are committed directly against the Lord," says Grantham, "as idolatry, murder, whoredom, theft, drunkenness, covetousness, swearing, &c., . . . are to be punished with great severity, and the church ought speedily to censure such evil-doers, as unfit for Christian society, until reformed of such impieties."
Special meetings were held immediately for dealing with any notorious and scandalous cases. If the charges were proved, the offender was excluded from the society. The "ordinance of excommunication" was always regarded as one of solemn and impressive character. The elder, "by the authority of the church, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, delivered the offender to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord." When the offender was present, this sentence was pronounced in the face of the whole assembly, was accompanied with fervent prayer to God for the offender's recovery, and with earnest and affectionate expostulations to the person excommunicated. If he
refused to attend at the summons of the church, he was visited by the elders, or messengers specially appointed, and the sentence was then pronounced over him privately, with suitable counsels and admonitions. The records of some churches show that the offender, well knowing what was in store, often kept out of the way for months together, in the vain hope that he should be forgotten.
Here is an entry from a church book: "On the eight-and-twentieth day of the first month (1653), Edmond Maile and John Denne met with John Martin, formerly of Hemingford, but now of Ely, who had been formerly admonished and reproved according to the rules of Scripture, but yet remaining perverse and obstinate, and we desired that we might speak with him, which he refused, and offered to go away, whereupon we desired him to stay; and he staying, we spake unto him, saying: 'You have a long time absented yourself from the congregation, denying the ordinances of God, for which you have been formerly admonished, but have not given us any satisfactory answer, but tell us that we have not God.' Here he interrupted us, saying, 'I say yet that ye have not God,' and then he went away. Whereupon we follow him, desiring to speak with him; but he said he had nothing to say to us; and offered to go away. Then we said, 'What! are you afraid to encounter with the truth? 'The truth,' said he, 'I know none ye have;' and so he went away, whereupon we concluded, considering his former answers to our admonitions, to go after him again, and to excommunicate him; and, accordingly we went after him, and speaking with him, did excommunicate him, for these ensuing reasons, namely: first, for forsaking the assembly of the saints; secondly, for slighting and despising the ordinances of God; thirdly, for despising and contemning the reproof and admonition of the church."
The church did not consider that its duty was ended, when this formal excommunication had taken place. Certain brethren, mostly the "messengers " who delivered the sentence
of excommunication, were appointed from time to time to search him out, and exhort him to repent and do his first works. "It is a great question," says Grantham, " how long a person under excommunication may be admonished as a brother. It may be answered: So long as he is not debauched in life, and there is any hope of his recovery; for sith [since] this ordinance is for the saving of the soul, we are not to be impatient, but still as we may, call upon the sinner to remember from whence he has fallen, and to repent, and to pray for his return." These visits were often repeated, until hardened or undisguised profligacy rendered the case hopeless, or death removed the unhappy offender out of the reach of the good offices of the messengers.
Some sections of the Baptists thought the church had a power of inflicting a higher kind of excommunication, which entirely cut off the offender from all possibility of reconciliation, expressed by the misread words of the Apostle, Anathama Maranatha. But though they claimed this power, yet they esteemed it dangerous for any society to attempt to exercise it. The Orthodox Creed, in its thirty-fourth article declares, after referring to "the personal and private trespasses between party and party," "but, in case there be any wicked, public, and scandalous sinners, or obstinate heretics, then the church ought speedily to convene her members, and labour to convict them of their sin and heresy, and schism, and profaneness, whatsoever it be; and after such regular suspension and due admonition, if such sinners repent not, that then, for the honour of God, and preserving the credit of religion, and in order to save the sinner's soul, and good of the church, in obedience to God's law to proceed and excommunicate the sinner, by a judicial sentence, in the name of Christ and His Church, tendering an admonition of repentance to him, with gravity, love, and authority; and all this without hypocrisy, and partiality, praying for the sinner, that his soul may be saved in the day of the Lord; and under this second
degree of withdrawing, or excommunication, to account him as a heathen or publican, that he may be ashamed. But upon the third, and highest act of excommunication, it being a most dreadful thunderclap of God's judgment, it is most difficult for any church now to proceed in, it being difficult to know when any man hath sinned the unpardonable sin, and so to incur total cutting off from the Church."
In addition to the excommunication of the offender before the assembled church, or privately by messengers, it was deemed necessary, to vindicate the honour of religion, that the separation of the offender from the congregation should be openly announced to the world. This was done sometimes during the next ensuing public services of the church; but in offences of a private nature, the excommunication was stated to the church members alone, and generally at the time of holding the Lord's Supper.
The Treatment of Heretics. Heretics were treated in the same manner. They were first privately admonished; and on refusing to take note of the first admonition, were summoned to answer the charges made against them before the assembled church. Here they were allowed to defend themselves. In 1678, for example, a minister of the church at Shad Thames was accused of preaching heresy. He was "desired to come before the congregation, and vindicate his doctrine, and to be reclaimed from so great an error." The minister obeyed, and after a full investigation, was acquitted. The person who brought the charge was treated as "a false accuser," and "ordered to make satisfaction." In the year 1696, one of the nine persons appointed as the treasurers of the fund by the first Particular Baptist General Assembly, was expelled from the church at Petty France, London, for heresy. The record of this expulsion was as follows: "Mr. Robert Bristow was rejected and cast out of the communion, after much patience exercised
towards him, and strenuous endeavours used to recover him out of dangerous errors he was fallen into; namely, the renunciation of the doctrine of the Trinity, and particularly the deity of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, and so rooting up the very foundation of the Christian religion."
The General Assembly of the General Baptists had, again and again, to admonish men who, during the close of the Seventeenth Century, were beginning to preach Socinianism. In 1692, they say, "Upon the complaint made from the brethren meeting in and about Shrewsbury of persons teaching and maintaining doctrines contrary to the Articles of Faith, the Assembly have agreed that a letter should be sent to our brother Brown, and the rest of our brethren here, and also our brother, touching the same." This letter declares their advice to be " that they call in the assistance of the sister churches of their parts, and take such method to reclaim " these persons " as shall be judged most necessary."*
The common "heresies" for which many were cut off from the General Baptist churches in the Seventeenth Century, were Quakerism, Calvinism, and Rantism. In Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire especially, the Quakers gave the Baptist churches perpetual trouble. In the records of one church, the ever-recurring reason for excommunication is this:"For slighting and despising all the ordinances of the Lord; saying, that they would not be in such bondage as to observe such low and carnal things." "For utterly denying preaching, baptisms, meetings, breaking of bread, &c." "For denying the Scriptures and the ordinances of God, and for affirming that the doctrine preached and received was not the doctrine of Christ, but the doctrine of the devil." Mr. John Denne and his companion were thus greeted by Thomas Ross, at Chatteris, when they went "to admonish him a second time:""Baptism we disown; preaching we disown; we disown you all, with the ordinances which you practice!" In some cases, the larger
* MS. Proceedings of the Assembly.
part of the village churches went bodily over from the General Baptists to the Quakers.
Occasionally, when admonishing or excommunicating the members of the church who had embraced the Quaker views, the Baptist messengers came into collision with the Quaker preachers. John Ray, for instance, tells us that in 1655, he went to Littleport "to degrade and excommunicate those two apostates, Samuel and Ezekiel Cater," who were "persons of eminence in the church" elders, in fact; and after he had done this, he "went to the common meeting place of the town,"* "declared publicly for what purpose he had come," "preached Jesus, both in His person and ordinances," vindicating them "from those wicked whimsies and nonsensical interpretations which the Quakers put upon them," and that "when he had done, one of the Quakers did rail on him in such a foolish, rude, and frothy manner, that he turned away without answering thereto, lest he should be like him. At which, all the Quakers boasted and derided; yet all sober and good people approved it."
The Hexham church, in a letter sent on "1st day, 1st month, 1653," to the church in Coleman Street, London, "with our reverend brethren, Mr. Hanserd Knollys and Mr. John Perry," thus writes: "We are a people brought forth in these parts of the land where iniquity doth most abound, and many deceivers are risen up; yea, even swarms in these northern parts, especially of those called Quakers, whose pernicious ways many do follow; a generation whose main design is to shatter the churches of the saints, by stealing away the tender lambs out of the fold of the Lord Jesus; crying down the Scriptures, those sacred oracles of truth, as a dead letter, and crying up the lights within, as they call it; making great shows of self-denial in a voluntary humility, and of neglecting the body, which are very taking with the weak ones; all for a
* That is, the parish church; sometimes called " The Stone House;" and by others, after George Fox, "The Steeple House."
Christ within, nothing for a Christ without." In the following year Thomas Tillam tells the church at Leominster, in another letter, that while they at Hexham are " not any of them tainted with that Arminian poison that hath so sadly infected other baptized churches, those deceived souls, called Quakers, have been very active in these parts, and have seduced two of our society, and six of the Newcastle church." It is evident from this statement that the Calvinistic Baptist churches were as much afraid of Arminianism as the General Baptist churches were of Calvinism, and that they both suffered from the teachings of the disciples of George Fox.
The Broadmead Records give this quaint account of the spread of Quakerism in the time of the Civil War, and the defection of one of their number: "Sathan deceived many profane people to embrace their upstart notions of Quakerisme, under a pretence of a great degree of holinesse, by hearkening to ye light within, which they called Christ (laying aside ye manhood of our blessed Redeemer); whereas that light is but ye light of nature, which in common is planted in all mankinde ye same with that ye Indians and ye Blackamores have, and ye remotest Indians, which know not Christ, nor ever heard of him; and they omit ye light of ye Word of ye Lord, and ye light of God's Spirit, proceeding from ye Father, by ye Word, or Holy Scriptures. Thus smoake out of ye bottomless pit arose, and ye locust doctrine came forth, as it is written (Rev. chap. ix:2, 3, 4). At this time Dennis Hollister, a grocer in High Street, being a member of this church, the meeting for Conference on ye fifth day of ye week was usually at his house. And he was naturally a man of an high spirit, Dyotrephes-like loved to have ye pre-eminence in ye church; and at that time had great influence upon ye magistrates of ye citty, and by them was chosen to be a Paslia-ment man for ye City of Bristol; that is, one of them called by ye Little Parliament, in ye days of Oliver Cromwell, called Lord Protector, where as God alone was the Protector of His
people (but we sinned). On this occasion Hollister, staying in London, had sucked in some principles of this upstart locust doctrine, from a sorte of people afterwards called Quakers; that when that Parliament was dissolved by Oliver, Dennis came home from London with his heart full of discontent, and his head full of poisonous new notions (as was discerned by some of ye members of ye church). And he began to vent himseife; and at one meeting of the church, after he came down, he did blasphemously say, 'Ye Bible was ye plague of England.' From that time ye church would meet noe more at his house."
In the year 1657 the same church tells us that it was still "conflicting with this new, upstart error of Quakerisme, began (no doubt) by Sathan, and carried on by his instruments, Popish seminaries, Jesuits, and some apostate professors, that had not received the truth in the love of it, and by some ignorant, bewitched, and deluded people, that knew not whereof they affirmed. And such Quakers many times would come into our meetings on ye Lord's-day, in ye open publique places, called churches, which we had then the liberty to be in, during all ye time of Oliver's reign, and in ye midst of ye minister's sermon, they would, with a loud voice, cry out against them, calling them hirelings and deceivers, and they would say to ye people, that they must turn to ye light within, their teacher, and that was Christ within. Thus, with many other railing and judging and condemning words they would frequently trouble us, (shaking, trembling, and quaking, like persons in a fit of ague), while they spake with a screaming voice, and would not cease until they were carried forth of ye place, pretending they were moved by ye Spirit to come and warn us. Thus Sathan transformed himself like an angel of light, and strove against ye true followers of Christ."+
That any of their church members should hesitate or refuse
* Broadmead Records (Rev. N. Haycroft), pp. 36, 37.
+ Ibid., pp. 47, 48.
to confess that Christ died for all men, was regarded by the General Baptist churches as "denying the faith," and was deemed a sufficient ground for exclusion. Their baptism also was pronounced invalid, if they held Calvinistic views, as Luke Howard points out in the passage quoted from him in an earlier part of this book. "Widow Wiggs, of Dunton, in the county of Bedford," was, according to the Records of the Fenstanton Church, first reproved for this, among other things, by John Denne; she was next desired "to come over to the following General Meeting at Caxton Pastures, on the third day of the fifth month (1653), to speak before the congregation. After the pros and cons were heard, "Widow Wiggs" was informed "that, seeing she would not be otherwise minded, the Church could not have any fellowship or communion with her." The same Records also tell us of one John Matthews, "a person of some eminency," who had been to Ireland since he had left Huntingdonshire, and had preached there, "having altered his judgment," was "reproved for his sin," and "exhorted to consider from whence he had fallen, and repent and turn to the Lord." "The things affirmed by" Matthews were: "that Christ died only for the elect, even such as either do, or shall believe on Him; that God hath, from the beginning chosen a certain number of persons to Himself, to which persons He cometh with such a compulsive power, that they cannot resist; and that God hath, from the beginning, pre-ordained a certain number of persons to condemnation, from which persons he withholdeth all manner of power, so that there is no any possibility of their belieivng." Three several times Matthew was "reproved," but without effect. He was next summoned before "the assembly of the congregation;" but here he still resisted reproof: "Whereupon we, knowing how he denied the faith which formerly he professed, and also laboured to the utmost of his power to destroy it in all places; and likewise despised and contemned all our words of reproof and admonition, and finding no hope of
recovery, but a stubborn persisting in his evil, we deliver him under Satan."
Still later than this, that is, in 1696, this question was proposed to the General Assembly: "Whether an elder, leaving a church without their consent only for changing his opinion from the General love of God to the Particular, be irregular and worthy of blame: it was agreed in the affirmative; and that such elder may not be allowed to preach among us before he acknowledge his evil, and give satisfaction; and we advise such elders do turn to the church." *
Rantism was another source of trouble to the Baptist churches at this period. One of the victims of this singular rhapsody, a certain Mrs. Austin, of Dunton, stoutly contended with the messengers who were sent to reprove her. "She looked upon the Scriptures as nothing; she trampled them under her feet. We," -- that is, John Denne and "Brother Gilman," -- "said we were very sorry to hear her despise and speak evil of the Holy Scriptures; and desired her to take heed what she said. She answered, 'I believe you are sorry; but I glory in your trouble, being wrapt up in God;' and then much did she speak of the excellency of her condition. We told her she was deceived, for she was only deluded by the devil, and separated herself from God. She then said, 'I had as lieve be with the devil as with God Himself; and I trample faith under my feet.' Being almost amazed to hear her, we said she was one of them the Scriptures speak of which do trample under foot the Son of God -- (here she interrupted, and said, 'I do so,') -- and count the blood of the covenant wherewith they are sanctified, an unholy thing. She asked what we meant by 'the blood of the covenant?' We said, 'The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.' She said, 'What, He that died upon the cross at Jerusalem ?' He is nothing to me. I do not care for Him!' Then, being weary with hearing her utter these, and many other wicked
* MS. Proceedings of the Assembly. Vol. i. p. l0.
and blasphemous speeches against .the Lord God and His Son Jesus Christ, His Church, and the Holy Scriptures, we excommunicated her; and in pronouncing the sentence, we used these words: 'In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do separate you from the Church of God, delivering you unto Satan, to whom you have yielded yourself a servant to obey.' She replied, and said, 'I rejoice to be with the devil; I had rather be with him than with you.' Then we said, 'To him we leave you with whom ye rejoice to be.' And so we departed from her."*
Samuel Fisher says, in his Baby Baptism mere Babyism (1653), that "Some Ranters are not ashamed to say they are Christ and God; and there is no other God than they, and what's in them; and such like blasphemies." Christ's coming is none other than "His coming into men by His Spirit, or in such manifestations in men's hearts, that they may be able to live up with Him in Spirit so as no more to need such lower helps from outward administrations." But the opinions of these Seventeenth Century Ranters, so unlike the men who are now vulgarly designated by that term, are more fully to be gathered from the account given by Mr. H. Jessy, of one who, after falling from " the simplicity that is in Christ, and adopting the fullest opinions of the Ranters, repented of his errors, confesses his faults before the assembled church at Devonshire Square, over which William Kiffin was pastor, and was thereupon restored. "Truly, my friends," said this person, in his open recantation, "I cannot but speak it with much grief of spirit; I have been held by that deceiver Satan presenting lies to my spirit, under the pretence of glorious truths. And the first thing he wrought in me was an exceeding slight esteem of the Scripture, so that the best thoughts and expressions I used of the Scripture was, calling it a letter or ink and paper. And a second thing was, a Christ in me, in opposition to the Christ of God; persuading me, that to know Christ as He was declared
* Fenstanton Records, pp. 90, 91.
in the Scriptures, was to know Him after the flesh; so that indeed I was brought to deny any Christ at all, and did not believe that there was either angel or spirit, only was convinced by things that do appear, that there was a God; and that all His creatures received of this power and spirit, which was their life; and as man was the most excellent creature, so there is more of that spirit manifested in him than in any other creature. And when his life was taken from him, I did believe he should return to the matter of which he was made, and should neither enjoy happiness nor misery, but perish as the brutes of the earth."
John Denne and Brother Gilman, as "Messengers to divulge the Gospel of Jesus Christ," visited, among other places, Newport, in Essex, and at once sought the house of one Fordham, a tanner. They were not long before (despite his hospitable welcome) they found him largely tainted with Rantism, in its most pernicious form. "All that proceedeth from God is God," said this Essex tanner. "He also affirmed that God was darkness to some men; that Christ was all in all, and therefore there was nothing but Christ; that men were carried on to sin by the power of God." The messengers declare that he affirmed these things without any proof; " but in dealing with the last statement, they asked Fordham "Whether or no it were a sin if a man should steal his horse?" His answer is ingenious, to say the least of it. " If he took it, believing that he had a right unto him equal with himself, it was no sin; but if he did not believe he had a right unto him, then it was sin." More talk ensued; and though it was now dark and late, they whispered with one another aside as to "whether it were safe to abide in the house all night" with such a heretic. He pressed his hospitalities upon them, and hoped they would not be angry with him for his opinions; but they "departed, and went up and down the town to find a lodging in the night, which at last God provided for us," thus doing as tradition makes the Apostle John to have done, only in a slower fashion, when he
found Cerinthus, the arch heretic, was under the same roof. It is not recorded whether the Essex tanner was excommunicated at that time; but the messengers departed from Newport itself, saying, "We cannot perceive but that all fear of God, for aught we can hear, is extinct in this place." Mr. Denne was afterwards greatly needed at Canterbury.. and the neighbourhood, because vain talkers, and deceivers of mind, especially they called Ranters," were beginning to give trouble to the church. He had "snatched some of them as firebrands" out of the fire in other places; and he might be the means of doing the same there also. The church at Caxton Pastures was therefore desired to send him "to stay with them as long as the Lord shall please, there being very great need of him."
Wesleyanism. Little less than a hundred years after this period, another form of "heresy" was troubling some of the Calvinistic Baptist churches. In September, 1742, messengers were appointed by the Broadmead church, Bristol, to visit three of their members, and "to reprove them for going frequently to hear John and Charles Wesley." They were asked "to learn by converse with them whether they had imbibed their (the Wesley's) corrupt notions." The messengers reported that the said members "had fallen into the error of general redemption, falling from grace, and sinless perfection in this life." They were therefore again deputed to tell them "that the church was very sorry to hear that they had imbibed such corrupt notions; to admonish them to read the Scriptures, and attend the preaching of the truth with us, and not where such principles were taught, that they might be brought to the knowledge of the truth; and that in the meantime we should not receive them into communion if they had confessed such principles; and that, as such notions are inconsistent with the honour that should be given to Christ at His own table, they should forbear coming to it till they were more careful of their walk, and
better principled." Again, in April, 1744, messengers were sent "to brother Davis and his wife, to inquire whether they did not receive the Lord's Supper from Mr. Wesley, as well as constantly attend his meetings."
Amusements. In illustration of the strict oversight, of the general conduct, domestic life, amusements, dress, &c., of the Baptist churches during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, some examples may be quoted. We begin with the ministers. A certain Mr. Ingello, one of the early pastors of Broadmead, Bristol, "offended" -- so we learn from the Records -- "divers members of his congregation with his flaunting apparel; for he being a thin, spare, slender person, did goe very neate, and in costly trimm, and began to exceed in some garments not becoming ye Gospel, much lesse a minister of Christ." Nor was this his only weakness. Some of his friends were "troubled and offended because of his being given so much to music, not only at his owne house, but at houses of entertainment out of the towne; sometimes with some of his relations, and gentry of ye citty of his acquaintance, he would be at his favourite recreation." "Dealeing with him" for both "by way of admonition and entreaty" failed "to work upon him to leave his musick," or, we suppose, to alter his dress. "Take away my music," said Mr.Ingello," and you take away my life." His reply "offended and troubled ye lively and most serious watchfull members," and their affections now "began to alienate from him, and to hearken after another." It was, doubtless, regarded as a justification of the suspicions cherished by "ye lively and most serious," that Mr. Ingello subsequently conformed, became a Doctor of Divinity, and Fellow of Eton College. He died in 1683, and was buried in the chapel of Eton College.
John Blowes, one of "the teachers in the congregation" at Eltisley, in 1658, had more muscular tastes than Mr. Ingello. Fobtball was apparently his special delight. On a day set apart
for fasting and prayer, and the election of a deacon, John Blowes, with a singular disregard to the claims of the church, and the fitness of things, not only absented himself from the meeting, but "was one of the principal appointers in a great football play." He had before this time given the church some trouble about money matters (borrowing and not willingly paying again), and Samuel Loveday, of London, had written doubtfully about him. "I fear," said Loveday, "he is not as he ought to be." The solemn meeting from which Blowes was absent, was but scantily attended, and the elders were discouraged. However, a deacon was duly elected, and set apart for his office; when Blowes' absence being noticed, Robert J:ackson explained the unseemly cause. "It was concluded a great evil" by the elders and brethren present, "that Blowes should not only be absent .from the meeting, but also instrumental in the appointing such a foolish and wicked matter, and that upon a day which he knew to be set apart by the church for fasting and prayer." John Denne was at once appointed to reprove him for his conduct, and to summon him to appear "at the next general meeting to give an account thereof." The general meeting was held "on the two-and-twentieth day of the sixth month" at Fenstanton. John Denne, at this meeting, first of all offered a few words of general exhortation, and then a general reproof to the brethren for their absence on the fast day. Blowes' case now came on. Denne said, Blowes "stood to justify his actions;" but he was then present to answer for himself. It was "adjudged a great evil," this football playing of Blowes, together with his absence from the meeting of the congregation; but even then Blowes still contended that no evil had been committed. The brethren at length convinced him that he had really been guilty of "great evil," extorted a confession from him of his sin, and a promise "to abstain from the like for the time to come." This did not end the subject. "Some debate was had about the matter," and the brethren resolved, "that seeing he had, first,
dishonoured the Lord; secondly, grieved the people of God; thirdly, given great occasion to the adversaries to speak reproachfully, he should not be suffered to preach, until further fruits meet for repentance did appear." Whether they "did appear" we are not told.
On the 9th of January, 1745, the Broadmead church formally declared "playing at cards to be sinful, and not to be allowed in any member of this church without censure." "The sisters," we are told, "concurred with the brethren." The General Assembly of the General Baptists in 1711 had these two questions put to it by the Lincolnshire churches: "Whether playing at cards, and earnestly contending for the same in Christian families, be a sufficient cause to deny such communion with the church to whom they belong? 2. Whether a pastor who contends for dancing and cockfighting, with many other vices, although being moderately used, be a sufficient cause for the church to deprive him of communion?" The answer given to the first question was, that if the card playing were "in opposition and in contempt of all Christian counsel and advice," it was "unbecoming; " that the card-playing was "unlawful for such as profess the Gospel of Christ, and unfits for communion." The second question was thus answered: "That for a minister of Christ to countenance, encourage, or contend for such vices, do disqualify him for the ministerial office and church communion, until he shall appear of another mind, and give satisfaction to the church of which he is pastor."*
Dress. The love for "flaunting apparel" was evidently not confined to Mr. Ingello, for the question of dress frequently occupied the attention of "the serious, lively, and watchful," of other churches than that of Broadmead. In 1671 Grantham wrote, "The doctrine of our church about apparel is this: that
* MS. Proceedings of the General Assembly, vol. i., p. 41.
the adorning of Christians ought not to be that of plaiting the hair, wearing gold, and costly array, with rings and toys, as the humour of phantastick persons in city or country commonly leads them. But that instead thereof, moderation, modesty, and yet decency, according to the state and condition of persons respectively, should be observed on all sides, that so Christians might be examples to others, even in these matters. .And what, though some person or persons in the church be more than ordinary set against the vain fashions of our day [it was the 'day' when lace cuffs and collars were worn by men], and sometimes lets their zeal go too far, is this so offensive to our brethren that they can no way bear this without such a public reprehension? I fear, in so doing, they may have done the church some disservice than those whom they inveigh against. . . . What the Searchers should mean about these matters being made essentials of communion, I cannot imagine, unless they would have us suffer men to sin in these cases without being called upon to reform; and in case of obstinacy, to be withdrawn from the church, as disorderly persons, that they may learn to be ashamed (yet we mean not that they should be accounted as enemies, but admonished as brethren). And surely, if this be their meaning, that offenders in these cases must be let alone in their sins, we should in so doing loose the order, and in time, the essence of the churches. For, suppose now, a gallant of the times should desire to be baptized, and to walk in communion with the Searchers, only he tells them they must give him leave to marry out of the church, and allow him liberty to transgress the Apostolic decrees, in eating bread and things strangled, and meats offered to idols; and therewithal he may wear gold, and tread in the steps of the gallants in the matter of apparel, &c.; would the Searchers, now, admit such a person to their communion? If not, then they make these things as necessary for communion as we do."*
One of the questions put to the first General Assembly of
* A Sigh for Peace. By T. Grantham (London, 1671), pp. 102, 103.
the Particular Baptist Churches in 1689, was this: "Whether it were not necessary to take note of those excesses that were found in their members, men and women, with respect to their apparel?" The Assembly answered in the affirmative. This is their sober reply: "It is a shame for men to wear long hair, or long periwigs, and especially ministers (1 Cor. xi. 14), or strange apparel (Zeph. i. 8). That the Lord reproves the daughters of Zion for their bravery, haughtiness, and pride of their attire, walking with stretched-out necks, wanton eyes, mincing as they go (Isa. iii. 16), as if they affected tallness, as one observes of their stretched-out necks; though some in these times seem, by their high dresses, to out-do them in that respect. The Apostle Paul exhorts, in 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10, 'That women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but with good works, as becometh women professing godliness.' And 1 Pet. iii. 3, 4, 5, 'Whose adorning, let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God of great price. For after this (fashion, or) manner, in old time, the holy women, who trusted in God, adorned themselves.' And therefore we cannot but bewail it, with much sorrow of heart, that those brethren and sisters, who have solemnly professed to deny themselves (Matt. xvi. 24), and who are by profession obliged in duty not to conform themselves to this world (Rom. xii. 2), should so much conform to the fashions of this world, and not reform themselves in those inclinations that their natures addicted them to in the days of ignorance (1 Pet. i. 14). From these considerations we earnestly desire that men and women whose souls are committed to their charge, may be watched over in this matter, and that care be taken, and all just and due means used, for a reformation herein; and that such who are guilty of this crying sin of pride, that abounds in the churches as well as in the nation, may be
reproved; especially considering what time and treasure are foolishly wasted in adorning the body, which would be better spent in a careful endeavour to adorn the soul; and the charge laid out upon those superfluities to relieve the necessities of the poor saints, and to promote the interest of Jesus Christ. And though we deny not but in some cases ornaments may be allowed, yet whatever ornaments in men or women are inconsistent with modesty, gravity, sobriety, and prove a scandal to religion, opening the mouths of the ungodly, ought to be cast off, being truly no ornaments to believers, but rather a defilement; and that those ministers and churches who do not endeavour after a reformation herein, are justly to be blamed."
Whatever effect was produced by this answer among the Particular Baptist Churches represented in their General Assembly, eight years after this the Assembly of the General Baptists declared, in answer to a letter from Colchester, concerning pride in men and women in wearing periwigs and high dresses, "that the ministers guilty therein be careful to reform themselves, and their families." * In the same year (1697), the church at Bessel's Green, belonging to the same community, solemnly resolved, "That all superfluity of apparel be laid aside, and that there be moderation in all things." That this resolution might be further strengthened it was also decided, "That superfluity in apparel be publicly preached down in the . congregation, and that fathers and mothers of families endeavour to suppress it." Another minute, in the same church book, twelve months later, shows how hard the society had found it to carry out the earlier resolutions: "Agreed: that the soul-condemning sin of pride be utterly extirpated and rooted out from among us, and that all discriminating characters thereof, to wit superfluity of apparel, &c., be utterly extinguished."
In 1726, the Circular Letter of the Midland Association earnestly exhorts the members of the several churches to use
* MS. Proceedings of the General Assembly of the General Baptist Churches in England from 1689 to 1728. Vol i., p. 12.
great plainness of dress. "Beware of cconforming to the world's vain customs and ridiculous fashions in your apparel, behaviour, and conduct." They are desired "to give some real light in a dark world; but it is suggested that the way to do it is not to conform to the world in the matter of dress.
Marrying out of Society. Great stress was laid by the early Baptists on what the Quakers call "marrying in the society." Occasionally the people saved their ministers the trouble of selecting a wife, by choosing one for him, as in the case of Mr. Hazzard, of Bristol. "The good people persuade Mrs. Kelly" to accept the hand of this promising young divine. She herself, in the quaint, puritanical language of the time is described as having been "like a hee-goat before ye flock," "keeping her grocer's shop open on Christmas-days, and sitting sewing in her shop in ye midst of ye citty, in ye face of ye sun, and in ye sight of all men, even in those very days of darknesse, when, as it were, all sorts of people had a reverence of that particular day above all others." She was "a gracious woman," "like a very Deborah," "even a mother in Israel," and the first woman in "the citty of Bristol that practised that truth of ye Lord (which was then hated and odious) separation." She, and others, "met to repeat sermon-notes, and keep prayer-days together," and in their buying and selling did speake very heavenly." Nay, she had even, when "ye parson of ye parish" had begun to talk ritualistically, as we should now say, asserting "that pictures and images might be used, openly, in ye presence of ye congregation, gone forth in ye midst of his sermon." A woman, plainly of some force of will and self-possession. Mr. Hazzard, it is satisfactory to know, "at his importunity," no less than that of the people's, afterwards won the hand of the grocer's widow" in ye High Street." She proved an excellent wife; and helped, with some others, and
her husband, to form tlte nucleus of what came to be afterward tlte Broadmead church.
In Marclt, 1778, a "breaclt of promise" case was brougltt before the descendants of the same people. "The church," says the minute on the subject, "being informed that brother Jos. Bird, sen., having courted and engaged to marry our sister, Elizabeth Bissick, and appointed the day for the marriage, and promised to call on her at her mother's at ten o'clock, without any just cause or reason, altered his mind, and did not fulfill his engagement, and exposed himself to censure, and put her to unnecessary charge in preparing for it, and took her out of a good place;" (she was a domestic servant) the church appointed brethren Harris, Bull, and Page, to hear tlte case from him, and "to recommend his making such satisfaction as they judged equitable; and if he refused to dd what appeared to be just, tltat they sltould let him know that he was suspended from the communion of the church till he did." Whether the dread of tlte church's censure, or the revival of a former affection, had the greater influence in determining the issue is not on record; but the church-book does chronicle the fact "'that Jos. Bird, sen., was soon after married to Elizabetlt Bissick, and so was not suspended."
Very frequently, as some of the old church-books show, members were reproved "for being yoked witlt those not in fellowship with us." Indeed, so frequent had marriages of tltis sort become in Cambridgeshire, that a solemn meeting was held on the subject at Cambridge, in 1655, and the question debated was: "Whether, or no, it is lawful for any member of the congregation to marry with anyone out of the congregation?" Evidently some of the unmarried brethren thought, if this question were answered in the negative, their choice of suitable or perhaps winsome helpmeets would be sadly limited; and it need not, tlterefore, awaken any surprise to learn tltat "upon this subject there was much, debate." The custom already acknowledged was re-affirmed; marriages "without
the congregation" were declared unlawful; offenders against this rule were in future to be sharply reproved, "according to the rule of the Scriptures, against sinners;" and those who refused to confess their error were to be excommunicated.
One sister, Anne Pharepoint, of Erith, Huntingdon, showed no little acuteness on being reproved for breaking the established rule. When. the messengers "desired to know her mind concerning that which was charged against her namely, taking a husband contrary to the mind of the congregation," she answered that she thought it was no sin. "Indeed, I do remember," said Anne Pharepoint, "it was said in the law to the children of Israel, that they should not marry their daughters to strangers, for they will turn away their. hearts from the Lord; but I have such a husband as doth not hinder me." This did not satisfy the strict notions of the messengers; and one of them therefore replied, "There was none under the law but Jews and Gentiles. All that were not of Israel were strangers. There is none but the church and the world; if your husband was not of the church, he must be of the world, and so a stranger; and if a stranger, then he will turn your heart from the Lord." (Deuteronomy vii. 3.) Anne Pharepoint was presently won over to confess that she had done wrong, that she was greatly touched by the "desire for her welfare, and increase in the knowledge of God," and that she would come to the congregation, as they wished.
The same church, hearing of the intended marriage of another sister, Jane Johnson, with one "not a member of the congregation," did their best, by their messengers, to prevent it. Jane was "premonished," and was "dehorted therefrom," "before there was anything between them, save only the man had spoken to her to that end." There were several witnesses to her promise "never to marry him unless he altered his mind, and embraced the truth." Jane, however, "still kept company with the man." Again she was "dehorted therefrom," and reminded of her former promises; and a
second time she promised "that she would never match with him unless he should embrace the truth." The messenger now "rested awhile in his watchfulness." But his suspicions being still further aroused, he got two other friends to go with him, and persuade her from her purpose. A third time she denied that "she had any intention to match with the man;" and yet was shortly afterwards married to him. Jane Johnson was accordingly "separated from the congregation."
Sarah Browne, another sister of the same church, "removed her residence to Royston," in order to marry "out of the congregation." She was "reproved and admonished, orderly, by the brethren a,t Roystone;" but paying little heed to their rebukes, one of the Fenstanton elders, Edmond Mayle, came over and "sharply reproved her for her evil intentions." She was obstinate, and refused his words, as she had refused the words of the others. "The brethren in and about Caxton and Fenstanton" then sent a letter to "the faithful" at Roystone, calling attention to Satan's "wicked devices in persuading many members of the congregation to join themselves in marriage with those that are without;" and concluding with these words: "Now, brethren, touching our sister Sarai Browne, who, as we do hear, persisteth in that abominable intention, notwithstanding the reproof and admonition of the saints; we do hereby testify unto you, in the presence of God, desiring you to declare the same to her, that if she continueth in her intentions, and doth not repent of her evil, we shall not own her as a member of the Church of God, but look upon her as one justly separated from the fellowship of the saints."
The General Assembly of General Baptists in 1689 "largely debated," and, ''as far as they were capable, used all endeavours to find out some larger bounds than their own community" for the selection of their wives; "but," say they, "none could be found, for marriage is God's ordinance, and honourable amongst all men. Yet God has been pleased, in all dispensations, to prescribe limits to His Church, so as the
persons to be married cannot with safety go beyond the bounds of that communion for exceeding those bounds; and we cannot find any limit at all. And to suppose that baptized believers have liberty to marry with Turks, Jews, Infidels, &c., &c., and with all sorts of pretended Christians seems extremely perilous, so that it is unlawful for a believer to marry with a non-believer." "As for proceeding with persons so offending, it was concluded to be as aforetime, only that, as circumstances and necessity may alter cases, so the censures against offending Christians herein should be proportioned or moderated, that justice and mercy may meet together." This was the beginning of a relaxation in the severity of the General Baptist rule in such cases. The General Assembly again and again re-affirmed that marriages "out of communion were disallowed." But in 1744 the Bessel's-green church sent a case to the Assembly on the subject, which was "not received " for public debate, because it had not "first been submitted to the sister churches, nor to any Association." Matthew Randall was, however, commissioned to reply to their letter privately; and as he was selected by the Assembly for this purpose, his letter may be regarded as expressing the still further relaxation in the general discipline of such offenders then gaining ground. "It is agreed on all hands," says Mr. Randall, "that mixed marriages are not only inexpedient, but dangerous, and sometimes lead to very bad consequences; and as such, are to be prevented, as much as may be, by all seasonable advice, watchfulness, and caution. The only difficulty is, how the church ought to deal with those members who, after all, marry out of our fellowship. And here I must acknowledge that there may be circumstances full of aggravation; as when, for instance, a person who, through mere worldly interest, shall marry out of the church, when there are in it, at the same time, those who, on all other accounts, are equally if not more deserving. But to make it a general rule to suspend from communion all without exception, is what I could never find defensible by the
Word of God, or the primitive practice." Mr. Randall then quotes the expression in the Epistle to the Corinthians about being "unequally yoked together," as plainly relating "to joining with the Pagans in their idolatrous feasts," and declares his opinion that "marrying only in the Lord" (1 Cor. vii. 39) "can mean no more than the profession of Christianity, in opposition to the Pagan unbelievers." He then goes on to say, "that there were three sorts and divisions among the Christians, yet there is nothing in Scripture to forbid their intermarrying. In the church at Corinth they were so divided as to communicate in parties; some denied the resurrection and overthrew the faith; many Christians practising the legal rites in conjunction with those of the Gospel. . . while others as strenuously asserted their freedom from the Mosaic yoke of bondage." The Jews, also, were divided into parties; but Mr. Randall finds nothing to forbid either the Jews or the Christians " from marrying into their different sorts." "These cases, I think, are nearly the same with ours at preserit, and seem to mitigate the hard thoughts we have been apt to entertain of those who have transgressed in" the old and more rigid rule. Nay, "if there should appear no direct prohibition of Christians on their first establishment from marrying with pious Jews who believed in the true God, but had not as yet embraced the Gospel," their controversy was entirely at an end.
Mr. Randall goes even further than this. He impugns the wisdom of the early discipline of the Baptists. "It deserves to be considered, whether suspension from communion for so marrying was, in point of prudence, a proper method to reclaim the offenders, or to promote the Baptist interest. There are instances not a few, of persons who, on account of such severity, have never returned tomcommunion, nor sought after it; while meek insturction, friendship, and familiarity have often brought over even the adverse party to baptism and communion with the church; and there are many candidates kept
thereby from joining with such churches, till they see how Providence shall dispose of them."
He also urges that the severity which the Bessel's-green church contends for "is a very great hardship;" that "marriage has its rise and expedient from our nature and constitution. 'Tis honourable in all. . . . Now since in this nation the women are not permitted to look out for themselves, and when they have no offers from among the men of their own community, what must they do? Must they, on pain of'excommunication, refuse every sober, virtuous, Christianlike person, merely because he has not happened to be baptized by immersion on profession of faith? Is this consistent with Christian charity and forbearance? Yea, as to both sexes," Mr. Randall says, with surprising naivete, "'tis scarcely possible sometimes not to transgress; the accidental sight, or conversation of strangers, their agreeable mien, complexion, or deportment often create such mutual liking and affection as shall render marriage almost necessary and unavoidable. When this liking and affection are not the motives to it, the true ends of marriage are seldom answered; the persons are rarely happy. As, therefore, the case and circumstances, the opportunities and inducements are so very different, time and chance happening to all persons, so as to render them unable to fore-determine themselves, I think the case of marriage cannot be brought under anyone strict invariable rule by the Christian Church." *
Domestic Life. There is a curious case related in the Fenstanton Record, which strikingly proves their scrupulous fidelity. One Thomas Bedford, "who had been chosen a teacher by the brethren at Streatham, and from thence removed his habitation to Hawson, whence he married a wife," was accused, among other things, of beating his wife in the open street." When
* MS. Proceedings of the General Assembly, vol. ii.
reproved for his cowardly and disgraceful conduct;." he regarded not the words of the messenger, "but stood, by sophistry, to maintain it to be lawful for a man to beat his wife." He forgot, however, to add that, according to Blackstone (vol. i. chap. xv., p. 557), the old English law specially guards this questionable privilege of the husband by describing the correction he may give her as "moderate," and "to be confined within reasonable bounds."
The Broadmead Records have also a single entry of a similar charge, although the man did not in this case "stand by sophistry to maintain it to be lawful." A whole year the church had waited patiently for some signs of amendment in Thomas Jacob, when "on the fifth day of the first month, 1677, there came late the sad tldmgs that the said Thomas Jacob, about ten days since, was much in drinke, and very rude, fighting in ye street, and that he had given his wife some blows, and said he would be revenged on a man that it seemed he owed a grudge to." Both Bedford and Jacob were "cast out."
"It was not at all an unusual thing for churches to admonish husbands, if they were thought to be negligent in their duties to their wives. In 1663 "John Christmas," a member of the General Baptist Church, Warboys, "for not loving his wife as he ought, and for speaking hateful and despising words against her, giving her occasion to depart from him for his unkindness, after sundry admonitions, was withdrawn from." This church discipline evidently helped to bring John Christmas to a better mind; since soon after the record of his exclusion there is a second entry, which declares, "John Christmas, afterwards sending for Ann his wife again, and promising amendment, after her coming back again, desired to be a partaker of the church in holy duties, was again joined in fellowship." A hundred years afterward, the Broadmead church was informed (1765) "that brother Townsend treated his wife ill." Messengers were appointed to inquire into the report; to
admonish him for his evil conduct; and "to let him know, that unless he acknowledged his fault, and was penitent on account of it, and promised amendment, he was suspended from the church till he should give his wife satisfaction." He was also "desired to attend the next church meeting;" which desire he complied with. Some of the statements about his quarrel. he denied; but he admitted that he had spoken passionately, and that his wife had provoked him. Townsend was "exhorted to cultivate a better understanding with her, and to live in love, and in the fear of God. The church agreed that the affair should remain as it was; and, if hereafter he should acknowledge his error, he should upon his request, be restored to his place." A few months after this, another domestic difference demanded attention. In this case "brother Morgan and his wife were suspended from fellowship till they should give the church satisfaction for their evil conduct." The messengers visited them, but "the wife did not discover so good a spirit as they could wish; and said, if he acted well towards her, she would towards him." The husband owned his fault; "was sorry religion should suffer through him; and hoped that he should be more watchful for the time to corne." "Brother Morgan" was restored to fellowship; but "sister Morgan," still showing an unwillingness to confess her error, remained "suspended."
It is hard, in the following case, to determine the exact measure of guilt in either offender: "1685: Edward Grimes' wife, a member of the same church as John Christmas, for going from her husband from place to place, and speaking reproachful words against him, was admonished for it several times. At length she was reproved openly before the church; and she set down her resolution not to live with him again, although he promised to amend, and allow her needful things." She was at length, "withdrawn from," and her husband was reproved, at the same time, "for being churlish to his wife, and not allowing her needful things."
Servants. The servants in former days were not always models of good behaviour, and so did not escape church discipline. A minister of a Baptist society in the Fen country in 1654, had to complain of "our sister, Elizabeth Noble, who being lately my servant, was at that time altogether disobedient, sometimes replying that she would not do what she was commanded, and at other times, being negligent, left it undone. And moreover, as an aggravation to her faults, she went away out of my service, contrary to my will, and without my knowledge." Private reproof being twice unheeded, Elizabeth Noble was publicly admonished and reproved by the whole congregation. Under this very formidable ordeal she repented; but her father, who was present, was greatly incensed, "broke out into a very great passion," and even "charged the minister with partiality." It was now John Noble's turn to be reproved, " but he refused to hearken thereunto, and increased more and more in passion." He was calmly advised to "withdraw for the present, and seek unto God for wisdom." To this, he very snappishly replied, "that he could that, without the teaching of the congregation; and so departed." A second and a third time the angry father was "reproved and admonished;" and at last, "with much sorrow and contrition, he confessed his faults" and was "reconciled."
Another servant, one Joan Parker, who lived "with our sister Smith, of Hollywell, ran away from her service, not making either her master or dame acquainted therewith." Thomas Cox and Thomas Phillips are sent "sharply to reprove her for it," and io demand "that she give satisfaction to her master." The messengers purposed to go to her father's house "to speak with her;" but as they were going they accidentally heard that Joan was living in service "with the miller at Papworth St. Agnes." Thither accordingly the two messengers go; but as they were approaching the miller's
house, Joan "accidentally espied them," and "went out of the way." A second visit proved equally unsuccessful. "They found her at home, but she refused to speak with us, or to give any account of her former disorder." The miller also, "her master," refused to permit the messengers to come into his house. "The congregation," we are told, "hearing this relation, adjudged it a heinous sin in her;" but nothing further was then resolved concerning Joan. At a later meeting, refusing still to see the messengers, and continuing to absent herself from the congregation, she "was esteemed an excommunicated person."
About twenty-four years later than this date, the St. Albans church had to deal with another case of neglect of duty on the part of a servant: "Brother Osman, recorded inhabitant of Wheathampstead, was by his month of harvest, where he did shamefully, and with others, betray his trust, left his work, his master not being there, and went to an ale-house, where he spent most of the day in sinning against God, and spending his money, which should relieve his family, in excessive drinking. He being a servant at a brother's house, the said brother could not do less than declare it to the church, though to his great trouble." Osman was "withdrawn from" by the church; but in March of the next year, he made public confession of his fall, and was restored.
Drunkenness. It is sad to find how many were excluded, both from the Broadmead church and other churches, for drunkenness. For example: "Philip Seiphard, was cast out, after divers times dealing with (according to the rule of the Lord), for his scandalous walking in excess of drinking, though he several times covered, evaded, and justified himself, for want of due proof. At last (his sin that he lived in found him out), for it happened that two brethren saw him overcome in drink."* This was in 1670,
* Broadmead Records, p. 68.
when the church was without a pastor, and the "ruling elders did yet carry on and manage the church power," of dealing with all members who walked irregular in their conversation. When Mr. Hardcastle was minister, "brother Jeremy Courtnay" was under the church's second admonition for "ye sinne of drunkenness, and yette againe guilty." His wife therefore suggested "that the brethren should keep a day of solemn fasting and prayer for him in particular; if it might be the Lord would be intreated to cast out ye drunken devill out of him, which did overcome him, and carry him captive at his will." A fast day was accordingly kept at Jeremy Courtnay's house. "After one of ye elders spoke to it, and a brother prayed, our pastor, brother Hardcastle, spake to lay open his sinne, and the evill thereof. He asked ye said brother Courtnay if he were willing to part with his sinne? He answered, he was willing, if he knew his heart. Then, after ye pastor and some other brethren prayed, one of the elders asked him, what demonstration would he give ye brethren and sisters of ye church, that he was heartily desirous and willing to leave his sinne. Then, after pretty much adoe (for he would know of us what we would have him oblige himself to, we told him we would not lay any bond upon him; but if he were reall in his heart against his sinne, he would take revenge upon himself, and clear himself, as 2 Cor. vii. 11. And having read unto him ye case and practice of ye Rechabites, Jeremy xxxv. 2, &c.), at last he concluded, and said, he would refrain and abstain from wine and strong liquors for a year. And then we finished the day with prayer for him."* The end is lamentable. "Jeremy Courtnay, on the seventh day of the eighth month, 1679, was cast out." One of the ruling elders, brother Terrill, by consent of the whole congregation then assembled, pronounced the sentence of excommunication. There is a tone of deepest sadness in it. "In the name of the Lord Jesus," said brother Terrill, " and the authority He
* Broadmead Records, p. 178.
hath given to His churches, we do declare that Jeremy Courtnay, for his sin of drunkenness, of which he stands convicted, and several times thereof admonished by the church, but not reforming, from henceforth be no longer a member of this congregation, but be cast out into the world, and no longer to be partaker with us in the holy mysteries of the Lord, nor fellowship with us, nor enjoy the priviledges of God's house: and the Lord have mercy upon his soul."
A very graphic account is given of the method of dealing with another offender, some two years before. "Brother Thomas Jacob had declined in his duty, neglected ye assembling of himself with the congregation, only Lord's dayes, but very seldom on ye week-daye meeting, or at dayes of prayer. And also he had been observed to have drunck too much, soe that he did reel, and was drunck more than twice, kept bad company, and proceeded to bad words in his drink." The first time he was admonished by one of the members that saw or heard of his evil. The second time two or three other brethren were taken to admonish him; "and att his house in a room by themselves, all that tyme, they prayed with him, and he seemed to be sorry for his evill, and to repent of it in words." A third time he fell, "was observed again to be in drink, pretty late att night att an inn." He was now summoned "to be at ye church meeting that day s'ennight, which was also a day of prayer upon an extraordinary occasion. But he came not." Two brethren were sent to him there and then, warning him that if he did not come, he would be cast out. "So he came. And being present, in ye after part of ye day, after five or six brethren had prayed, and some spake short in the interim of prayer, and when none were there but ye members of ye congregation, ye pastor calls for ye said brother to draw near the table." Thomas Jacobs comes up to the table, on which are resting the emblems of the Lord's Passion. The church is appealed to, "whether they did all agree that he should have a chUl'ch admonition from them?
which they shew by their silence. Thomas Jacobs was then charged "with neglecting due attendance at ye meetings of ye church, and drunkenness. So after ye charge aforesaid laid to him, ye pastor laboured ye evill nature, danger, and consequence of ye sinne unto him, before all ye congregation. Then he pronounced ye sentence in ye names of our Lord Jesus Christ, and this congregation, to which all the brethren put off their hats, ye sisters not to sitte but stand up." The admonishing having been given, and Jacobs having submitted to the rebuke, promising amendment, he was not "cast out."
It is not surprising, when there were cases of this kind frequently occurring, that the church at Broadmead should "not judge it convenient to admit Mrs. Bevis" to its communion, "by reason of her selling strong drink;" nor yet that another church, which had suffered quite as much from the same cause, "should deem it right to withdraw from sister Searly, who sold strong water, and let persons drink to excess."
Money Matters. In reference to money matters, and especially where money had been borrowed, the Baptist churches showed a commendable amount of strictness. John Blowes, who was reproved "for his foolish foot-ball play," had, as we intimated, been under "discipline" before on account of his "not paying money due to John Thompson, Simon Parratt, and Roger Stampe;" and he was a second time reproved "for pretending to have given satisfaction" to these brethren for the things they had charged against him, when he had broken faith with them. This reproof extorted a penitential letter from the delinquent. Here is a copy of the letter: "To brother Thompson and his wife, and to brother Parratt, and brother Roger. "BRETHREN, These few lines are to let you understand that God hath been pleased to make me truly sensible of those many evils which have been by me ungodly committed, and by you justly charged against me; which particulars are these: First, neglecting my calling; secondly, neglecting to pay the money due to my landlady in Shadwell; thirdly, neglecting to pay
[p. 278]the money due to you, and also my breach of promise; fourthly, my not making you acquainted with my departure from your house. All which particulars I humbly confess, that God may have the glory, and that the shame may light upon me, to whom it is due. So desiring you would forgive me, and that you would be assistant to me with your prayers to God for me, that I may not be overtaken in the like temptations,
"I rest, your unworthiest brother,
This letter satisfied the congregation, and the writer was again received "into fellowship."
An "admonition" was sent, in the year 1679, by the Broadmead church, to Sarah Watkins, "a widdow woman, for her scandalous, walking disorderly, not tending her business, but making it a common practice to goe up and downe borrowing money of any whomsoever she could, and not endeavouring to pay it again; "taking," in fact, "no care therein, to ye reproach of ye Gospell and wayes of God." This had been a common practice of "Widdow Watkins," and had occasioned her to be reproved "several tymes." She was, by the "admonition" informed, that unless she reformed, the church would be forced to withdraw from her. This was "upon the eighteenth day of the first month." In the same year, "on the seventh day of the eighth month," her case came up again. She had still gone on with her "disorderly and scandalous borrowing, up and downe, of many persons." "Of some she got ten shillings, of some twenty shillings; of some more, some less, as she could get them to lend;" She was perpetually "promising people, and not performing, spending much, if not most of her tyme in going up and down; and so did not work, or but little, to endeavour honestly to live, and eat her owne breade." Judgment now overtook her. "Ye church, after her crime was declared, and proved to her face by divers of ye church, and what they had heard she had so served some not of ye congregation," unanimously consented to the sentence of withdrawal. "The ruling elder, brother Tirrell," declared her offence; solemnly told her that she had
"rendered herself among the wicked ones;" reminded her of the several admonitions she had received; and that now necessity was laid upon the church to do its duty." Still "if the Lord should give her repentance of her evil, and she should reform to the satisfaction of the congregation," she would again be received into full communion. Meanwhile, the ruling elder passed this sentence upon her: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the authority He hath given to His church, we do declare that S. Watkins, for her sin of disorderly walking, borrowing and not paying again, making promises and not performing, and not diligently work, is withdrawn from, and no longer has full communion with this church, nor is to be a partaker with them in the holy mysteries of the Lord's Supper, nor priviledges of the Lord's house. And the Lord have mercy on her soul." The ruling elder, thinking the expression "nor priviledges," rather indefinite, adds this explanation: "Nor priviledges, namely, If she doth come to ye meeting, not to be suffered to stay when any business of ye church transacted, &c."
Miscellaneous Charges. Many "charges" against church members led to their being questioned before the whole body of the church. The Maze Pond Records frequently chronicle cases of this kind: "Not keeping a promise," "not speaking the truth," "borrowing money and making no sign of paying it again," " disorderly walking," "backbiting," "idleness," "breaking the law that disciples should only marry in the Lord," "bringing a public charge against a brother without taking the gospel rule" (Matt. xviii. 15-17). In the General Baptist churches these were regarded as sufficient grounds for excommunication "Idleness in their calling and not providing necessary uses," "a proud spirit," "lying and slandering their relations," "covetousness," "vain talking," "hypocritical dealing," "being married in the national way" (that is, at the parish church) "with common prayer and all the Romish ceremonies thereof," &c.
It would be wrong to suppose that this strictness of discipline was only maintained by the churches in the Seventeenth Century, as many church books would unquestionably show. Let a single instance suffice. At the centenary of a village church in the Midland counties, held at Whitsuntide, 1870, the pastor gave a brief summary of the church's chequered history, and referred, among other causes of exclusion, to these "Levity and neglect," that is, of the services, "passion," "obstinacy of temper," "false pretences," "negligence and extravagance," "domestic quarrels," "marrying a carnal man," "running away," that is, deserting their customary place of worship.
"Itching ears" were not patiently tolerated by the earlier Baptist churches. Listening to Quakers, or attendance on what was described as "the false worship of the English Church," was often followed by exclusion. One General Baptist church seriously discussed the question of occasional attendance at the services of the Establishment. After a long and auxious debate, the church unanimously agreed to a resolution which would have delighted the founder of the Quakers himself "That it is unlawful for any members of the congregation to hear the teachers of the Church of England, except it be to reprove them!" I t was also formally decreed by the Assembly of the General Baptists in 1698 that it was "irregular" and worthy of reproof when any of their number worshipped with the Paedobaptists. The Minute is as follows: -- "It is agreed that the members of churches in our communion may not join in the worship of God with those that are not. And we do advise all members of the several churches of our communion to keep themselves pure in the separation; and if any shall transgress therein, we advise the churches unto whom they belong carefully and speedily to admonish them of the evil and danger that do attend it."*
* MS. Proceedings of the General Assembly, p. 14.
Dr. Wall's Commendation. We cannot close this account of the rigorous discipline maintained by the Baptist churches in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, without quoting the opinion on this subject expressed by Dr. Wall, in his History of Infant Baptism, published in 1704. The testimony is the more valuable from his well-known dislike of Baptists. "They have," says the Vicar of Shoreham, "this way of adjusting differences that arise among themselves on account of trespasses, dues, or other money matters, which I recite as being worthy of imitation. If any one of them does wrong another, or refuses to do, or to pay, what is equitable in any case; if he will not be brought to reason by a private arguing of the matter, nor by the verdict of two or three neighbours added, the plaintiff brings the case before the congregation, when they, with their elder, are assembled in the nature of a vestry. And in difficult cases there lies an appeal from a particular congregation, to some fuller meeting of their church under a messenger. And he of the two that will not stand to the ultimate determination of the assembly by their usage appointed, is no longer acknowledged by the rest as a brother. As this is very much according to our Saviour's (Matthew xviii. 15, 16, 17) and St. Paul's direction (1 Corinthians vi. 1, 2, &c.) in such cases, so I have been told that it has the good effect of preventing abundance of law suits and many quarrels; very few of them offering to withstand the general verdict and opinion of all their breihren. And there is no reason to doubt but that a like course would, if it were put in practice, have a like good effect among other societies of Christians. The like discipline (of renouncing brotherhood) they use against such of their communion as are known to be guilty of any such immorality as is a scandal to the Christian profession of a sober and godly life; for which care of their members there is no man but will commend them. And, therefore, I do not mention the ordering of this as particular to
them. All churches, by their constitution, do order the same thing to be done;" but, adds the Doctor, thinking with grief of the Established Church, "the administration or putting into execution of this order is in some churches very slack and negligent; and in some, very much perverted by the corrupt officers of the courts. The bishops visiting every parish in particular (which, when it began to be omitted by some bishops, was so earnestly enjoined by canons), is now almost antiquated and forgotten. And there is many times a very huddled work made of a visitation. So far as this discipline is omitted, or perverted, in any church, so far is that church fallen into a very dangerous decay. Among all the exceptions made by the several sorts of Dissenters against the Church of England, there is none nigh so material as this; nor is there any neglect the amending whereof would, besides the stopping of the mouths of gainsayers, produce a greater spiritual advantage to the people." Dr. Wall thinks, however, that Dissenters ought to consider "that this is much more difficult in a National Church than in one of their societies. For none side with them but what do it out of zeal; whether it be a true and godly zeal, or an ignorant and factious one. Still, it is zeal, and may be made use of to a vigorous execution of the orders past among them. But there is in all nations, besides the zealous men, a sort of flying squadron that have really no concern at all for any religion; but being perfectly indifferent, do, of course, fall in with the National Church, as being the most fashionable at that time. These, wherever they light, are a great hindrance to the due execution af any canons of discipline. They are either by their riches and power too big, or else by their numbers too many, for the force of law. The Dissenters, notwithstanding the boasts of their exactness of discipline, would find themselves embarrassed if this were their case."*
* The History of Infant Baptism. By W. Wall, Vicar of Shoreham, Kent (London: 1707), pp. 453, 454.
[From J. J. Goadby, Bye-Paths in Baptist History, 1871, pp. 241-282. This is chapter 10 and the title is changed; originally it is: "Church Discipline." jrd]
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