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The preceding facts shew, that'obloquy attached itself to the principles of the Baptists, and that they were marked out as objects for the virulence of the populace and the animadversion of the magistrate. Next to the Quakers, observes a late historian, “they were perhaps the most hated and persecuted sect.”* But it should be owned, in mitigation of the conduct of their persecutors, that at least in some instances they inflamed the spirits of men against them, as Mr. Neal suggests, by their own imprudence and the impetuosity of their zeal. Much enthusiasm appears to have animated the profession of their opinions; and it was the fashion of the times for every party to advance its peculiar sentiments in coarse and irritating language ; each assumed this licentiousness of speech, but none took it patiently from others. The Baptists incurred censure, and excited jealousy and resentment, by disturbing congregations and dispersing challenges to dispute with any minister or ministers on the questions relative to baptism. This was much according to the practice of the times. Mr. Baxter, we have seen, challenged Mr. Cox: and Dr. Gunning, afterward regius professor of divinity at Cambridge, and bishop of Ely, in the year 1656, went into the congregation of Mr. Biddle, and began a dispute with him. But while the members of the dominant parties did this uncensured, it was considered, and treated, as insolence in the minority to advance their opinions, even in their own assemblies only. When the public peace is broken, men are justly amenable to the civil magistrate: but for the breach of the peace merely, and not for the sentiments they may at the time avow. Violence, penalties, and imprisonment, on account of religious tenets, are, in no view, justifiable. Against error they are needless; for that, not being founded in reason and proof, will of itself die away: against truth
Place, January 18, 1640, mentioned hy Fuller, is omitted; because he is 'mistaken: in calling it an anabaptistical congregation; and the matter has been stated, before, by Mr. Neal, vol. 2. p. 342. But it may be added to what is there said, either in the text or the notes, concerning this congregation and its ministers, that Mr. Hubbard, or Herbert, its first pastor, was a learned man, and bad received episcopal ordination ; that in his time, the church aecompanied him to Ireland, where he died; that it then returned to England ; that Mr. Stephen Moore, its minister in 1640, who had been a deacon of it, was possessed of an estate, a man of good reputation, and endowed with a considerable share of ministerial abilities; and that it was severely persecuted by the clergy and the bishops' courts. Crosby, vol. 1. p. 163 -165.
* Gough's History of the Quakers, vol. 1. p. 52, nole.
they are ineffectual; for that will finally prevail, by its own weight and evidence, above all opposition. Every person, against whom they are directed, feels them to be in his own case iniquitous and cruel.
The only good effect which persecution hath ever pro duced, has been, opening the eyes of men to see the iniquity of it, and raising in their hearts an abhorrence of it. The severities of which the Baptists were the marked objects, led them to be advocates for liberty and toleration. So far back as the year 1615, Mr. Helwise and his church, at London, published a treatise, entitled “ Persecution for religion judged and condemned;" the dedication to which was subscribed thus ; " By Christ's unworthy witnesses, his majesty's faithful subjects, commonly, but falsely, called Anabaptists.” In this piece they asserted, “ that every man hath a right to judge for himself in matters of religion, and that to persecute any one on that account is illegal and antichristian."*
In a book called “ The Bloody Tenet,” printed in 1644, and in another entitled “The Compassionate Samaritan," they advanced this principle ; “ That it is the will and command of God, that since the coming of his Son, a per mission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or antichris, tian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all nations; that the doctrine of persecution in case of conscience maintained by Calvin, Beza, Cotton, and the ministers of New-England, is guilty of all the blood of the souls, crying for vengeance under the altar.” They besought the parliament “ to allow public protection to private as well as public congregations; to review and repeal the laws against the separatists; to permit a freedom of the press to any man, who writes nothing scandalous or dangerous to the state; to prove themselves loving fathers to all good men, and so to invite equal assistance and affection from all.” These opinions were in those times censured as most damnable doctrines, and the parliament was invoked, by the pen of Dr. Featley, utterly to exterminate and banish out of the kingdom the Baptists, because they avowed and published them. But the good sense and liberality of more modern times will not only admit these principles as maxims of good policy and sound Christianity, bút respect the despised people who brought them forward and stated them, at a period when they were scarcely received by any others, and were held by the generality as most highly obnoxious : when even the great and good Mr. Baxter could declare, “I abhor unlimited liberty, or toleration of all.”*
* Crosby, vol. 1. p. 272. † Robinson's Translation of Claude, vol. 1. p. 250, pote.
It remains to take notice of some of the more distinguished preachers among this denomination of Christians, who died in the period of which we are speaking.
Mr. Thomas Helwise, according to the order of time, seems to deserve the first mention: a man of good natural parts, and not without some acquired ones, though he had not the advantage of a learned education. He was a member of the ancient church of the separatists in the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign, and accompanied them, when they transported themselves out of England into Holland to escape persecution. He was of great service to them, and esteemed a man of eminent faith, charity, and spiritual gifts. When Mr. Smith, whose history we have given before, raised the controversy about infant-baptism, Mr. Helwise became a convert to his sentiments, received baptism from him, and was one of the first in the constitution of his church, of which after his death he had the pastoral care. He and his people, soon after Mr. Smith's decease, published a confession of their faith, entitled “ The Confession of Faith, published in certain conclusions, by the remainder of Mr. Smith's Company.”+ At the end of it there was an Appendix, giving some account of Mr. Smith's last sickness and death. Three years after, Mr. Robinson, the pastor of the English congregation of Brownists at Leyden, published remarks upon it. About the same time Mr. Helwise began to reflect upon his own conduct, and that of the other English dissenters, in leaving their friends and country to avoid persecution : whether it did not pro. ceed froin fear and cowardice; and whether they ought not to return to bear their testimony to the truth, and to countenance and encourage their suffering brethren? The result was, that he and his church quickly left Amsterdam, and removed to London, where they continued to preserve their church state, and to hold their assemblies for worship, as the times would permit. He wrote a piece in justification of this conduct, entitled “A short Declaration :" wherein he stated in what cases it was lawful to fly in times of persecution: to which Mr. Robinson replied. The conduct of Mr. Helwise and his friends displeased the Nonconformists in exile, who censured it as vain-glorious, and imputed it to natural confidence under the appearance of religious fortitude. It is not known when Mr. Helwise died, but from the publications of the day, it appears that he went on with great courage and resolution; and the church, under all the severities they experienced from the civil powers, increased in numbers.*
* Plain Scripture Proof, p. 246. + See Crosby, vol. 2. Appendix, No. I.
Mr. John Morton, another of Mr. Smith's disciples, appears to have been a man of note and reputation, of consi. derable learning and abilities. He was conversant with the oriental languages and the writings of the fathers, and was a zealous remonstrant. After his return from Holland he settled in the country. These circumstances are inferred from a manuscript, written by J. Morton, supposed to be the same person ; which was found at the beginning of the civil wars, on demolishing an old wall near Colchester. It was printed by the General Baptists, and passed through several impressions. Its title was “Truth's Champion.” It discussed the questions concerning baptism, and the points disputed between the Arminians and Calvinists. The piece was written in a good style, and the argument managed with much art and skill; and, not without reason, held in considerable estimation by the remonstrants.+
A more particular and full account of some, whose names have been brought forward in the preceding narrative, will fall under the following periods of this history: the learning and abilities of whom, it will appear, did credit to the sect to which which they belonged. Mr. Neal has asserted, that “ its advocates were for the most part of the meanest of the people; their preachers were generally illiterate, and went about the countries making proselytes of all that would submit to their immersion, without a due regard to their acquaintance with the principles of religion, or their moral character.” It is to be regretted, that our respectable author, by this general representation, without producing any authority, or alleging attested facts to justify it, hath laid himself open to severe animadversion. Mr. * See Crosby, vol. 1. p. 269—275.
† Ibid. vol. 1. p. 276-278.
Crosby 'exclaims, “What a malicious slander is this, cast upon a whole body of Christians, consisting of fifty-four congregations, according to his own acknowledgments !"* It may
be supposed that Mr. Neal has here paid too great a deference to such writers as the author of the “ Gangræna ;” and on the other hand, Mr. Crosby may have been too partial to his own sect, and not allowed for the operation of a precipitate and injudicious zeal, by which a new and persecuted sect is generally actuated; he may have forgotten, that a great number of its preachers would of course be unlearned and ignorant men, when the liberty of prophesying, as any individual was authorized and qualified by the gift or influence of the Holy Spirit, was a received principle; for such gift would, where it was supposed to exist and display itself, supersede acquired abilities and human literature.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE BAPTISTS DURING THE
COMMONWEALTH. A. D. 1649–1658.
The protectorate of Cromwell, though restricted to the short space of ten years, was a most eventful period in the annals of ecclesiastical history. Both in our own country, and upon the continent of Europe, it will ever be memorable for the collision of parties, and the extraordinary incidents to which it gave birth. The sanguinary measures carried on, by the instigation of Louis XIV. against the Waldenses in the valleys of Piedmont; the dispersion of the Protestant churches in that long and highly favoured country, and the deep interest which Cromwell, as the head of the English government, aided by the pen of his Latin secretary, our immortal Milton, took in the melancholy fate of the meek confessors of Savoy, are events with which few of the dissenters of the present day are unacquainted. But Mr. Neal has already entered pretty fully into the general history of this period, and traced the contest be
* Vol. i. preface, p. 5.