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The Early Scotch Baptists
By Thomas Armitage, 1890
      There are distinct pre-Reformation traces of Baptist principles and practices in Scotland. Councils were held at Perth in the years 1242 and 1296, the canons of which require that in baptism, 'Before the immersion the aforesaid words should be pronounced.' In Holyrood Chapel was a brazen font in which the children of the Scotch monarchs were 'dipped,' which was removed by the English in 1544, and destroyed in the time of Cromwell. The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia states, that sprinkling was never practiced in Scotland in ordinary cases till 1559, when it was introduced from Geneva. Many of Cromwell's army, which went to Scotland in 1650 under command of Monk, were Baptists, who kept up religious worship in their camps and immersed the converted soldiers. When Monk left the army, in the beginning of 1653, to command the fleet against the Dutch, he left Major-General Robert Lilburn in command of the troops in Scotland. Monk had been opposed to the Baptists, but Lilburn, being a stout Baptist himself, afforded his soldiery every facility for the spread of their principles. He was anxious to employ Baptist chaplains, for he said that there 'were divers honest Scotch people that longed to be gathered into the same gospel order with themselves.' When some of the troops were garrisoned at Leith and Edinburgh, they formed Baptist Churches; and we are told that many persons were immersed in the water of Leith, which passes Edinburgh on the north and falls into the Frith of Forth at the town of Leith. Amongst these was Lady Wallace of Craigie. Troops were stationed also at Cupar in Fife, where a Mr. Brown preached, and immersed several persons in the river Eden. In 1653 the fourth edition of the Confession of Faith, framed by the London Churches, was published in Edinburgh. It was accompanied by a Preface, signed by Thomas Spencer, Abraham Holmes, Thomas Powell and John Brady, by appointment of the Churches in Leith and Edinburgh. The army remained in Scotland from 1650 to 1659, but Lilburn was in command only about a year, when Monk resumed command.

      Baptist principles spread so rapidly in Scotland, that Presbyterians became alarmed, and at a meeting held in Edinburgh, October 1651, some of the elders expressed the opinion that children should not receive baptism until they made confession of faith. Some ministers also were complained of, as Alexander Cornnell, of Linlithgow, and Thomas Charteris, of Stenhouse, because they 'baptized old people, maintained Anabaptism and would not baptize infants.' Whitlock writes,

[p. 573]
that, in 1652, Parliament issued a declaration against the Scotch Dippers; and in 1653, George Fox complains of the firm resistance which he met from the Baptists of Carlisle, Leith and 'Edenbro,' but claims a great victory over them. John Knox, afraid of 'their poison,' plied his powerful pen to write them down. They were also bitterly persecuted, for on January 24th, 1654, they presented to Monk, the 'commander-in-chief of all the forces in Scotland,' "The humble address of the baptized Churches, consisting of officers, soldiers and others, walking together in gospel order, at St. Johnston's, Leith and Edinburgh, for toleration or freedom quietly to worship God; which freedom we conceive is a fruit of the purchase of our dear Redeemer." But when Heath reached Leith, 1659, he shut up Colonel Holmes and all the other Baptist officers there, first in Timptallan Castle, and then on Basse Island. The fact, that Baptists had become so numerous, both in the army and navy, and were taking such high ground against the assumptions of Cromwell, excited the fear of the rulers that they would rise, seize the government and proclaim freedom of conscience for all. Guizot writes: 'The king's interest is also supported by the Presbyterians, although they are republicans in principle; and it is only the fear that the Anabaptists and other sectaries may obtain the government, which leads them to oppose the present authorities.'

[From Thomas Armitage, History of the Baptists, Volume 2, "The Early Scotch Baptists," 1890, reprint 1988, pp. 572-73. Title for the article supplied. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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