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Brief Memoirs of the English Baptists
Section II (March 1810)
From the Introduction of Popery to the Commencement of the Reformation

From The Baptist Magazine, 1810
      AS soon as the church of Rome had propagated her errors, and established her authority in our Land, truth was put to shame, and its friends persecuted: consequently it was but a short time that our Baptist brethren could remain in a congregated state, even in the recesses of Wales and Cornwall. Despotism and death silenced their ministers, dissolved their churches, and the offspring of the mother of harlots prevented their children from raising up their waste places and repairing the breaches of Zion. The light of the gospel was obscured, clouds of error spread over the country, but God ordained a lamp for his anointed, and raised up men to plead their cause, and contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

      We have no mention of the christening, or baptizing children, in England, before the coming of Austin, A. D. 597, and to us, it is very evident, he brought it not from heaven, but from Rome. But though the subject of baptism began now to be altered, the mode of it continued in the national church, a thousand years longer, and baptism was performed by dipping those that were baptized in water.* Baptizing in churches began with the baptism of Edwin the great, king of Northumberland, who came to the throne
* Thomas Crosby's History of English Baptists volume 2, Preface 31, 33.

A. D. 617, after being 3 years a candidate for christianity, in the year 620, he called a Wittenagemot or Parliament, to debate whether the christian religion should be received or not by him and his people! The motion passed without opposition, and it is said, the same day Edwin, his niece Hilda, afterwards abbess of Whitby, many of his nobles, and a multitude of his subjects, were baptized by Paulinus in a small wooden church built for the purpose in the city of York. About this time baptism was generally performed at Easter and whitsuntide, and at least in many instances trine immersion was used. The baptistries first erected in English churches, were as large as our modern baptistries, big enough for the immersion of the parties to be baptized, and they descended into them by steps in the same manner as we do into ours. In after times the baptistries were made in little buildings adjoining to churches, and in some of these buildings were several baptistries, for baptizing both sexes, or several people at one and the same time. At first, baptistries were only allowed in great cities, next to parishes, and afterwards to monastries. When infant baptism became general in the country, the large baptistries were but little used, smaller ones were erected, but these were large enough for the total immersion of an infant. Some of them remain to this day. After the commencement of baptizing adults in baptistries, the administration of the ordinance was by no means confined to them. From the time of Edwin's baptism to his death, a space of 6 years, Paulinus very frequently baptized in the rivers Gwenie and Swale. The Northumbrians following the example of their king, Paulinus found himself fully employed by the prodigious crowds that daily came to be taught and baptized. Coming at one time with the king and queen to a place called Adegrin, it is said he spent there thirty six days from morning till night, instructing and baptizing in the river Gleni the people that flocked to him from all quarters.* After him, probably about the year 633, James, one of his disciples, said to be a good and holy man, continued preaching and baptizing in the same parts of the country. In the year 636, Berinus preached to the people in the southwest part of England, and converted and baptized many of them. Among the rest, Kingills king of the west Saxons, and Quinthelin his brother, Oswald, king of Northumberland, was present at their baptism, and the same day was married to a daughter of Kingills. About the year 656, Chad, otherwise called Saint Chad, bishop of Litchfield, a mild and modest man, preached to the Saxons, converted Wulfdae, Refine, and many more, and baptized them by immersion. A. D. 680, Wilfred converted and baptized Adelwach king of the west Saxons, and many of his subjects. In the reign of Alfred, who came to the throne in 872, Guthrumnu a Dane, and thirty of his companions
* Crosby's preface, ii vol. page 17.

were baptized in a fountain. Ethelred, second son of king Edgar, crowned in 979, was baptized when an infant by total immersion. Dunstan who baptized him, was sadly offended with him, for leaving more water in the font than he found there; from which the archbishop prognosticated fresh inundations of the Danes, and sware by the virgin Mary that he would be a prince untowardly and cowardly

      The Danes began to invade and plunder the coasts of England in the year 832, and continued their incursions and exactions till 1012, when Swain king of Denmark made an intire [sic] conquest of the country, and the year following was acknowledged king of England. It appears he was a servant of mammon, for his first act of sovereignty was an insupportable tax which he did not live to see collected. Death dethroned him February 8, 1014, and he was succeeded by his son Canute, called the great, being king of England, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Before the irruptions of the Danes, the state of religion in the country was bad, and as piety seldom prospers while war rages, their incursions and subjection of the land did not mend the matter. It is not the sword of war, but the sword of the spirit, that converts men from sin to holiness.

      Of what religion Canute was before he became king of England we cannot say, but after he ascended the british throne, he called himself a christian; and finding his nominal christian subjects grossly ignorant of christianity, professed to promote religious knowledge among them by passing the following ecclesiastical law. “That every christian man understands the points of his faith, and that at least he learn perfectly the Lord's prayer, and the creed, and that whosoever cannot, the same shall be excluded the eucharist, and shall not be received to undertake for others in baptism!” So then there were at this time christian inen that were ignorant of the Lord's prayer, the creed, and the articles of their faith ! and these ignorant wretches partook of the Lord's supper, and did promise and vow for others that they should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh, that they should also believe all the articles of the christian faith! and keep God's holy will and commandments and walk in the same all the days of their lives!! Oh the abominable deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart! It was indeed high time to reform. What effect the king's law had upon his subjects we know not, but we rather suppose that if such a law was now in force and strictly executed in England, it might keep a few people from the Lord's table, prevent many from becoming Godfathers and Godmothers, and if every man called a christian must understand the articles of the christian faith, or renounce the christian name, thousands must seek to be better informed than they are at present, or declare themselves infidels! Lighten our darkness we beseech thee O Lord.

Canute died in 1035, and about thirty years after, upon the death of Edward the confessor, Harold, son of the Earl of Kent, stepped into the throne, on pretence that the confessor had appointed him his successor, but William Duke of Normandy, a descendant of Canute, making the like claim, invaded the kingdom, and coming to a battle with Harold near Hastings in Sussex, October 14, 1066, defeated and killed him. Whereupon William assumed the name of couqueror, was proclaimed king of England, and crowned on 25th of December following. And now the time commenced, when God who visiteth the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him, resolved to AVENGE THE BLOOD OF THE BRITISH BAPTISTS SHED BY THE SAXONS UPON THEIR UNGODY OFFSPRING! The depredations of the Danes were an earnest of their punishment, and the cruelty of the conqueror filled up the cup of their chastisement and they were made to drink the dregs of it mingled with wormwood and gall. William treated the English with some humanity at his accession, but afterward, finding them disaffected to his government, he used them with horrid barbarity: cut off the hands and feet of many thousands! destroyed all the north of England with fire and sword, and gave away all the land to his Normans! so that before he died, there was not an English gentleman possessed of an estate in his own right! All the lands in England were in the hands of the Normans, and the English only tenants at will, or vassals to them! And so jealous was the tyrant of insurrections after this usage of the natives, that he obliged them to put out their fires and candles every evenjng, at eight o'clock, at the ringing of the corfeu [curfew] bell! True and righteous are thy judgments, Lord God. Almighty. But hear O heavens, and give ear, O earth.

“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform,
He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm!"

      As soon as he had avenged the blood of his slaughtered servants, upon the heads of the wicked children of their murderers, some seeds of the Reformation began to be sown! and although the prince of darkness tried to destroy them by the pestiferous damps of superstition, his labour was in vain! William himself refused to swear fealty to the Pope for the crown of England; and during his reign, the Waldenses and their disciples from France, Germany and Holland, had their frequent recourse, and residence, and did abound in England. * They were Baptists in sentiment, denied infant baptism, and were the purest churches in the darkest times. + About the year 1080, they are said to have propagated their sentiments throughout England, so that not only the meaner sort in country
* Crosby, Preface, 2 volume, p. 43. Also No 1 of this Magazine, p. 8.
+ Ewer’s Answer to Hitchens, p. 167.

villages but the nobility and gentry in the chiefest towns and cities, embraced their doctrines, and became Baptists in opinion; and therefore, Lanfrank, archbishop of Canterbury, wrote a book against them. Here we find the first seeds of the Reformation in England were sown by Baptists in sentiment, and that by their means a new, numerous, and very respectable people, were raised up to espouse and honor the Baptist cause. From the year 1100 to 1216 in the successive reigns of Henry I, Stephen, Henry II, Richard I, and John, they considerably increased in number, and were unmolested. In the time of Henry III, about 1218, the order of the friar Minorites were sent over from the continent, to suppress them by their sham sanctity, but the painted hypocrites were known through the disguise they wore, and their masquerade devotions were ineffectual. In the reign of Edward II, A. D. 1315, Walter Lollard, a German preacher of great renown among the Waldenses, and a friend to believer's baptism, came into England, and spread his doctrines very much among our countrymen. His disciples afterwards went by the name of Lollards, and rejected infant baptism as a needless ceremony.* In the year 1371, in the reign of Edward III, the famous John Wickliffe began openly and successfully to oppose the corruptions of the church of Rome, and witnessed against infant baptism. It is therefore worthy of observation that the FIRST ENGLISH REFORMER WAS A BAPTIST IN SENTIMENT.+ Among the followers of this great man in Bohemia and England were many Baptists.

      Richard II, in the year 1382, made a law for suppressing the Wickliffites, or Lollards as they were called, and they were persecuted with great severity; but their sufferings did not deter others from embracing their principles; therefore Henry IV, in the year 1400, enacted the cruel statute for the burning of hereticks. The first that suffered by this infernal law was William Sawtre, some time minister of St. Margaret's parish, in the town of Lynn in Norfolk. He was a Lollard, was burnt in London A. D. 1400, and has been called the protomartyr of the English nation. Therefore we find, that the first Englishman that was burnt to death for religion was a Baptist. Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, and Rev. W. Taylor, three Lollards or Baptists, were also burnt to death for their religion. The former in the reign of Henry V, 1417, and the latter in the reign of Henry VI, 1422. In 1426, Wickliff's bones were dug up, burnt to ashes and plunged in the river Swift In about three years from 1428 to 1431, one hundred and twenty people were committed to prison for Lollardy, or Baptist sentiments. Some of these recanted, others did penance, and several of them were burnt alive. These cruel proceedings made the Wickliffites,
* Crosby, volume I, p. 25.
+ Baptist Magazine, No. I, p. 11.

Lollards, or Baptists, very cautious of divulging their principles, but however careful they were of themselves, their enemies found means to discover many of them, and they were treated without mercy. Yet notwithstanding the hardships they suffered, like the Israelites in Egypt, the more they were afflicted, the more they grew! and increased from this time down to the reign of Henry VIII, a period of 78 years. Sir James Bainham, and Mr. John Frith, both opposers of infant baptism, were burnt in Smithfield, the former in 1532, the latter in 1533, In 1535 ten Baptists were put to death in different parts of the realm, and fourteen Hollanders, supposed to be Baptists, were burnt by pairs in several places. In 1536 the opinions of the Baptists increased so much in the land, that in order to prevent the further spread of their notions, the national Clergy, when met in convocation, declared their sentiments to be detestable heresies, utterly to be condemned In October 1558, a commission was given to Cranmer and others to enquire after, and proceed against Baptists, and burn their books : On the 16th of November following, the king put forth a proclamation in which he condemns all Baptist books, appoints those to be punished who vended them, and about a month afterward, sent a letter to all the Justices in England directing them to see that all the laws against the Baptists were duly executed. In the same year, two Baptists were burnt in Smithfield, and four others did penance by carrying faggots at Paul's cross, and so escaped the flames. In 1539 thirty one Baptists, sixteen men and fifteen women, were banished the country, who going to Delf in Holland were there put to death; the men beheaded, and the women drowned The king's speech to his parliament in 1545 intimates that many of his subjects went under the name of Baptists.* Henry died January 8, 1547, and was succeeded by his Son Edward VI, only nine years of age. Edward proved to be a sensible pious youth, a true protestant, and a friend to liberty of conscience; and during his short reign of only six years, the reformation, very imperfectly begun in his father's time, was brought to a greater degree of maturity. Popery was put down, and the protestant religion established by law. The Lord has a time, a set time to favor zion; nor does he ever lose a moment of it, or is slack in improving it, whatsoever his hand findeth to do, he doeth it with his might, and fulfils his great decrees. In his appointed time, he brought Joseph out of prison, Israel out of Egypt and Babylon; sent his Son to preach good tidings to the Jews, and gave his gospel to the Gentiles. And his power, wisdom, justice, mercy and goodness, endure for ever. They shall be ashamed and confounded, that are makers of Idols, but Israel shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. Remember this, tried and trembling followers of the Lamb, let faith, patience, and perseverance
* Crosby, volume I, p. 43.

have their perfect work, and it shall be well with you. Consider this, you who have not been accustomed to have Ged in your thoughts. Would you be happy: you must be holy. That which, by faith, we have seen, heard and felt, declare we unto you, that if ye believe in God, forsake your sins, and work righteousness, you may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Come with us and we will do you good. The Lord create in you a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within you. Grace be with all them, of every name and nation, that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
          I. Taylor.

(To be continued)


[From The Baptist Magazine, March, 1810, Volume II, pp. 89-95. From Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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