As a kind Providence has spared us the mournful task of recording the recent decease, or departed worth of Ministers in our own country; we have thought, it would be instructive and edifying to our readers to lay before them an account of the offerings and labours of that eminent servant of Christ, Rev. Benjamin Keach. - Editors.
This faithful minister of Christ was the son of John Keach of Stokeham in Buckinghamshire. He was born in that town February 29, 1640. His parents were pious and honest persons, but unable to procure him an education suited to his genius and the station he was destined to occupy. He was at first designed for business, and for a little time he was engaged in following a trade; but it was soon perceived he aspired after a higher employment. He applied himself very early to the study of the scriptures, and was desirous.of attaining divine knowledge. Observing the silence of the sacred oracles on the subject of infant baptism, he suspected the validity of the baptism he had received, and after seriously considering the subject, he was baptized in the fifteenth year of his age, and afterwards joined a Baptist church in that county.
The church discovering his piety and talents, about three years afterwards, in 1658, called him to the solemn work of the ministry. He was now in his 18th year, and for about two years he pursued his work with great comfort and success, and much to the edification of those who heard him. At this time be held the sentiments of the Remonstrants, or Arminians, of the extent of the death of Christ; and the freedom of man's will. The Baptists in the part where he lived were in general of this opinion, and from them he derived the sentiment and for a time maintained it; till on coming to London, where he had an opportunity of consulting both men and books, he found that the different opinions upon these subjects had given rise to two denominations of Baptists. Examining this point more closely, he in a few years came to a clear understanding of the Calvinistic sentiments, and continued tp maintain them during life.
In the year 1664 he wrote a little book, which many of his friends wished him to publish for the use of their children. This request he complied with, and entitled it, The Child's Instructor, or a New and Easy
Primer. He did not put his name to it, and procured a friend to write a recommendatory preface; from which it should seem that he apprehended it would expose him to some difficulties, as there were several things in it contrary to the doctrines and ceremonies of. the church of England.
This hook was no sooner printed, and some few of them sent down to him, than one Mr. Strafford, a justice of the peace for that county, was informed of it. He immediately took a constable with him, and went to the house of Mr. Keach, where they seized all the books they could find, and bound him to appear at the assizes to answer for his crime, in a recognizance of a hundred pounds himself, awl two sureties of fifty pounds each.
The limits of our work will permit us only to give extracts from this interesting trial.
"The assizes commenced at Aylesbury, October the 8th, 1664, and Lord Chief Justice Hyde, just now mentioned, afterwards Lord Clarendon, presided as judge. The account of this trial will give a pretty correct view of his lordship's character, and of the shameful prostitution of justice resorted to in order to deprive the subjects of their liberty, and to punish the nonconformists in those days of persecution.
"Mr. Keach was called to the bar the first day in the afternoon. After some reflections upon his person and profession, the judge, holding one of the primers in his hand, said to him, Did not you write this book? Mr. Keach replied, that he did write the greatest part of it. The judge then said with great indignation. What have you to do to take other men's trades out of their hands? I believe you can preach, as well as write books. Thus it is, to let you and such as you are to have the scriptures to wrest to your own destruction. In your book you have made a new creed. I have seen three creeds before, but never saw a fourth till vou made one.
"To this Mr. Keach answered, I have not made a creed, but a confession of my faith. What is a creed then? said the judge. Mr Keach replied, your Lordship said that you had never seen but three creeds; but thousands of Christians have made a confession of their faith.
"The judge speaking many things concerning baptism and the ministers of the gospel, Mr. Keach began to answer, but was prevented by the judge, who said, you shall not preach here, nor give the reasons of your damnable doctrine to seduce and infect the king's subjects: these are not things for such as you to meddle with, nor to write books of divinity. I will try you for it before I sleep. - He accordingly gave directions to the clerk to draw up the indictment; but though he spent much of his time in assisting the clerk, who was very diligent in preparing the bill, they could not get ready for trial until the next day.
"While the indictment was drawing up, the witnesses were sworn, and bid to stand by the clerk till it was finished, and then go with it to the grand jury. During this interval, the judge endeavoured to incense the jury against the prisoner, representing him as a base and dangerous fellow. I shall send you presently, said he, a bill against one that has taken upon him to write a new primer for the instruction of your children; and if this be suffered, children by learning it will become such as he is, and therefore I hope you will do your duty.
"The court being set the next day, the grand jury found a true bill. Mr. Keach being brought to the bar, the clerk said, Benjamin Keach, hear your charge. Thou art here indicted by the name of Benjamin Keach, of Winslow, in the county of Bucks, for that thou being a seditious schismatic person, evily and maliciously disposed and disaffected to his
majesty's government and the government of the church of England, didst maliciously and wickedly on the fifth of May in the 16th year of the reign of our sovereign lord the king, write, print, and publish, or cause to be written, printed, and published, one seditious and venomous book, entitled, The Child's Instructor, or a A New and Easy Primer; wherein are contained by way of question and answer these damnable positions, contrary to the book of common prayer and the liturgy of the church of England; that is to say, in one place you have thus written: -
Q. Who are the right subjects of baptism?
A. Believers, or godly men and women, who make profession of tbeir faith and repentance.
In another place you have wickedly and maliciously written these plain English words: -
Q. Why may not infants be received into the church now as they were under the law?
A. Because the fleshly seed is cast out. Though God under that dispensation did receive infants in a lineal way by generation; yet he that hath the key of David, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, hath shot up that way into the church, and opened the door of regeneration, receiving in none now but true believers.
Q. What is the case of infants?
A. Infants that die are members of the kingdom of glory, though they be not members of the visible church.
Q. Do they then that bring in infants in a lineal way by generation err from the way of truth?
A. Yea, they do; for they make not God's holy word their rule, but do presume to open a door that Christ hath shut, and none ought to open.
"Also in another place thou hast wickedly and maliciously composed a short confession of the Christian faith, in which thou hast affirmed this concerning the second person in the blessed Trinity, in these plain English words: - I also believe that he rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven above, and there now sitteth at the right hand of God the Father; and from thence he shall come again at the appointed time to reign personally on the earth, and to be judge of the quick and the dead.
"In another place you have maliciously and wickedly written these words: -
Q. How shall it go with the saints?
A. Very well: it is the day they have longed for. Then shall they hear the sentence, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you; and so shall they reign with Christ on the earth a thousand years, even on Mount Sion in the New Jerusalem; for there will Christ's throne be, on which they must sit down with him.
"In another place thou hast wickedly and maliciously affirmed these things concerning true gospel ministers, in these plain English words following: - Christ hath not chosen the wise and prudent men after the flesh, not great doctors and rabbins; not many mighty and noble, saith St. Paul, are called; but rather the poor and despised, even tradesmen and such like, as were Matthew, Peter, Andrew, Paul, and others. Christ's true ministers have not their learning and teaching from men, or from universities, or from human schools; for human learning, arts and sciences, are not essential in order to the making of a true minister, but only the gift of God which cannot be bought with silver and gold. And also as they have freely received the gift of God, so they do freely administer: they do not preach for hire, for gain or filthy lucre. They are not like false teachers who look for gain from their quarter; who eat the fat and clothe themselves with the wool, and kill them that are fed. Those that put not into their mouths they prepare war against. Also they are not lords over God's heritage: they rule them not by force nor cruelty,
neither have they power to force and compel men to believe and obey their doctrine, but only persuade and entreat. This is the way of the gospel as Christ taught them. - Many other things hast thou seditiously, wickedly, and maliciously written in the said book, to the great displeasure of Almighty God, the scandal of the liturgy of the church of England, the disaffection of the king's people to his majesty's government, the dangers of the peace of this kingdom, to the evil example of others, and contrary to the statute in that case made and provided.
The indictment being read, the clerk said, How say you, Benjamin Keach? Are you guilty or not guilty? To this Mr. Keach replied, the indictment is very long: I cannot remember half of it, nor have I been accustomed to plead to indictments I desire to have a copy of it, and liberty to confer with council about it, in order to put in my exceptions; and then I shall plead to it.
"The judge addressing Mr. Keach, said. It is your intention to delay your trial till the next assizes. No, my lord, said Mr. Keach: I have no design by this to delay my trial. The judge answered, I will not deny you what is your right, but you must first plead to the indictment, and afterwards you shall have a copy of it. Mr. Keach replied, I desire I may have a copy of it before I plead in order to put in my exceptions against it.
Judge. You shall not have it before you plead, guilty or not guilty.
Keach. It is what has been granted to others.
Judge. Yon shall not have a copy of it first; and if you refuse to plead guilty or not guilty, I shall take it pro confesso, and give judgment a,gainst you accordingly.
When Mr Keach saw that he was thus overruled by the judge, and that he was denied his rights as an Englishman, he pleaded not guilty.
After the trial, the judge summed up the evidence, and gave his charge to the jury; wherein he endeavoured to incense them agaiost the prisoner, as he had none before in his charge to the grand jury.
The jury having received their charge, withdrew, and stayed for some hours. At length one of the bailiffs who attended them came and told the judge that the jury could not agree.
But, said the judge, they must agree. The bailiff replied, that they desired to know whether one of them might not speak to his worship about something whereof they were in doubt. Yes, privately, said the judge; and ordered that one should come to him on the bench. When the officer had fetched one of tbem, the juryman was set upon the clerk's table, and the judge and he whispered a great while; and it was observed that the judge having his hands upon his shoulders would frequently shake him as he spake to him.
Upon the person returning, the whole jury quickly came in; and being according to custom called over by their names, the clerk proceeded.
Clerk. How say you? Is Benjamin Keach guilty of the matter contained in the indictment against him, or not guilty?
Foreman. Guilty in part.
Clerk. Of what part?
Foreman. In the indictment he is charged with these words: When the thousand years shall be expired, then shall all the rest of the devils be raised: but in the book it is, then shall the rest of the dead be raised."
Clerk. Is he guilty of the indictment, that sentence excepted?
One of the jurymen said, I cannot in conscience find him guilty, because the words in the indictment and the book do not agree.
Judge. That is only through a mistake of the clerk, and in that one sentence only. You may find him
guilty of all, that sentence excepted: but why did you come in before yon were agreed?
Foreman. We thought we had been agreed.
Judge. You must go out again and agree. And as for you that say you cannot in conscience find him guilty, if you say so again without giving reason for it, I shall take an order with you.
Then the jury withdrew, and in a little time returned again and brought in this verdict; that he was guilty of the indictment, that sentence wherein devils is inserted instead of dead only excepted
After the jury had returned a second time, Mr. Keach was called to the bar, and the judge proceeded and passed sentence as follows.
Judge. Benjamin Keach, you are here convicted for writing, printing, and publishing a seditious and schismatical book, for which the court's judgment is this, and the court doth award, That you shall go to gaol for a fortnight without bail or mainprize; and the next Saturday to stand upon the pillory at Aylesbury in the open market, from eleven o'clock till one, with a paper upon your head with this inscription: For meriting, printing, and publishing a schismatical book, entitled. The Child's Instructor, or a New and Easy Primer. And the next Thursday, to stand, in the same manner and for the same time, in the market at Winslow; and then your book shall be openly burnt before your face by tbe common hangman, in disgrace of you and your doctrine. And you shall forfeit to the king's majesty the sum of twenty pounds, and shall remain in gaol until you find sureties for your good behavionr, and for your appearance at the next assizes; then to renounce your doctrines, and make such public submission as shall he enjoined you. Take him away, keeper!
Keach. I hope I shall never renounce, those truths which I have witten in that book.
Clerk. My lord, he says that he shall never repent. The judge making no answer to this, the gaoler took him away.
It is unnecessary to make any remarks on the arbitrary manner in which this trial was conducted, and on the means by which the verdict was extorted. The common prayer book was now the standard of truth, and was placed upon a level with the statute law of the kingdom. Surely none could have expected that a Protestant judge would have sentenced any person to such a punishment for such conduct. But "the wicked walk on every side when the vilest of men are exalted," and therefore it was not difficult to procure a jury suited to such a purpose. The attempts made to obtain a pardon, or a relaxation of this severe sentence, were ineffectual; and the sheriff took care that every thing should be punctually performed. He was accordingly kept close prisoner till the Saturday, and agreeably to his sentence was brought to the pillory at Aylesbury. Several of his religious friends and acquaintances accompanied him thither; and when they expressed their sorrow for his hard case, and the injustice of his sufferings, he said with a cheerful countenance, The cross is the way to the crown. His head and hands were no sooner fixed in the pillory, but he began to address himself to the spectators to this effect. - Good people, I am not ashamed to stand here this day, with this paper on my head. My Lord Jesus was not ashamed to suffer on the cross for me; and it is for his cause that I am made agazing-stock. Take notice, it is not for any wickedness that I stand here; but for writing and publishing his truths, which the Spirit of the Lord hath revealed in the holy scriptures.
A clergyman who stood by could not forbear interrupting him, and said, It is for writing and publishing errors; and you may now see what your errors havo brought you to.
Mr. Keach replied, Sir, can you prove them errors? But before the clergyman could return an answer, he was attacked by some of the people, who told him of his being "pulled drunk out of a ditch." Another upbraided him with having been found "drunk under a haycock." Upon this the people, turning their attention from the sufferer in the pillory, laughed at the drunken priest, insomuch that he hastened away with the utmost disgrace and shame.
After the noise of this was over, the prisoner began to speak again, saying, It is no new thing for the servants of the Lord to suffer and be made a gazing-stock; and you that are acquainted with the scriptures know that the way to the crown is by the cross. The apostle saith, "that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of heaven;" and Christ saith, "He that is ashamed of me and of my words, in an adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, before the Father, and before the holy angels." But he was frequently interrupted by the gaoler, who told bim that he must not speak; and that if he would not be silent, he must force him to it. After he had stood some time silent, getting one of his hands at liberty, he pulled his bible out of his pocket, and held it up to the people; saying, Take notice, that the things which I have written and published, and for which I stand here this day a spectacle to angels and to men, are all contained in this book, as I could prove out of the same, if I had opportunity.
The gaoler again interrupted him, and with great anger enquired who gave him the book Some said that his wife gave it him. The good woman stood near him all the time of his being in the pillory, and frequently spoke in vindication of the principles for which he suffered. But Mr. Keach said that he took it out of his pocket. The gaoler then took it from him, and fastened up his hand again. It was impossible however to keep him from speaking, for he began again and spoke as follows.
"It seems that I cannot be suffered to speak to the cause for which I stand here; neither could I be suffered to speak the other day; but it will plead its own innocency, when the strongest of its opposers shall be ashamed. I do not speak this out of prejudice to any person, but do sincerely desire that the Lord would convert them and convince them of their errors, that their souls may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Good people, the concernment of souls is very great, so that Christ died for them; and truly a concernment for souls was that which moved me to write and publish those things for which I now suffer, and for which I could suffer far greater things than these. It concerns you therefore to be very careful, otherwise it will be very sad with you at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, for we must all appear before his tribunal." Here he was again interrupted, and forced to be silent a considerable time; but at length be ventured to speak again. "I hope (said he) the Lord's people will not be discouraged at my suffering. O, did you but experience the great love of God, and the excellencies that are in him, it would make you willing to go through any sufferings for his sake. And I do account this the greatest honour that ever the Lord was pleased to confer upon me."
After this he was not able to speak much more, for the sheriff came in great rage, and said, if he would not be silent he should be gagged; and the officers were ordered to keep the people at a greater distance from him, though they declared they could not do it. After a long silence he ventured to speak again. "This, said be, is one yoke of Christ's, which I experience
is easy to me, and a burden which he doth make light." Finding he could not be allowed to speak, he kept silence until the two hours were expired, except uttering this sentence: "Blessed are they that ire persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." When the full time according to his sentence was ended, the under keeper lifted up the board of the pillory; and as soon as his head and hands were at liberty, he blessed God with a loud voice for his great goodness towards him!
On the Saturday following he stood in the same manner and for the same time at Winslow, the town where he lived, and had his book burnt before him according to the sentence.
Crosby says, he was not able to obtain any particulars of this good man's behaviour at Winslow, and for the account here given he was indebted to a person who was present, and who wrote the relation on the spot. This person remarked several things which proved the malice of his persecutors; as that he stood in the pillory two hours to the minute, which was a more strict execution of the sentence than he ever witnessed either in town or country. That others always had their hands at liberty; but Mr.Keach's were carefully kept in the holes almost all the time, which must have made his sufferings the more painful. Thus, said he, judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off; for truth is fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter. He that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey; and the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.
These sufferings in the cause of truth and righteousness did not intimidate Mr. Keach. Two years afterwards, 1666, he published a small Poem, entitled, Zion in distress; or the groans of the true Protestant Church. He says in the preface, "that he perceived Popery was ready to bud, and would, if God prevented not, spring up afresh in the land." Being greatly harassed by his persecutors, and no prospect of enjoying any thing like a quiet settlement in the work of the ministry, he resolved, as he had not accepted the pastoral office in any church, to remove to London, where he thought he should have greater opportunities to be useful. Accordingly he turned his effects into money, and with his wife and children left Buckinghamshire in 1668; but in his way thither the coach was beset with highwaymen, who compelled all the passengers to alight and robbed them of every thing of value. This afflictive circumstance must have been very trying to him and Mrs. K. as they were now with three children in a strange place without money, and almost without any acquaintance in London. He however found friends who relieved his necessities, and also enabled him with the other passengers to bring an action against the county for the recovery of their loss: in which they were successful.
He had not been long in London before he was invited to settle with a congregation in the Borough, and in a few months alter he undertook the pastoral office among them, and was solemnly ordained by imposition of hands in 1668, being then 28 years of age.
During four years after the settlement of Mr. Keach, they were obliged to meet from house to house, and though very careful to prevent being discovered, they were twice disturbed, and some of them indicted to appear at the Quarter Sessions.
In 1672, when the declaration of indulgence was published, they built a meeting-house at the corner of Stoney Lane, Horsly Down. It pleased God to give such success
to the ministry of Mr. Keach, that they soon increased so considerably that the place was frequently enlarged, till it became sufficiently capacious to contain nearly a thousand people.
From this period to the Revolution in 1688, Mr. Keach took a lively interest in every thing which related to the Protestant interest, and embraced every opportunity to expose the iniquitous scenes that were transacted for the introduction of Popery.
Mr Keach was a very zealous baptist, and appears to have taken an active part in the general assemblies held in London in 1689, &c. He was requested by the Association to visit the baptized churches, in several parts of the kingdom, and to preach the gospel to them. In this journey he was accompanied by Mr. Benjamin Dennis, and it was attended with great success. His zeal for the baptist denomination appeared by writing in defence of it; by encouraging ministers who came to him from all parts of the kingdom; and by getting several meeting-houses erected for the worship of God.
In 1692, Mr. Keach was engaged in a controversy on the subject of baptism with the Rev. Mr. Burkit, rector of Milden in Suffolk, and the well-known author of the exposition of the New Testament.
The circumstances which led to this were as follows Mr. John Tredwell, a baptist minister of Mr. Keach's acquaintance, was invited to take the care of a small congregation at Lavingham. This person was of unblemished life and conversation, and a very solid, useful preacher. Several persons being converted by his minisiry and joining his church, Mr. Burkit, whose parish adjoined, was greatly offended, and warned his people against the dangerous principles and practices of this sect, and cast many unjust and uncharitable reflections both upon bis neighbours and their opinions. Mr. Tredwell, who esteemed the character of Mr. Burkit, wrote him a friendly letter, persuading him to desist from such methods, so derogating from the character and reputation he bore in the world; telling him that they had sufficient ground from scripture for their practice, and that scolding was not a likely way to promote truth. Mr. Tredwell hoped to bring him to friendly measures, but in this he was disappointed, as Mr. Burkit soon after came into the meeting-house when they were assembled for public worship, accompanied with several of his parishioners, and demanded of him to hear the doctrines he had reflected upon and called antiscriptural. Mr. Tredwell surprised at such a riotous and tumultuous challenge, however agreed, that he should have liberty to assert and vindicate his opinions, provided he might afterwards have liberty to make a reply. Upon this Mr. Burkit began with a short prayer, and then for two hours discoursed upon infant baptism, and when he had done departed with his company without giving Mr. Tredwell time to answer.
Soon after Mr. Burkit published the substance of this harangue, and entitled it, An argumentative and practical discourse of infant baptism. This was intermixed with false stories of the Baptists and unchristian reflections cast upon them.
Mr. Tredwell on this applied to Mr. Keach, and requested him to undertake to answer it: which he soon after did, and entitled it, The Rector rectified and corrected.
To this work Mr Tredwell prefixed an Epistle addressed to Mr. Burkit, dated Preston Place, April 30, 1692, in which he mentions the above circumstances,and also quotes a charge which Mr. Burkit had brought against him and the Baptists in general. "Since the late general liberty (says Mr B.) the Anabaptists thinking themselves
thereby let loose upon us, have disperst themselves into several counties, endeavouring to draw away our people from us, by persuading them to renounce their first dedication to God in baptism, and to enter their communion after the way of dipping. One of their teaching disciples (meaning myself, says Mr. T.) having set up in our neighbourhood for making proselytes, by re-baptizing them in a nasty horse-pond, into which the filth of the adjacent stable occasionally flows, and out of which his deluded converts come forth with so much filthiness upon them, that they rather resembled creatures arising out of the bottomless pit, than candidates for holy baptism: and all this before a promiscuous multitude before the light of the sun."
It is really awful to reflect on this desperate wickedness from such a man as Mr. Burkit, in publishing such an untruth to the world. "It seems to me (says Mr. T.) that you neither regard your own reputation, nor keeping a good conscience before God: you ought to repent of this your great rashness in asserting such abominable falsehoods."
To counteract the influence of this vile slander, the following declaration was published. A Certificate under the hands of several sober and impartial persons. "Whereas Mr. Burkit, of Milden, in the county of Suffolk, hath (in his late book called, An argumentative and practical discourse of infant baptism) very unjustly reproached the people called Anabaptists, and in particular Mr. John Tredwell (preacher of God's word) declaring that the said John Tredwell hath lately at Kittle-Baston, in the said county of Suffolk, baptized several persons in a nasty horse-pond, into which the filth of the adjacent stable occasionally flows, and that the people baptized in the said pond, came forth with much mud and filthiness upon them, be. We whose names are hereunto subscribed, do solemnly certify and declare to the whole world, that those reports and assertions of the said Mr. Burkit are utterly and notoriously false; for we taking a strict view of the said pond and stable, find the dung or filth of the said stable runs the quite contrary way from the pond into the road.
"Moreover we solemnly certify and declare, that the persons baptized in the said pond, came forth without the least speck or spot of dirt upon their clothes, the water being clean. In witness whereof, we have set our hands this 3d day of May, 1692.
JOHN TYRIL. Sen. Gent.
DAVID SARE. Jun.
Notwithstanding the various labours in which Mr. Keach engaged, he was of a very weak constitution and often afflicted. He was at one time so ill, in 1689, as to be given over by the physicians, and several of the ministers and his relations had taken leave of him, as a dying man past all hopes of recovery. "But (says Crosby) the Rev Mr. Hansard Knollys seeing his dying friend and brother in the gospel near to all appearance expiring; betook himself to prayer, and in an earnest and very extraordinary manner, begged that God would spare him and add unto his days the time he granted to his servant Hezekiah. As soon as he had ended bis prayer, he said, "Brother Keach, I shall be in heaven before you," and quickly after left him. So remarkable was the answer of God to this good man's prayer, that I cannot omit it, though it may be discredited by some, there are yet living incontestable evidences of the fact. For Mr. Keach recovered of that illness and lived
just fifteen years afterwards: and then it pleased God to visit him with that short sickness which put an end to his life."
During this illness he had many friends with him, but the violence of his distemper soon deprived them of the expectation of his life. When he was very near his end, Mr. Joseph Stennett was sent for; but when he came Mr. Keacb was not able to say much to him, excepting desiring him to preach his funeral sermon from 1 Timothy i. 12. I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day. During his illness he manifested extraordinary patience and resignation to the divine will, and with much composure told his wife that he had recommended her to a better husband, the Lord Jesus Christ; and exhorted his children to live in love, peace, and unity, and in a steadfast adherence to Christ and his ways. A little before his death, his eldest daughter, who was one of the people called Quakers, came to see him, with whom he endeavoured to converse, and manifested a great eagerness and desire to speak with her, but his speech failing prevented him. He died July 18, 1701, about 11 o'clock in the morning, and in the 64th year of his age. On the following Friday his remains were taken from his meeting house at the corner of Stoney-lane, to the Baptist burying ground in the Park Southwark. A very large auditory was collected to hear his funeral sermon, but the illness of Mr. Stennett prevented him from preaching it, till some time afterwards. The sermon was not printed, though he was strongly solicited to do it.
Mr. Keach had been twice married. His first wife was a Miss Jane Grove, of Winslow, in Buckinghamshire, "a woman of great piety and prudence," to which might have been added, great affection and fortitude, which she manifested when her husband was set in the pillory, by standing by him and defending the cause for which he suffered. This good woman died October 1670, in the 31st year of her age. This was a very great affliction to him, as she was a very tender and loving wife, and had been his companion in sufferings ten years. The extraordinary affection which he bare to her memory was manifested by his writing a poem on the occasion of her death, which he entitled, A Pillar set up, assigning as his reason the example of Jacob, And Rachel died and was buried, and Jacob set up a pillar on her grave, that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day. In this he gave her a very high character, commending her zeal for the truth, sincerity in religion, uncommon love to the saints, and her great contentment in whatsoever condition of life God was pleased to place her. He particularly mentions how great an help and comfort she was to him in his suffering for the cause of Christ, visiting him while in prison, and taking all possible care of him, and encouraging him to go on, counting it an honour done them both, in that they were called to suffer for the sake of Christ. She was of an heavenly conversation, her discourse savoury, and for the most part about spiritual things, seeking the good of those she talked with; and in this she was so successful, that many have acknowledged that they were indebted to her conversation for their conversion to God. As Mr. Keach published this account of her that her example might be imitated by others, for the same reason we have thought it worth transcribing.
After being a widower about two years, he married again. This union was much to his comfort, as they lived together in great affection 32 years.
"To collect every particular transaction (says Crosby) of this worthy minister's life, cannot be
expected at such a distance of time; nay, even to collect all that was excellent and imitable in him is too great a task to be now undertaken. I shall only observe that he was a person of great integrity of soul; a Nathaniel indeed; his conversation not frothy and vain, but serious without being morose or sullen. He began to be religious early, and continued faithful to the last. He was not shocked by the fury of his persecutors, though he suffered so much from them for the cause of Christ. Preaching the gospel was the pleasure of his soul, and his heart was so engaged in the work of the ministry, that from the time of his first appearing in public, to the end of his days, his life was one continued scene of labour and toil. His great study and constant preaching exhausted his animal spirits, and enfeebled his strength, yet to the last he discovered a becoming zeal against the errors of the day; his soul was too great to recede from any truth that he owned, either from the frowns or flatteries of the most eminent. He discharged the duties of his pastoral office wilh unwearied diligence, by preaching in season and out of season, visiting those under his charge, encouraging the serious, defending the great truths of the gospel, and setting them in the clearest light. How low would he stoop for the sake of peace! and how would he bear the infirmities of his weak brethren! that such as would not be wrought upon by the strength of reason, might be melted by his condescension and good nature. He was prudent as well as peaceable ; would forgive and forget injuries, being charitable as well as courteous. He was not addicted to utter hard censures of such as differed from him in less matters, but had a love for all saints, and constantly exercised himself in this, to keep a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man. He shewed an unwearied endeavour to recover the decayed power of religion, for he lived what he preached, and it pleased God so to succeed his endeavours, that I doubt not but some yet living may call him their father, whom he hath begotten through the gospel. He affected no unusual tones, nor indecent gestures in his preaching, his style was strong and masculine. He generally used notes, especially in the latter part of his life; and if his sermons had not the embellishments of language, which some boast of, they had this peculiar advantage to be full of solid divinity; which is a much better character for pulpit discourses, than to say they are full of pompous eloquence and flights of wit. It was none of the least of his excellent qualifications for the ministerial work, that he knew how to behave himtelf in the house of God in regard of the exercise of that discipline which is so necessary to a christian society. With patience and meekness, with gravity and prudence, with impartiality and faithfulness, did he demean himself in his congregation; and with great prudence did he manage all their affairs upon all occasions.
In his family he was very exemplary, encouraging the first appearances of piety, and constantly instructing them in the things of God, and putting them in mind of the concerns of their souls, praying with and for them. He was a very affectionate husband, a tender father, a prudent master, and a constant and grateful friend. He was naturally of a good disposition, and generally pleasant and cheerful in conversation. The vivacity of his temper sometimes exposed him to sharp and sudden fits of anger, which occasioned no small uneasiness to himself, as well as those who had given him any provocation; but those fits were but for a short continuance, and so the trouble occasioned by them was soon over and the goodness and tenderness
of his nature was such as afterwards made amends to those who had fallen under his resentment. Besides, if his natural passion, at any time, so far transported him, as to cause him to speak any rash or offensive words, he was presently recovered; and would with the greatest humility and frankness retract what he had said; and thereby discovered that not the least degree of prejudice remained in his breast.
Notwithstanding the arduous labours of Mr. Keach as a pastor, he was also considerably distinguished as a writer. He was the Author of more than forty publications of different kinds and sizes. Keach On Scripture Metaphors, 2 vols, folio, was first printed in 1682. This interesting work has within a few years been reprinted by the London booksellers.
Ivimy's History of the English Baptist, Vol. II.
[The American Baptist Magazine, New Series, July, 1821, pp. 121-127; Part II: September, 1821, pp. 161-166. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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