Baptist Martyr in England, 1575
By Thomas Armitage
Hendrick Terwoot, a Fleming by birth, and of a fine mind, another Baptist martyr of note, was burned in Smithfield, June 22, 1575. He was but five and twenty, had rejected infant baptism, and held that a Christian should not make oath or bear arms. While in prison he wrote a Confession of Faith, in which he said: "We must abstain from willful sins if we would be saved, namely, from adultery, fornication, witchcraft, sedition, bloodshed, cursing and stealing, . . . hatred and envy. They who do such things shall not possess the kingdom of God." He also set forth that the 'Anabaptists' "believe and confess that magistrates are set and ordained of God, to punish the evil and protect the good, that they pray for them and are subject to them in every good work, and that they revere the 'gracious queen' as a sovereign. He sent a copy to Elizabeth, but her heart was set against him and his people, as hard as the nether millstone, and this young son of God must die because he would not make his conscience her footstool. Bishops Laud and Whitgift hated him and the Baptists, the latter dealing in this heartless slander: They give honor and reverence to none in authority, they seek the overthrow of commonwealths and states of government, they are full of pride and contempt, their whole interest is schismatic and to be free from all laws, to live as they list; they feign an austerity of life and manners, and are great hypocrites. When he comes to the dangerous method of specification, he virtually admits his slander. He berates them for complaining: "That their months are stopped, not by God's word, but by the authority of the magistrate. They assert that the civil magistrate has no authority in ecclesiastical matters, and ought not to meddle in cases of religion and faith, and that no man ought to be compelled to faith and religion; and lastly, they complain much of persecution, and brag that they defend their cause not with words only, but by the shedding of their blood."
Terwoort was not an English subject, but, persecuted in his own land for his love to Christ, he fled and asked protection of a Protestant queen, the head of the English Church, and she roasted him alive for his misplaced confidence. Nor was his a singular case. Bishop Jewel complains of a large and unauspicious crop of 'Anabaptists' in Elizabeth's reign, and she not only ordered then out of her kingdoin, but in good earnest kindled the fires to burn them. Sir James Mackintosh says that no Catholic was martyred in Edward's reign, and happy had it been could he have written that the virgin Queen also avoided a Baptist holocaust. Marsden thinks that the Baptists were the most numerous dissenters from the Established Church in her reign, and Camden affirms that she insisted on their leaving the kingdom on pain of imprisonment and confiscation of property. Yet even this did not satisfy her implacable hate, as a real Tudor. She pursued them more and more, until they were driven in all directions, some being put to death; but the large part of them fled to Holland, where at this time they enjoyed more toleration. Dr. Some, however, an English clergyman of note in his day, inforins us that they had several secret 'conventicles' in London, and that several of their ministers had been educated at the universities. In 1589, he wrote a treatise, attacking them and their faith. His charges against the Baptists were: That they insisted on maintaining all ministers of the Gospel by the voluntary contributions of the people; that the civil power has no right to make and impose ecclesiastical laws; that the people have the right to choose their own pastors; that the High Commission Court was an antiChristian usurpation; that those who are qualified to preach ought not to be hindered by the civil power; that though the Lord's Prayer is a rule and foundation of petition, it is not to be used as a form, for no form of prayer should be bound on the Church; that the baptism of the Church of Rome is invalid; that a Gospel constitution and discipline are essential to a true Church; and that the worship of God in the Church of England is, in many things, defective. For these views they were accounted 'heretics,' and suffered so severely that from 1590 to 1630 we find but slight trace of Baptists in England.
[From Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, Vol. I, p. 451, 1886, reprint. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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