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The Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Scotland
The Christian Repository, 1852


      Christianity was introduced into this island at a very early period of the gospel dispensation, and it is evident that the first Christian missionaries, whatever their honored names, who planted the standard of the cross on the British shores, held, in common with the primitive church, the distinct principles of the Baptists, and that these principles were maintained by the Christians of this land for several hundred years. This is rendered abundantly manifest from two historical facts; namely that the immersion of Christians, and not of children, was practiced till the introduction of popery in the seventh century, and that, even after the bestowment of the ceremony upon children, immersion itself was retained til the reformation.

      1. The ancient British church did not practice the immersion of children or even of minors. When Austin, the Popish missionary, with others, visited the island at the close of the sixth and beginning of the seventh century, through their instrumentality thousands of the Saxons were dipped in the rivers upon a profession of faith. He however found Christian churches amongst the ancient Britons who did not baptize children, and being anxious to bring them into the Romish church, he made three demands of them, one of which was to give baptism to their children, but they would not yield. A crusade was afterwards undertaken against them, which was attended with a cruel massacre. At this period, immersion in the Romish church was administered to children seven years of age, and so continued for centuries; these were called minors; and it was to this the Britons would not submit. A fierce controversy followed, which lasted about a hundred years, not as to the mode, for all immersed, but as to the subjects whether they should be believers or children. A Saxon prince, named Ina, in the eighth century, brought the controversy to a summary close, not by appeal to the word of God, but by a law requiring children within thirty days old to be dipped, under a penalty of 30s, equal to £30 now, and if the child died undipped, the personal estate was to be forfeited. Thus the baptism of children came to be general in this country. The ancient Scottish records were destroyed by the English, but these British and Saxon memorials abundantly prove that the first Christians in this island were Baptists and so continued for centuries. Moreover, the power of the pope and the errors of popery did not extend to the northern part of the island till some time after they were established in the South.

      2. Immersion continued in use, both in Scotland and England, till the reformation. In the canons of councils held at Perth, in the years 1242 and 1296, one of the appointments in the administration of the ordinance was, 'that before the immersion, the aforesaid words should be pronounced.' The brazen font, in which the children of the kings of Scotland were dipped, was taken away from Holyrood chapel by the English in

1554, and was afterwards destroyed in the days of Cromwell. In the Edinburgh Encyclopædia it is candidly asserted that in this country (Scotland) sprinkling was never practiced in ordinary cases till after the reformation, but that Scottish exiles, who had renounced the authority of the pope, having fled to Geneva, from persecution in England, implicitly acknowledged the authority of John Calvin. At Geneva, a book was published in 1556, containing forms of worship approved by Calvin, and, amongst other things the administrator of baptism is enjoined to take water in his hand and lay it upon the child's forehead. For this authority, these exiles, returning to their own country with John Knox at their head, in 1552, established sprinkling in Scotland from which it made its way into England. These facts obtained from the highest literary authorities, afford abundant evidence, not only that the first Christians were Baptists, but also the first Christians of Great Britain.

      3. The first traces of the Baptists in Scotland, after the reformation, occur in the time of the Commonwealth. Having always been the avowed and distinguished friends of liberty - mental and corporeal, civil and religious — the distinctive peculiarities of the Baptists both attracted great attention and gained many converts during that memorable age of the march of freedom. But we regret to say that the bigotry of the religionists in Scotland, and their fermented ardor for Presbyterian and covenanted uniformity, were so powerful that independency and anabaptism were almost as much dreaded and scorned by the leaders of that age as black prelacy. The resalt was, that the Baptist movement of that day was mainly English — a circumstance of itself enough to blind the eyes of the Scottish people. Moreover, the movement was made entirely by men belonging to the army; and the very fact that they had conquered, and were in the country for the purpose of keeping the nation in subjection, was enough to prerent any impression either as to immersion or independency. The English army under Cromwell came to Scotland in 1650, and many of the soldiers and officers were Baptists. These kept up the worship of God in the regiments, preached the gospel, and immersed those who from among them received the love of truth. Some of the troops were stationed in Leith and Edinburgh, and the Baptists had a church there. In 1653, they printed and published at Leith a fourth edition of the Confession of Faith, drawn up by the London Baptist ministers. To this edition they prefixed a preface, “signed in the name and by the appointment of the church of Christ usually meeting at Leith and Edinburgh, by Thomas Spencer, Abraham Holmes, Thomas Powell, John Brady.” At that same time they immersed a considerable number in the water of Leith, among whom it is said, was Lady Wallace of Craigie. At Cupar in Fife also, there was a troop stationed, in which was a Baptist preacher named Browne, who preached the gospel and immersed several of the regiment in the river Eden. A considerable impression seems to have been made on the minds of many. At a ministers' meeting held at Edinburgh as early as October, 1651, some of the assisting elders ventured to give it as their opinion, “that children should not receive the sacrament of baptism till they could give confession of their faith.” Some ministers also embraced Baptist views; - Alexander Cordwell of Linlithgow, and Thomas Charteris of Stenhouse are said to have “baptized old people, maintained

anabaptism and would not baptize infants.” In 1659, the Baptists in and about Edinburgh promoted a petition for universal toleration to all Scots except papists and prelatists. But when the English troops left the country upon the restoration of the profligate Charles in 1660, all traces of the Baptists in Scotland seem to have vanished — a fatal termination was put to the progress of their principles, and to the reign of civil and religious freedom.

      4. The next trace of the Baptists in Scotland ts to be found in one Sir William Sinclair of Kiess, in Caithness, who lived in the early part of the eighteenth century, was immersed in England, came home reached the gospel, immersed those who through his instrumentality brought to a knowledge of the truth, and formed a Baptist church on hown [Town?] estate; and, notwithstanding his rank, suffered much persecution. An old man who heard him, and who was pastor of the churrbome [?] by him, was alive in 1829. Some Scotsmen, like Sir William Sinclair became Baptists in England, but either they never thought of spreading t[h]eir views in their native land, or they lacked opportunity. Among thesis was John Macgowan, the celebrated author of "The Slaver,” “Dialogue of Devils,” &c., and who was pastor of the Baptist church assembling in Devonshire Square, London.

      5. No permanent effort was made to establish the denomination in Scotland tiîl 1765, when Robert Carmichæl and Archibald Maclean were immersed, and a Baptist church was formed in Edinburgh, consisting at first of nine persons, having Carmichæl for their pastor. Maclean was chosen his colleague in 1768; after which time Baptist views rapidly spread into various parts of Scotland. It is not necessary further to pursue the history at present; this can better be done on some future occasion, as we hope it will. The jubilee of 1755 was 1815, and probably it was forgotten amid the din of war and Waterloo. But its centenary must not be forgotten. Let 1865 be a jubilee to the Lord; let it be characterized by a new and vigorous impulse given to the exertions and liberality of the Baptists in Scotland. But let it not be said that we are to wait two-and-twenty years, and then to begin to do something. No, by that time many of us may be sleeping in the dust of death, or unable to share either in the toils or the spoils which may then be our lot. The voice of wisdom to every Baptist in Scotland is, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest.” A great work is to be done for God, and for truth, and for souls. Our substance, our time, our exertions, and our hearts are all needed, and are all demanded by the Head of the Church. We have already seen that our distinctive principles existed in this island for hundreds of years an early period of the Christian dispensation. We verily believe that they are again to spread and to fill the whole land; and that infant sprinkling, and every semblance of popery, are destined to give way before them. Let us be strong in faith; let us be cemented in holy oneness for the work. Now is the time for us to be up and doing, so that when 1866 arrives we may have doubled or trebled our present strength, filling every corner of our beloved land; and then we and our children shall be able to accomplish still more for the Lord our God.


[From John L. Waller & Charles D. Kirk, editors, The Christian Repository, 1852, Volume I, pp. 446-448; via Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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