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Brief Memoirs of the English Baptists
Section III.
From the Reformation to the Death of James I
From The Baptist Magazine, 1810
      We contemplate with pleasure, the liberty afforded to all true protestants from popish persecutions by the accession of Edward VI. to the throne of England; but our joy is presently turned into mourning by a view of the hardships which many of them suffered from the absurd oppressions of their professed brethren. Indeed a reformation forwarded by a wicked man, and matured by a sickly child, cannot be supposed to be a perfect one. Henry VIII. was a flagitious tyrant, whose conduct abounded with abominable inconsistencies. He divorced two of his wives, whose actions were better than his own: beheaded two of them, who were more worthy to live than himself: ordered another to be murdered in child birth, rather than lose her infant; and after enacting a law to make it high treason, for any woman to marry him unless she was a pure virgin, married a widow! He renounced all subjection to the see of Rome, but enforced popery upon his people, put protestants to death for religion, and paid devout adoration to a precious relic kept at Hales in Gloucestershire, said to be some of the blood of Christ brought from Jerusalem, but in reality nothing more than the blood of a Duck!" He wrote against Luther and the protestant religion, but put down. 1148 popish religious houses, and seized
* Vide Latimer's Sermons, Lon. Ed. 1783, Vol. 1. Sermon 11. Note Page 225.

their lands, amounting to L183,707:13:0 per annum. Gave his subjects an English translation of the Bible, but ordered all such books to be destroyed as might help to explain it to them! These are a few of the mighty works, of this supreme head of the Church, and potent defender of her Faith! His son and successor, Edward, VI, was a pious youth, but his head was too tender to enable him fully to reform his ecclesiastical body, the church, and his ministers who managed for him were but half reformed themselves. Nor should it be forgotten, that at best a reformation is not a renovation. The grace of God will change a lion into a lamb; but a reformed lion, if ever so tame, is not a Lamb, put only a lion tamed. The church of England as established by law at this time, was not a new church, but only an old one fitted up in anew fashion. Our reformers stript the whore of Babylon of her gorgeous attire, washed her filthy hands, pared her nails, purified her bloated face, cleansed her skin, and arrayed her in fine linen, clean and white. Thus metamorphosed, short sighted people took her for a new creature, a heavenly stranger, the bride, the Lamb's wife: were as fond of her as the ancient Ephesians were of their Diana, and readily agreed with their rulers, that whosoever would not follow their mistress, should be turned over to dungeons and flames, death and the devil! But clear sighted people recognized the old strumpet in her new dress, refused to keep company with an harlot; and were therefore afflicted and tormented!

      The Baptists, at this time, were so much increased that it is supposed there were five hundred of them in one town, they were also very numerous in several other parts of England, and their sufferings for conscience sake were severe.

      It is an astonishing fact, that during this reign, popish traitors to the state, were treated with more lenity than protestant dissenters from the church After many political cavils, an act passed for the King's general pardon, wherein the Baptists were excepted! On the 12th of April 1547, a commission was given the Archbishop of Cauterbury, and other clerical hunters, to search after all Baptists, reclaim them, enjoin them penance, give them absolution, or in case they were obstinate, excommunicate and imprison them and deliver them to the secular power to be further proceeded against. The courteous Ridley, very uncourteously, enquired if there were any of them in his Diocese. Latimer preached against them before the King, and Cranmer labored hard, and at length prevailed with his majesty, against his will, to burn two of them to death in Smithfield so accordingly Joan Bocher was committed to the flames May 2, 1549, and George Van Pare April 12, 1551: They both suffered with great fortitude, and peace of mind, and Van Pare kissed the stake and faggots that were to consume his body to ashes!

The king himself died of a consumption July 6, 1553, in the 16th year of his age, and was succeeded by his sulky, malicious, implacable, popish sister Mary. This furiously superstitious Queen, as soon as she possessed herself of regal authority, set aside the reformed religion, and restored the unreformed Romish trumpery. Cruel papists were promoted to honor, aid in a short time hundreds of pious protestants burnt to death, or otherwise destroyed for their royalty to Jesus Christ.

      Many of the martyrs, we have no doubt were Baptists, though no particular mention is made of their sentiments respecting believer's baptism, and those zealous reformers who in the preceding reign burnt our people to death for religion, were now burnt themselves! After a bloody and infamous reign of only five years, this infernal Queen gave up the ghost November 17, 1558; upon whose decease her sister Elizabeth succeeded to the throne. Elizabeth favored the reformation, and therefore soon repealed the laws made in favor of popery by her sister; restored the protestant religion, and assumed the supreme direction of it in her dominions. Those that were imprisoned for conscience sake were set free, the English bible and service book were replaced, and the thirty nine artieles of the Church established. But as her majesty had very high notions of her ecclesiastical and civil authority, she thought the most compulsive measures lawful to bring her subjects to yield implicit obedience to her will. An act to enforce religious uniformity was passed, and all the engines of persecution made use of to oblige the nation to submit to it. ' Those who refused to be confined within the pale of the national church were contemptuously called Puritans, and while the Queen suffered French protestants to take refuge in England from the persecutions of France, she prosecuted her own protestant dissenting subjects for their religion 1 But the cruelties practised against them only served to increase their number, and add to their fortitude, so that in the year 1573 they left their parish Churches, and began to form themselves into distinct societies. The Baptists wonderfully prospered, their prosperity provoked the indignation of their adversaries, and their wrath lay heavy upon them. On Easter day 1575 a congregation of Baptists was discovered without Aldgate, London. Twenty seven of them were imprisoned. Some of them recanted, others were banished, and two of them were burnt to death in Smithfield, July 22, next following.

      In 1589, Dr. Some, a man of great note, wrote against the Puritans in general, and the Baptists in particular. But while he inweighs against the Baptists, he acknowledges there were several congregations of them in London; that some of their Ministers were bred at our Universities, and the principles he charges them with holding, when stript of his dress, do honor to their piety and judgment.

Beside believers' baptism, they are said to have held,

      “That the ministers of the gospel ought to be maintained by the voluntary contributions of the people:

      That the civil power has no right to make and impose ecclesiastical laws:

      “That people ought to have the right of chusing [choosing] their own ministers:

      That the high commission court was an antichristian usurpation: That those who are qualified to preach the gospel ought not to be hindered by the civil power:

      That though the Lord's prayer be a rule and foundation of prayer, yet not to be used as a form ; and that no forms of prayer ought to be imposed on the church : That the baptism administered in the church of Rome is invalid: That a true constitution and discipline is essential to a true church; and that the worship of God in the church of England is in many things defective.”

     Some time after this, the Queen by her proclamation, commanded all Baptists* and others called heretics, to depart the land, under the penalties of imprisonment or loss of goods; so that all that were of this opinion were obliged either to conceal their principles, or fly into some other country, where they might enjoy the liberty of their religion | Upon which many Dissenters went over into Holland, among whom there were not a few Baptists, so that there was now no great number of dissenters of any denomination that dared openly to appear. Elizabeth died March 24, 1603, in the 70th year of her age, upon whose demise, James, king of Scotland, became king of England under the title of James the first. James was born of Roman Catholic parents, brought up a Presbyterian, but as soon as he became king of England he commenced a violent Episcopalian. Being made supreme head of the Church, he resolved to have his mystical body as large and as compact as possible, and therefore published a proclamation to enforce the act of religious uniformity, and endeavoured to make it effectual by the following energetic canons. “lf any one shall hereafter affirm, that the established church of England is not an orthodox and apostolical church - that the liturgy of the church of England is corrupt that any one of the thirty-nine articles of faith is in any part superstitious or erroneous, or that they may not be subscribed with a good conscience - that the ceremonies of the church are superstitious that the government of the Church by archbishops, deans, &c. is contrary to scripture that the form of ordaining bishops is contrary to scripture, Let him be excommunicated!"+ The penalties of these mandates, excluded people from the privileges of religious and civil society, and subjected them to many
* Crosby English Baptists volume, i, p. 77.
+ Eccles. Constitution London, 1603, can. 3-8.

grievous hardships; wherefore in the year 1604, the puritans whether Baptists or others, presented a petition to the King for toleration. The Bishops strenuously opposed it and it was refused, and the petitioners were commanded to conform to the established church or otherwise ordered to be punished for their nonconformity.

      In 1606 an act for levying one shilling a Sunday upon everyone that did not come to church, was executed with rigour, the puritans were otherwise sorely persecuted, and called an obstinate people of a turbulent spirit, who deserved to have no favour shewn them. They suffered various oppressions with great patience, but persecution growing still more violent against them, great numbers, resolved to go and settle in Virginia. Some departed for that country, and others were ready to take the same voyage, but a proclamation was published enjoining them not to go without the king's express license.

      About this time baptismal immersion began to be laid aside in the church of England, and sprinkling or pouring water used in its stead. This instead of weakening, strengthened the Baptist cause, our brethren became more and more numerous, and resolved to revive the ancient practice of immersion. At first there was some small diversity of sentiment among them, respecting the mode of doing it, but this difficulty was soon got over. Some were of opinion that the first administrator should baptize himself, and then proceed to baptize others. Accordingly it is said that Mr. John Smith, a man of great piety and learning, and accounted one of the grandees of the separation, first baptized himself, and afterwards baptized others, but the account of his baptizing himself, is given by his enemies, and does not appear to be true. Others were for sending to foreign Baptists, that they might receive it from them and it is said, that several pious people about London, being convinced of believer's baptism, sent Mr. Richard Blount over into the Netherlands, where he was baptized by Mr. John Batte, pastor of a Baptist Church there; and that upon his return he baptized . Mr. Samuel Blacklock a Minister, and that these baptized the rest of their company to the number of 53. But the greater number and more judicious of the English Baptists, looked upon it as needless trouble to send abroad for baptism, and held and practised accordingly, that after a general corruption of baptism, an unbaptized person might warrantably baptize and so begin a reformation.*

      In 1611, some of the Baptists published a confession of their faith. The same year the most dread sovereign. king James exercised his zeal against heresy upon two of his subjects, who were burnt alive in Smithfield, for their religious opinions: one of whom was Edward
* Crosby, Vol. 1, p. 100. 109.

Wightman, a Baptist of Bourton upon Trent, who was burnt April 11.* It is worthy of observation, that William Sawtre, the first that was burnt in England for religion, was a Baptist; and Edward Wightman, the last that was burnt, was a Baptist; so that the Baptists had the honour of leading the way, and bringing op the rear of all the martyrs who were burnt in England for conscience sake. Many of those who suffered death for the same cause in the two hundred years between these, were also of the same denomination. This burning heretics startled the common people. The barbarity of their punishment moved compassion towards the sufferers,
* The following is a copy of the warrant for his execution,
“The king to the sheriff of our city of Litchfield, greeting. “Whereas, the reverend father in Christ, Richard, by divine providence, of Coventry and Litchfield, bishop, hath signified unto us, that he judicially proceeding, according to the exigence of the ecclesiastical canons, and of the laws and customs of this our kingdom of England, against one Edward Wightman, of the parish of Burton upon Trent in the diocese of Coventry and Litchfield, of, and upon the wicked heresies of Ebion, Cerinthus, Valentinian, Arius, Macedonius, Simon Magus, Manes, Manichees. Photinus, and of the Anabaptists and other, arch heretics; and moreover, of other cursed opinions, by the instinct of Satan excogitated, and heretofore unheard of ; the aforesaid Edward Wightman appearing before the aforesaid reverend father, and other divines learned in the law, assisting him in judgment, the aforesaid wicked crimes, heresies, and other detestable blasphemies and errors, stubbornly and pertinaciously, knowingly, maliciously, and with an hardened heart published, defended and dispersed; by difinitive [sic] sentence of the said reverend father, with the consent of divines learned in the law aforesaid, justly, lawfully, and canonically, against the said Edward Wightman, in that part brought, stands adjudged and pronounced an heretic; and therefore, as a diseased sheep out of the flock of the Lord, lest our subjects he do infect by his contagion, he hath decreed to be cast out and cut off. Whereas therefore the holy mother church, hath not further in this part what it ought more to do and prosecute, the same reverend father, the same Edward Wightman, as a blasphemous and condemned heretic, hath left to our secular power, to be punished with condign [severe] punishment; as by the letters patent of the aforesaid reverend father, the bishop of Coventry and Litchfield, in this behalf thereupon made, is certified unto us in our Chancery. We, therefore, as a Zealot of Justice, and a defender of the catholic faith, and willing that the holy church, and the rights and liberties of the same, and the catholic faith to maintain and defend, and such like heresies and errors every where, so much as in us lies, to root out and extirpate, and heretics so convicted to punish with condign punishment, holding that such an heretic in the aforesaid forms convict and condemned, according to the laws and customs of this our kingdom of England, in this part accustomed, ought to be burned with fire. We command thee, that thou, cause the said Edward Wightman, being in thy custody, to be committed to the fire in some public and open place, below the city aforesaid, for the cause aforesaid, before the people; and the same Edward Wightman, in the same fire, cause really to be burned, in the detestation of the said crime, and for manifest example of other christians, that they may not fall into the same crime. And this no ways omit, under the peril that shall follow thereon. Witness, &c."
* Crosby, volume 1, appendix, Page 5.

and their firmness in sealing their opinions with their blood, served rather to promote their doctrines than put a stop to them. Therefore, for the future, king James chose only to seize their estates, and waste away their lives privately in nasty prisons, rather than honor them with such a public martyrdom. In 1614 several dissenting families, Baptists and others, withdrew from the oppressions of their own country and emigrated to America.

      In 1615, The Baptists published a treatise wherein they justified their separation from the church of England.

      In 1617, a book of Sports was published by order of the king, allowing dancing, wrestling, backsword playing, bull baiting, foot ball, and other vulgar and profane amusements, on Sabbath-day afternoons, and the clergy were ordered to read it in their churches, for neglect whereof some of them were punished.

      In 1620, The Baptists presented a humble and loyal supplication to the king, for relief from persecution, wherein they set forth, that their miseries were not only the taking away their goods, but also long and lingering imprisonments, for many years, in divers counties in England in which many died leaving their widows and several children behind them, and all because they could not join in such worship as they not did believe to be according to scripture. Their petition was rejected, and their sufferings continued; but notwithstanding the severities used against them, they kept up their separate meetings, increased in number, and one of their enemies confessed they were in appearance, more holy than the members of the established church.*

      In 1618 a book was published, vindicating the principles of the Baptists. This was translated from the Dutch, and is the first book that was published in English against baptizing infants. In a short time after this, our English brethren wrote many books in defence of their sentiments and gained many disciples.

      On March 27, 1625, James departed this life, and left ample testimony behind him, that during his reign the supreme head of the Church of England, was not Him in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, but one whose head and body were dust and ashes : We have need to pray for kings and all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. When the vilest men are exalted, the wicked walk on every side, but when princes reign in righteousness, they are a praise to them that do well. When Pharoah ruled in Egypt, the magicians were promoted, and the Israelites opprest; but when David reigned in Palestine, his eyes were upon the faithful of the land, that they might dwell with him ; but the wicked were not suffered to abide in his house, nor tarry in his sight. Let us rejoice
* Crosby, volume 1. page 113,

that Christ the shepherd and bishop of souls, is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, over all, gracious and merciful and blessed for ever. Come and let us join ourselves to him in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. He will then be our arm every morning, and our salvation for ever. Let us give all diligence to make our calling and election sure. Now if ever, for now, is the accepted time. Now for ever, for as the tree falls so it lies. Now or never, for our life is a vapour that soon vanisheth away.
          I. Taylor.

(To be continued)


[From The Baptist Magazine, April, 1810, Volume II, pp. 233-240. From Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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