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The Baptists, by their own principles, were prevented from attempting to escape the storm that threatened them.

From this petition it appears that there were Baptists in many parts of the kingdom, for it states that they "had suffered imprisonment for many years, in divers counties in England," but notwithstanding all they had greatly increased in this country in the reign of this king.

James I. died in 1625. Neal says," he was certainly the meanest prince that ever sat upon the British throne. England never sunk so low in its reputation, nor was so much exposed to the scorn and ridicule of its neighbours as in this reign.”

Rapin also observes of James I.," he was neither a sound Protestant nor a good Catholic, but had formed a plan of uniting both churches, which must have effectually ruined the Protestant interest, for which, indeed, he never expressed any real concern."

Charles the First succeeded his father. Unhappily for this monarch, he had been educated in the principles of arbitrary power, and religious bigotry. The conduct of James had been productive of much general discontent, which his son did not take proper means to remove. Determined to be an absolute monarch, he drove his subjects into -rebellion, and fell a victim to his own measures.

It was during this reign that an event took place among the Baptists which has been commonly, but erroneously, considered as the commencement of their history in this country. This was the formation of some churches in London, which many have supposed to be the first of this denomination in the kingdom. But could it even be proved that there were no distinct Baptist churches till this period, it would not follow that there were no Baptists, which however has been confidently stated. It has been shewn that persons professing similar sentiments with those of the present English Baptists, have been found in every period of the English Church; and also that as early as the year 1509, there were, from the testimony of Dr. Some, many churches of this description in London, and in the country.

There has been produced unexceptionable proof that during the reign of James there were great numbers of Baptists who suffered imprisonment in divers counties, and that a petition to the king was signed by many of their ministers.*

The period has now arrived to notice the Baptists in a denominational character. There appears to be somewhat of variance of statement by different writers, as to the date to which the first formation or existence of distinct Baptist churches can be traced.

Ivimey, vol. 1, p. 137.

Crosby, says,-"In the year 1633, the Baptists, who had hitherto been intermixed with other Protestant dissenters, without distinction, and who consequently shared with the puritans in the persecutions of those times, began to form distinct societies of their own. Mr. Spilsbury is mentioned, and the meeting house was at Wapping, London." The churches at Devonshire Square and Prescold Street were founded by members from this church.

Ivimey takes earlier date. It is thought that the general Baptist church at Canterbury has existed for two hundred and fifty years, and that Joan Boucher, who was burnt in the reign of Edward the sixth, was a member of it. Though this is traditionary only, yet it is rendered probable from her being a Baptist, and being always called "Joan of Kent." It is said that the church at Eyethorne, in the county of Kent, has been founded more than two hundred and thirty years. Neal observes, "there is reason to believe that the Baptist Society, at Shrewsbury, has subsisted through all the revolutions of time to this day, from the year 1627."* The congregation at Birkenhall, now at Hatch, six miles from Taunton in Somerset, had, according to the opinion of its oldest members about twenty years ago, subsisted nearly two hundred years; and they had a clear tradition of its assemblies having been held so early as 1630, in the woods AND OTHER PLACES OF CONCEALMENT, on account of the severity of the times.† Even in 1457, there was a congregation of this sort at Chesterton, near Cambridge; six of them were accused of heresy, and condemned to abjure and do penance, half naked, with a faggot to their backs, and a taper in their hands, in the public market of Ely and Cambridge.‡ All these details present different points of interest, furnishing as they do varied sources of reference of the respective writers. The balance of evidence appears to favour the views, that although Mr. Spilsbury's church at Wapping, 1633, might have been the first church formed in London, there were other churches formed at a MUCH EARLIER PERIOD IN THE COUNTRY.

The second notice of the formation of a Baptist Church in London is dated 1639, "whose place of meeting was in Crutched Friars, the chief promoters of which were Mr. Green, Mr. Paul Hobson, and Captain Spencer."

Pens were dipped in gall against the Baptists of this period. As they were frequently inveighed against, not only on account of their peculiar sentiments concerning the subjects and the mode of Baptism,

* A letter from the Rev. J. Thompson to the Editor of Neal's Puritans. Ed. 1822. + MS. Collections concerning the History of Protestant Dissenters, communicated by Mr. Thompson. Neal's Puritans.

+ Robinson's Claude, vol. 2, Dissertation on Preaching, p. 54.

but were also loaded with all the opprobrium which fell on the opinions deemed heretical, and were often reproached both from the pulpit and the press, with being Pelagians, Socinians, Arminians, Soul Sleepers, and the like. To vindicate themselves from these reflections, and to shew their general agreement with other Protestants, in all points EXCEPTING BAPTISM, they published a Confession of their Faith. It was the first that had been issued by the English Baptists. It passed through several editions in 1644 and 1646, one of which was licensed by authority, and dedicated to the High Court of Parliament.

They declare that, "This Confession of our Faith we send forth to speak the truth for us, and to make our innocency to appear; desiring that the same light may guide others also to the same way of truth and obedience, both to God and to the magistrate, who is the minister. of God to us for good. We take no thought for ourselves, for the Lord our God is all-sufficient; but we desire and pray that you may do nothing against Christ, neither in his members, nor his ordinances, that there may be no wrath upon you from the Lord, but that you knowing the innocent, and protecting them according to the will of God, may for the same be famous unto all generations, and the memorial of your names may be precious among the saints till the coming of King Jesus."

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In their address to the reader they say, "by reason of the many accusations that are cast upon us, although they cannot prove the things whereof we are accused, yet the generality of the people are incensed against us, and are encouraged and set on by such, to seek out the place of our meetings, which are the more private, not because they are private, but because we have not any more public places; but if any shall please to procure us larger places to meet in, we are willing to embrace them with thankfulness and joy." "Therefore," say they, to free ourselves and the truth we profess from such unjust aspersions, that it may be at liberty, though we are in bonds, we have published a brief Confession of our Faith." "And lest this should be thought to be the judgment of some particular persons, this is done by the consent and appointment of seven congregations or churches in London, with the names of some of each of them subscribed in behalf of the whole. And although we be distinct in our meetings, for conveniency, yet we are one in faith, fellowship, and communion, holding Jesus Christ for our head and lawgiver, under whose rule and government we desire to walk, and to follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth, that, when our Lord and King shall call us to account, we may be found ready and worthy to be received into our Master's joy. Until which time we desire to spend these few days we have here to remain, to the glory of God, the honour of the gospel, the

saint's comfort, and our country's good, to our own account at the great day when Christ shall come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Subscribed by us, in behalf of seven congregations or churches of Christ, in London; as also by a French congregation of the same judgment:

"John Spilsbury, Samuel Richardson, WAPPING; William Kiffin, Thomas Patience, DEVONSHIRE SQUARE; Hansard Knollys, Thomas Holms, GREAT ST. HELENS; Paul Hobson, Thomas Goare, CRUTCHED FRIARS,-There are also the Baptist Churches that met in COLEMAN STREET, in BISHOP'S GATE, also at THE GLASS HOUSE, BROAD STREET. The other names attached to the Confession of Faith are Thomas Gunn, John Mabbitt, Benjamin Cockles, Thomas Kelikoh, Thomas Munden, George Tipping, and Dennis Le Barbier and Christopher Duret, the two latter being connected with a French Church of "the same faith and order." The previous six names were associated with the three Baptist Churches to which no names are attached, nor is there sufficient proof to connect them respectively therewith.

Such were the sentiments declared by the seven particular Baptist Churches in vindication of their faith and practice. This is noticed at some length as manifesting the feeling displayed by their opponents, and also the spirit and temper by which they endured so much contumely and reproach.

It should be remarked, that from the beginning of the Reformation the Baptists were divided into TWO PARTIES, on account of their peculiar doctrinal views. Those were considered as Particular Baptists who embraced what is termed the Calvinistic scheme of doctrine, viz., of personal election and particular redemption.

The General Baptists are distinguished for their receiving the Arminian tenets, or Universal redemption-distinctions which exist at the present day.

It would exceed the length of this sketch far beyond allowable limits to notice the various controversies which took place about this period. Amidst the conflict of opinion, and the hostility of the ruling powers, Baptists greatly increased.

With the design of crushing Dissenters, it was enacted in 1640 that "all ecclesiastical persons within their several parishes and jurisdictions shall confer privately with Popish recusants; but if private conference prevail not, the church must and shall come to her censures; and to make way for them, such persons shall be presented at the next visitation who come not to church, and refuse to receive

the holy eucharist, or who either hear or say mass; and if they remain obstinate after citation, they shall be excommunicated. But if neither conference nor censures prevail, the church shall then complain of them to the civil power; and this sacred synod does earnestly entreat the reverend justices of assize to be careful in executing the laws, as they will answer it to God."

The synod further declares, that "the canon above-mentioned against Papists shall be in full force against all Anabaptists, Brownists, Separatists, and other sectaries, as far as they are applicable."

In 1642 the civil wars commenced, and the nation was thrown into a state of political convulsion, during which the Presbyterians possessed full ecclesiastical rule.

Many of the Baptists suffered persecution at this time. In 1641, the opposition and cruel measures of the High Commission Court, and the Star Chamber, was terminated by Act of Parliament, the chief engines which had been the occasion of ruining the liberties and estates of many religious families. About this period Baptists began to increase very rapidly. Taking advantage of the liberty which the confusion of the times, if not the disposition of the rulers, gave them, they were not backward in asserting and vindicating their sentiments, both by preaching and writing, and also by public discussion; these consequently provoked their adversaries, and many pamphlets were written against them.*

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In 1645, an ordinance was passed, that no person should be permitted to preach who is not ordained a minister in the Presbyterian or some other Reformed Church; and it is earnestly desired that Sir Thomas Fairfax take care that the ordinance be put in execution in the army." Here is exhibited Presbyterian liberality. There is no doubt the act was passed against tolerating sectaries, as they called the Baptists and Independents, against which it appears to be principally directed.

The spirit of intolerance may be further learned from these times, under the power of the Presbyterians.

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On May 26, 1645, the Lord Mayor, Court of Aldermen, and Common Council, presented a petition to Parliament, commonly called "THE CITY REMEMBRANCER," in which they desired that some short and speedy course might be taken for the suppression of all private and separate congregations; that all Anabaptists, Brownists, heretics, schismatics, blasphemers, and ALL OTHER SECTARIES, who conformed not to the public discipline established, or to be

Neal, vol. 2, pp. 348, 349.

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