Page images
PDF
EPUB

thrust into prisons, in such crowds that the jailers con. plained they had too many guests; and detained there to the ruin of their families.*

Mr. James Atkins, one of those who were harassed by the magistrates of Dover, on his own behalf, and in the cause of his fellow-sufferers, addressed a letter to the

mayor and justices of that town, under the name of "a poor subject;" acknowledging a submission to the civil magistrate, except in what concerned the worship of God, and entreating in the bowels of love a consideration of the evil of restraining their liberty.t

In the year 1662, there came from the press a small pamphlet, entitled, “ Behold a Cry; or, a true relation of the inhuman and violent outrages of divers soldiers, constables, and others, practised upon many of the Lord's people, commonly, though falsely, called Anabaptists, at their several meetings in and about London.”

An incident which took place in Lincolnsbire in 1670, called forth a vindication of their principles from this denomination in a different form from the preceding publications. Mr. Robert Wright, who had been a preacher amongst them, but was on account of his irregular life and conversation excluded their society, having spent his estate, applied to Dr. William Fuller, the bishop of that diocess, for orders and a benefice; promising to renounce his sentiments concerning baptism, and to preach against the Baptists. The bishop accepted his offer; he was admitted in the ministry of the church of England, and preached in support of the baptism of infants, in opposition to that of believers, with great ardour and confidence. This excited great attention, the minds of many were much impressed by it, and it was supposed that most, if not all the ministers of the Baptist churches, would be easily confuted. They, in their own vindication, at the assizes, posted up, in different parts of the city of Lincoln, four papers, addressed to the citizens and inhabitants, inviting Mr. Wright to a friendly conference, and offering to maintain the doctrine and baptism of repentance to be from heaven, and the sprinkling and crossing of infants to be man's tradition. They were dated the 11th day of the first month, (vulg.) March, 1670. Two of them were taken down in the morning, and were, it was supposed, carried to the bishop and the judge. The other two were permitted to remain till the afternoon, and were read by many, till they were removed by the clergy, who threatened the writers of them should answer for it before the council-table. But though the bishop, it was well known, was not a little moved by these proceedings of the Baptists, no other step was taken on the occasion, than sending to them an angry paper, drawn up by Mr. William Silverton, the bishop's chaplain, who called them erroneous, antic Baptists. To this paper Mr. Grantham replied, promising Mr. Silverton either to hear and discuss his arguments in a free audience, if he would fix a convenient time and place for the purpose ; or to reply to him, if he would defend his sentiments from the press. Here the matter ended, as Mr. Silverton saw fit to be silent.*

* Crosby, vol. 2. p. 144-148; and vol. 3. p. 120. Ibid. vol. 2. p. 151, 152.

The only publication which remains to be noticed in this period, was, "A narrative of the late proceedings of some justices and others, pretending to put in execution the late act against conventicles; against several peaceable people in and about the town of Lewes in Sussex, only for their being quietly met to worship God: together with a brief account of the like proceedings against some at Brighthelmstone, and others at Chillington, in the same county.” This professed to be a faithful narrative, published with a view to encourage others to suffer the spoiling of their goods by the example of many, who endured it with patience and joyfulness; and with the hope, that by it the harsh proceedings against a peaceable people, might come to the knowledge of some in authority, who, out of pity to the distressed, and justice to their righteous cause, would redress their grievances. Such narratives were indeed well adapted to each purpose, and were an affecting appeal to the sense of humanity and equity.

CHAP. V:

FROM THE DECLARATION OF INDULGENCE TO THE

REVOLUTION.

A CONTROVERSY arose among the Baptists, about this time, respecting the laying on of hands, which created not a little * Crosby, vol. 2. p. 241244.

* Ibid. vol. 2. p. 245, 246.

altercation and trouble. Hitherto, it appears that this rite was practised by them as an apostolical ordinance, and was accompanied with prayer over the newly-baptized. A treatise, entitled " A Search after Schism,” was published in opposition to it. This was answered by Dr. John Griffith, in a piece called, “The Searchers after Schism searched," and it drew from Mr. Grantham his “ Sigh for Peace; or, the Cause of Division discovered." The appearance of this piece occasioned a meeting between Mr. Grantham and Mr. Ives, when the subject was debated with temper and good-humour; and Mr. Ives is reported, on finding himself gravelled, to have broken up the meeting in a friendly and peaceable manner. About three years after, Mr. Danvers published a treatise against laying on of hands, which was answered by Mr. Benjamin Keach, and also by Mr. Grantham, who annexed to his answer, “A Treatise of the Successors of the Apostles.”

In 1674, the Baptists were engaged in a controversy with the Quakers, which created a noise, and was conducted, as is usual, by mutual criminations. Mr. Thomas Hicks, a minister of the former, published several pamphlets in succession, under the title of “ A Dialogue between a Christian and a Quaker.” The title these pieces bore was certainly invidious, and held up the Quakers as not deserving to be ranked among Christians. It was also complained of, that the design of them was not so much to investigate truth, as to represent the Quaker a deformed, ridiculous, and erroneous being. The great Penn, on this occasion, became the advocate of the people to whom he had joined himself, in two books; the first entitled, “Reason against Railing ;" and the other, “ The Counterfeit Christian detected.” But as Mr. Hicks had reflected upon some particular members by name, an appeal was made to the Baptists, in and about London, for justice against him. A meeting was accordingly appointed to hear the charges against him; but they are censured for fixing the time when the complainants, Penn and Whitehead, were absent from the city at a distance too remote to be apprized of the intended meeting. It was urged in defence of the Baptists, that they were informed that Penn was not far from London several days after the notice of the meeting was sent, and even at his own house at no great distance from the town the very day preceding : and that they had invited others of the society, particularly John Osgoods, to be present, who declined it. The meeting took place, and Mr. Hicks was examined by his own friends only on the charges brought against him by the Quakers; and he endeavoured to establish the representations he had made of their principles and doctrines by quotations froin their own writers. These were pronounced by nineteen of his own denomination to be truly recited, and the church to which he belonged, in public print, cleared him from the charge which the Quakers alleged against him. This decision was deemed partial. On the face of it, though the business was said to be conducted with great fairness, it was open to objection. The Baptists refused to defer the meeting, though solicited. No Quaker was present to be heard on the grounds of the charges. And though the passages might be quoted with verbal exactness, which Mr. Hicks brought as his authorities, yet they were detached from their connexion, and a meaning affixed to them which probably the writers, if they had been there to explain themselves, would not have admitted as their sense.

New complaints were brought forward against the Baptists; and justice again demanded. A meeting for a rehearing was obtained; but Mr. Hicks would not attend it, but sent some others with Mr. Ives ; “who (says Crosby) so managed the Quakers, that they were obliged to break up without any farther proceedings in the matter.” “By clamours and rudeness (says Gough), they diverted the complainants from prosecuting the charge against Hicks, and carried their point so far as to prevent its being heard, though frequent attempts were made to read it.”

The Baptists published an account of these meetings, under the title of " A Contest for Christianity.” Mr. Tho. Welwood, in behalf of his friends, appealed to the public, first in a single sheet, entitled, “A fresh Pursuit;" and then, in reply to the “Contest,” which was written by Mr. Thomas Plant, in a piece entitled, “ Forgery 10 Christianity.” The issue of this controversy is represented, on the one hand, to be, that the Quakers were so chafed in these disputes, that they did not only brand the Baptists with infamy, but denounced curses and judgments upon them. On the other side it is said, “ that the aim of this un

وو

provoked assault upon the principles and reputation of this society was remarkably frustrated; and these dialogues, with their ungenerous and unequitable method of defending them and their author, promoted what they were designed to prevent; for not a few of their members, offended at their proceedings, deserted their meetings and society, went over to the injured party, and joined them in religious fellowship."*

In the year 1677, the Baptists published " A Confession of their Faith, set forth by the elders and brethren of many congregations of Christians, baptized upon profession of their faith, in London and the country.” Their avowed design in this publication was, not only to give an account of themselves on the points wherein they differed from other Christians, but also to instruct and establish others in the great principles in which there was a mutual agreement between them. They aimed to express themselves, on the former heads, with a modesty and humility that would render the freedom with which they declared themselves inoffensive to those whose sentiments were different from their own.

The general plan of their confession was after the order and method observed in that of the assembly of Westminster, and afterward adopted by the congregational churches; and in the margin they affixed such texts as, in their opinion, confirmed each article. Two things they earnestly desired : that full credit might be given to their declaration of contention being most remote from their design in all that they did in this matter; and that all into whose hands this piece might come “would follow that never-enough-commended example of the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily, that they might find out whether the things preached to them, were so or not."" This Confession of Faith was reprinted in the year 1689 ; and was approved and recommended by the ministers and messengers of above a hundred congregations, met in London from the third to the eleventh day of the seventh month. It was signed by thirty-seven persons, in the name and behalf of the whole assembly. It has continued to be generally received by those congregations that hold the doctrine

* Crosby's History of the English Baptists, vol. 2. p. 294-310. Gougl’s His. tory of the Quakers, vol. 2. p. 368--371.

« PreviousContinue »