The seventeenth was the century, during its first half, of the continued fearful storm of the early morning; and, especially during its second half, the century of the fierce raging of the fires of persecution, at last extinguished under the advancing light of day.
This was the century of the last religious wars in "Christendom," the Thirty Years' War in Germany, fomented by the Jesuits, reducing the people to cannibalism, and the population of Bohemia from 4,000,000 to 780,000, and of Germany from 20,000,000 to 7,000,000, and making Southern Germany almost a desert, terminated by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, securing a legal basis for Protestant rights on the continent of Europe; and the century of the Great Rebellion, in England, against the haughty, cruel and Romanizing Stuarts, of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, the Restoration of the Stuarts, and the "Glorious Revolution of 1688," under William and Mary, foiling the intrigues of despotism and Jesuitism, and finally establishing the constitutional freedom and the Protestant character of England, the Toleration Act of 1689 legalizing dissent, and being the charter of freedom for non-conformists. The seventeenth was the century of the final deliverance of central Europe from Turkish invasion by the heroism of the Polish King, John Sobieski, who, in 1683, with about one-fifth their number, disastrously routed 300,000 Turks then besieging Vienna; the century of the secularization of politics; and of the almost universal prevalence of Roman Catholic Jesuitism in Southern Europe, crushing out by means of its Expurgatory and Prohibitory Indexes of Books, and its Inquisition, and its Propaganda or Missionary Society and Schools, nearly every vestige, not only of Protestantism, but also of Jansenism (a revived Roman Catholic Augustinianism), in Spain, France, Italy and Austria; of Louis XIV.'s infamous dragonnade "conversions," and his virtual banishment of 500,000 Huguenots from France, and his deprivation of two million others of almost every right, by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (in 1685, the Edict having been issued in 1598 by Henry IV., and granting civil and religious rights to his Protestant subjects)—to all this barbarity and stupidity Louis XIV. having been instigated by the Jesuits, who urged him thus to seek atonement for his gross immoralities; the century of the almost total extermination, under the same baleful influence, of the Bohemian Brethren in Germany; of the similarly instigated martyrdom of Cyril Lucar, "the Patriarch of Constantinople" (in 1638), who had attempted a Calvinistic reformation of the corrupt Greek Catholic "Church;" of the numerous trials, condemnations and executions, in England and New England, of persons, generally feeble or lunatic females, accused of witchcraft, which judicial murders had reached their climax in continental Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; of the severe persecution of the Waldenses in Piedmont, of the Covenanters in Scotland, of the Protestants in Switzerland and Ireland, and of the Dissenters in England and North America. The seventeenth was the century of the publication of the King James or Authorized Version of the English Bible (in 1611), the best and noblest of all the translations of the Bible ever made in any language; of the formation, in England and North America, of Independent (or Congregational) and Baptist Churches, and of the Societies of Friends (or Quakers); of the learned, quasi-ecumenical Synod of Dort (in 1618 and 1619), which, without plunging into Supralapsarianism, emphatically condemned the five erroneous points of Arminian doctrine; and of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the most able, elaborate and influential of all Protestant Confessions, adopted by the Westminster Assembly (16423-1649) called together by the Long Parliament, and composed mostly of learned and devout Presbyterian ministers, one hundred and twenty-one in number, who met in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey—the Confession ranging from the eternal decrees to the final judgment, and while sublapsarian, yet more Calvinistic than the Thirty-nine Episcopalian Articles of "Archbishop" Whitgift (1595), or the Irish Articles of "Archbishop" Ussher (1615), and adopted by the Presbyterians of England and America, and, with changes as to church government, but also as to the proper subjects and "mode" of baptism, by the Regular Baptists of England and America, the doctrinal substance and language being the same in all these Confessions. The seventeenth was the century of the expulsion of the intriguing and casuistical Jesuit missionaries from Japan; of the Dutch pretended conversions of five hundred thousand heathen in Ceylon and Java, these first organized, commercial, Protestant missionaries baptizing all who could repeat the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, and the Governor conditioning not only office but governmental protection upon signing the Helvetic Confession; and the century of the earnest, humble, self-denying and devoted labors of John Eliot (born 1604, died 1690) among the American Indians, his translation of the Bible into their language (in 1633—the first Bible printed in America), the ordination of twenty-four Indian preachers, and the formation of thirty Indian churches in New England; the establishment, by the Long Parliament (in 1649), under the stimulus of Eliot’s labors of, a "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England," revived with a royal charter in 1667, Eliot giving the poor and sick Indians nearly all the annual salary of fifty pounds (or $250) sent him by the Society, and proving himself in every way the Indians’ best human friend; and this was the century of the establishment, in 1698, of a "Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge" in England and in the Colonies. The seventeenth was also the century of the rise and rapid growth and wide prevalence of modern Arminianism (a low Arminianism, low morality, and High-Churchism together distinguishing England during the latter part of this century); and it was the century of the rise and early progress of modern philosophy, latitudinarianism, naturalism, deism, rationalism, materialism, pantheism and atheism, which potent germs of evil have so grown and expanded, and have been so fruitful of darkness and corruption, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
My space will permit only a brief treatment of but a few of these matters.
James Arminius, of Holland (1560-1609), an able, learned and amiable man, was a disciple of Theodore Beza, and at first a strict Calvinist but, through the combined influences of the rationalism of Peter Ramus, the synergism of Philip Melanchthon, the Semi-Pelagianism ot Robert Bellarmine, and the liberalism of Theodore Koornhert, he came to believe and advocate that the election of the sinner to eternal life is not absolute, but is conditioned on the sinner's foreseen faith and perseverance. Still he inconsistently maintained the total depravity of human nature since the Fall; that "man, in his natural condition, is dead in sins; that his mind is darkened, his affections depraved, and his will refractory; that the will of man, with respect to true good, is not only wounded, bruised, inferior, crooked and attenuated, but that it is likewise captivated, destroyed and lost, and has no powers whatever, except such as are excited by grace; that the grace of Christ is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good; that it infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the affections, and leads the will to execute good thoughts and good desires; that it goes before, accompanies and follows; that it excites, assists, works in us to will, and works with us that we may not will in vain; that it averts temptation, stands by and aids us in temptations, supports us against the flesh, the world and Satan; and that, in the conflict, it grants us to enjoy the victory; that it raises up again those who are conquered and fallen, establishes them, endues them with new strength, and renders them more cautious; that it begins, promotes, perfects and consummates salvation" (Watson's Theological Institutes, Vol. ii., pp. 46 and 47). It has been truly said that "James Arminius was much less Arminian than his followers." The latter, after his death, being continually reproached as Pelagians, had their creed drawn up in Five Articles by one of their preachers, James Mytenbogaert, and presented, as a "Remonstrance," to the States of Holland and West Friesland, in 1610. This original Arminian Creed, which sets forth a carefully restricted Semi-Pelagianism, is as follows:
"ARTICLE I. That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ His Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this His Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the gospel in John iii. 36, and according to other passages of Scripture also.
"ARTICLE II. That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that He has obtained for them all, by His death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the gospel of John iii. 16, and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2
"ARTICLE III. That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will nor do anything that is truly good (such as saving faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through His Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ in John xv. 5.
"ARTICLE IV. That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and co-operative grace, can neither think, will nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that -can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost, Acts vii., and elsewhere in many places.
" ARTICLE V. That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of His life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through His Spirit in all temptations, extends to them His hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire His help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no power or craft of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ's hands, according to the word of Christ in John x. 28. But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.
"These Articles, thus set forth and taught, the Remonstrants deem agreeable to the word of God, tending to edification, and, as regards this argument, sufficient for salvation, so that it is not necessary or edifying to rise higher or descend deeper."
The question as to the possibility of finally falling from grace, left open in the Fifth Article, was decided by the Remonstrants or Arminians in the affirmative during the very next year (1611). And so, though having pronounced it both "unnecessary and unedifying," they continued to "descend deeper" into false doctrine, until, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, large numbers of them had logically degenerated into Pelagians and Arians; and they were but little removed from the deism of Herbert of Cherburg, the materialism of Hobbs, the pantheism of Spinoza, and the skepticism of Bayle. Thus error, instead of rectifying itself, continually tends to depart more widely from the truth. "In opposition to Aristotelianism, which had possession of the universities and schools, Modern Philosophy began its course in the seventeenth century with the three tendencies of mystic idealism (in Jacob Bohme), inductive philosophy (in Francis Bacon), and rationalism (in Rene Descartes); which forms of speculation have ever since been in perpetual conflict with each other and with Christianity." "The most powerful enemy that philosophy ever had," says Victor Cousin, "was Blaise Pascal " (born 1623, died 1662), " the greatest genius and the best man that France ever produced," the most evangelical and the most profound of all the uninspired defenders of Christianity, who proves, in his fragmentary and posthumous "Pensees" or "Thoughts," that the revelation of Christ in the Scriptures and by His Spirit furnishes the only solution to the dark and countless mysteries of human life, the only antidote for its ills, the only relief for its necessities. In his " Provincial Letters " he made the Jesuits' code of ethics the derision of all Europe. He was of that small and persecuted body of Catholics called Port Royalists, or Jansenists, or Augustinians, who heartily believed and advocated the two great Bible principles of the nothingness of fallen man and the omnipotence of Divine grace. He showed that all human philosophies, like all human religions, are full of vanity, follies, weakness, errors, extravagances and contradictions; and thus that it is the part of true wisdom to look away from all these ignesfatui, which can lead only to destruction, to the true and saving light of the eternal Sun of Righteousness. "I find it true," says he, "that since the world began it has been constantly announced to men that they are in a state of universal corruption; but that a Restorer shall come. That it is not one man who says it, but a countless number of men, and an entire people, during four thousand years, prophesying thus, and made expressly for this purpose. Thus I extend my arms to my Liberator, who, having been foretold for four thousand years, came to suffer and to die for me on the earth, at the time and with all the circumstances which had been predicted; and, by His grace, I await death in peace, in the hope of being eternally united to Him; and I live, nevertheless, with joy, either in the blessings which it may please Him to give me, or in the ills [For more than half of his short life of thirty nine years, Pascal was deeply affected with dyspepsia, or paralysis, or hypochondria, or all these combined and from his eighteenth year he never passed a day without pain. Yet he bore his sufferings with exemplary patience and, under the mournful darkness of Catholic superstition, he continually inflicted upon his poor body additional sufferings. For he wore an iron girdle next his skin, armed with sharp points, which he would drive into his flesh with his elbow whenever he felt himself assailed by sinful thoughts] which He may send for my good, and that He has taught me to endure by His example. I find the Christian religion as foreshadowed in the Old Testament, and unfolded in the New Testament, altogether Divine in its authority, in its duration, in its perpetuity, in its morality, in its government, in its doctrine, and in its effects."—It may be mentioned that the poet John Milton, the natural philosopher Sir Isaac Newton, and the mental philosopher John Locke, were not only Arminians, but also Arians. The learned Dutch statesman and theologian, Hugo Grotius, was an Arminian, and substituted, in place of the strict Anselmic theory of a real satisfaction on the part of Christ, the idea of a Divine acquittal for Christ's sake. G. W. Leibnitz, of Germany, the most universal genius of all time, traces, in his splendid and imposing Theodicy, all evil to the necessarily imperfect and erring will of the creature; declares God the Alpha and Omega of the whole order of things in time and out of time; and, like John Milton, regards every human creed as a mutilated and imperfect presentation of truth.
The National Synod of Dort (in South Holland), convened by the States-General for the settlement of the Arminian controversy, and containing, among its eighty-four members, twenty-eight delegates from Germany, the Palatinate, Switzerland and England, sat from November 13th, 1618, to May 9th, 1619. All the Dutch members were orthodox. Three Arminian delegates elected fro m Utrecht had to yield their seats to their orthodox competitors. Francis Gomarus was said to be the only Supralapsarian delegate. Prof. Schaff says that, in learning and piety, the Synod has never been surpassed since the days of the Apostles. The Synod emphatically condemned all the five points of Arminianism, and affirmed, to the contrary: 1st. Unconditional Election; 2d. Particular Redemption; 3d. Total Depravity; 4th. Effectual Calling; 5th. Final Perseverance. They declared that election, instead of being founded upon foreseen faith and holiness, is itself the very fountain of faith holiness and eternal life; that, while the atonement of Christ is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world, its saving efficacy extends only to the elect, so as to bring them infallibly to salvation; that all men are born in the likeness of their fallen parents, in a state of spiritual death; that faith and repentance are the efficacious gifts or works of the Spirit of God in the hearts of all His chosen people, who are thus wholly of God rescued from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son, that they may show forth His praises, and glory not in themselves, bat in the Lord; and that, notwithstanding all the remains of indwelling sin, and all the temptations of the, flesh, the world and the devil, God, their heavenly Father and unchangeable friend, who has conferred grace upon His elect, is faithful, and will never leave or forsake them, but will recover them, in true repentance and humility, from all their falls, and mercifully confirm and powerfully preserve them in a gracious state even to the end.
The victorious party gave proof of the darkness still remaining in their minds by not only deposing about two hundred Arminian ministers, but by banishing such as would not consent to keep silent, and beheading (under a false charge of treason) the aged Advocate-General of Holland, Van Olden Barneveldt, and condemning to perpetual imprisonment Hugo Grotius, who escaped through the ingenuity of his wife. In 1625, after the death of Prince Maurice, the Arminians were allowed to return and re-establish their churches and schools in Holland, which became more and more a land of religious toleration and liberty.
The seventeenth was the great century of the prevalence of Jesuitism; and Macaulay's unrivalled characterization of this perfection of Pharisaism and Pelagianism must now be given. In the sixteenth century "the Pontificate, exposed to new dangers more formidable than had ever before threatened it, was saved by a new religious order, which was animated by intense enthusiasm and organized with exquisite skill. When the Jesuits came to rescue, they found the Papacy in extreme peril; but from that moment the tide of battle turned. Protestantism, which had, during a whole generation, carried all before it, was stopped in its progress, and rapidly beaten back from the foot of the Alps to the shores of the Baltic. Before the Order had existed a hundred years it had filled the whole world with memorials of great things done and suffered for the faith. No religious community could produce a list of men so variously distinguished; none had extended its operations over so vast a space: yet in none had there ever been such perfect unity of feeling and action. There was no region of the globe, no walk of speculative or of active life, in which Jesuits were not to be found. They guided the counsels of kings. They deciphered Latin inscriptions. They observed the motions of Jupiter's satellites. They published whole libraries, controversy, casuistry, history, treatises on optics, Alcaic odes, editions of the fathers, madrigals, catechisms and lampoons. The liberal education of youth passed almost entirely into their hands, and was conducted by them with conspicuous ability. They appear to have discovered the precise point to which intellectual culture can be carried without risk of intellectual emancipation. Enmity itself was compelled to own that, in the art of managing and forming the tender mind, they had no equals. Meanwhile they assiduously and successfully cultivate d the eloquence of the pulpit. With still greater assiduity and still greater success they applied themselves to the ministry of the confessional Throughout Roman Catholic Europe the secrets of every government and of almost every family of note were in their keeping. They glided from one Protestant country to another under innumerable disguises, as gay Cavaliers, as simple rustics, as Puritan preachers. They wandered to countries which mercantile avidity nor liberal curiosity had ever impelled any stranger to explore. They were to be found as Mandarins, superintending the observatory at Pekin. They were to be found, spade in hand, teaching the rudiments of agriculture to the savages of Paraguay. Yet, whatever might be their residence, whatever might be their employment, their spirit was the same, entire devotion to the common cause, unreasoning obedience to the central authority. None of them had chosen his dwelling-place or his vocation for himself. Whether the Jesuit should live under the Arctic circle or under the Equator, whether he should pass his life arranging gems and collating manuscripts at the Vatican or in persuading naked barbarians under the Southern Cross not to eat each other, were matters which he left with profound submission to the decision of others. If he was w anted at Lima, he was on the Atlantic in the next fleet. If he was wanted at Bag/lad, he was toiling through the desert with the next caravan. If his ministry was needed in some country where his life was more insecure than that of a wolf, where it was a crime to harbor him, where the heads and quarters of his brethren, fixed in the public places, showed him what he had to expect, he went without remonstrance or hesitation to his doom. Nor is this heroic spirit yet extinct. When, in our time, a new and terrible pestilence passed round the globe, when, in some great cities, fear had dissolved all the ties which hold society together, when the secular clergy had forsaken their flocks, when medical succor was not to be purchased by gold, when the strongest natural affections had yielded to the love of life, even then the Jesuit was found by the pallet which Bishop and Curate, physician and nurse, father and mother, had deserted, bending over infected lips to catch the faint accents of confession, and holding up to the last, before the expiring penitent, the image of the expiring Redeemer.—But, with the admirable energy, disinterestedness and self-devotion which were characteristic of the Society, great vices were mingled. It was alleged, and not without foundation, that the ardent public spirit which made the Jesuit regardless of his ease, of his liberty, and of his life, made him also regardless of truth and of mercy; that no means which could promote the interest of his religion seemed to him unlawful, and that by the interest of his religion he too often meant the interest of his society. It was alleged that, in the most atrocious plots recorded in history, his agency could be distinctly traced; that, constant only in his attachment to the fraternity to which he belonged, he was in some countries the most dangerous enemy of freedom, and in others the most dangerous enemy of order. The mighty victories which he boasted he had achieved in the cause of the church were, in the judgment of many illustrious members of that church, rather apparent than real. He had indeed labored with a wonderful show of success to reduce the world under her laws; but he had done so by relaxing her laws to suit the temper of the world. .Instead of toiling to elevate human nature to the noble standard fixed by Divine precept and example, he had lowered the standard till it was beneath the average level of human nature. He gloried in multitudes of converts who had been baptized in the remote regions of the East; but it was reported that from some of those converts the facts on which the whole theology of the gospel depends had been cunningly concealed, and that others were permitted to avoid persecution by bowing down before the images of false gods, while internally repeating Paters and Aves. Nor was it only in heathen countries that such arts were said to be practiced. It was not strange that people of all ranks, and especially of the highest ranks, crowded to the confessionals in the Jesuit temples; for from those confessionals none Went discontented away. There the priest was all things to all men. He showed just so much rigor as might not drive those who knelt at his spiritual tribunal to the Dominican or the Franciscan Church. If he had to deal with a mind truly devout, he spoke in the saintly tones of the primitive fathers; but with that large part of mankind who have religion enough to make them uneasy when they do wrong, and not religion enough to keep them from doing wrong, he followed a different system. Since he could not reclaim them from vice, it was his business to save them from remorse. He had at his command an immense dispensary of anodynes for wounded consciences. In the books of casuistry which had been written by his brethren, and printed with the approbation of his superiors, were to be found doctrines consolatory to transgressors of every class. There the bankrupt was taught how he might, without sin, secrete his goods from his creditors. The servant was taught how he might, without sin, run off with his master's plate. The pander was assured that a Christian man might innocently earn his living by carrying letters and messages between married women and their gallants. The high spirited and punctilious gentlemen of France were gratified by a decision in favor of duelling. The Italians, accustomed to darker and baser modes of vengeance, were glad to learn that they might, without any crime, shoot at their enemies from behind hedges. To deceit was given a license sufficient to destroy the whole value of human contracts and of human testimony. In truth, if society continued to hold together, if life and property enjoyed any security, it was because common sense and common humanity restrained men from doing what the Order of Jesuits assured them that they might with a safe conscience do." "The Jesuits unfolded the doctrine of moral Probabilism in such manner and measure," says Gieseler, "that, while they condemned sin in general, yet in its particular manifestations they very frequently excused and palliated it. At the same time, they so defined the difference between mortal and venial sins, and made such statements upon the sufficiency of repentance, that men's minds were cradled in complete carnal security. They elevated the papal power above everything, since their own rested on it. Bishops and councils might err, but the pope was infallible, and could never lapse into heresy; indeed, he was so fur the lord of Christendom that sin itself, enjoined by him, would be a duty. Thus he was elevated so far above the human sphere that he must be looked upon as a demi-god. As it was with the doctrine about the pope, so the other doctrines assailed by Protestants were for the most part carried to excess—the celibacy of the clergy, their independence of the civil power, the worship of saints, of Mary, and of images, the multiplication of indulgences. To keep dangerous light away, not only were the Indexes of Prohibited Books set to work,, but the Indexes of Expurgated Books were also published, mutilating and falsifying the ancient writings."
In 1622 Gregory XV., the first pope who had been a pupil of the Jesuits, established the first great MISSIONARY BOARD in the world, the prototype of all other Missionary Boards, whether Catholic or Protestant, the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith), consisting of cardinals, and having in charge the entire Roman Catholic Missionary System. This body is still in existence. The object of this organization was and is the conversion of heathens and Protestants to Roman Catholicism and the extirpation of heretics. For this latter purpose the civil power has been employed in Catholic countries, and will be also employed in all Protestant countries wherever Roman Catholicism gains the supremacy. To promote the same purpose of Catholicizing the world, the next pope, Urban VIII., established in 1627, the Seminarium or Collegium de Propaganda bide (Seminary or College for Propagating the Faith), "to which young men from all nations are brought at early age, and gratuitously instructed in languages and sciences, and fitted out for the missionary work. This College was subordinated entirely to the Congregation of Cardinals or Missionary Board, and a splendid palace was built for both institutions. To the Propaganda no small part of the aggressive power of the Church of Rome is due. It has complete military power, under the pope, over the whole missionary field, not only to send missionaries wherever ever it is the interest of the church to send them, but to give them special training adapted to their special work."
In addition to the Jesuit or Catholic atrocities of this century already enumerated with some particulars, they massacred 400 Protestants at Grossoto, in Lombardy, July 19th, 1620; are said to have destroyed 400,000 Protestants in Ireland, in 1641, by outright murder, and cold, and hunger, and drowning: cruelly exiled 500 families of Waldenses in Piedmont, in 1601; most diabolically tortured, outraged and massacred 6,000 of the same poor people in 1655; and partly butchered, and partly imprisoned most foully, and banished most inhumanly 12,000 of these inoffensive people of God in 1686, thousands of them being led like sheep to the slaughter be. cause they would not bow down to the corrupting idolatries of Rome.
The ''Church of England" for a long time imitated the tyrannical and persecuting spirit of her old mother, Rome." Created in the first instance by a court intrigue," says Mr. W. E. H. Lecky, pervaded in all its parts by a spirit of the most intense Erastianism (representing the church to be a mere creature of the State, dependent upon the State for its existence and authority), and aspiring at the same time to a spiritual authority scarcely less absolute than that of the Romish church which it had superseded, Anglicanism was as from the beginning at once the most servile and the most efficient agent of tyranny. Endeavoring by the assistance of temporal authority and by the display of worldly pomp to realize in England the same position as Catholicism had occupied in Europe, she naturally flung herself on every occasion into the arms of the civil power, No other church so uniformly betrayed and trampled on the liberties of her country. [As Macaulay very truly and eloquently wrote, "The Church of England continued to be for more than 150 years the servile handmaid of monarchy, the steady enemy of public liberty. The Divine right of kings and the duty of passively obeying all their commands were her favorite tenets. Once and but once—for a moment, and but for a moment—when here own dignity and property were touched, she forgot to practice the submission she had taught."] In all those fiery trials through which English liberty has passed since the Reformation, she invariably east her influence into the scale of tyranny, supported and eulogized every attempt to violate the Constitution, and wrote the fearful sentence of eternal condemnation upon the tombs of the martyrs of freedom. When Charles I. attempted to convert the monarchy into a despotism, the English Church gave him its constant and enthusiastic support. When, in the gloomy period of vice and of reaction that followed the Restoration, the current of opinion set in against all liberal opinions, and the maxims of despotism were embodied even in the Oath of Allegiance [In this clause that it was not lawful "on any pretense whatever to take up arms against the king. "This clause was expunged at the Revolution. Magna Charta had declared that kings who violated it might be resisted. "The doctrine that kingly government is peculiarly favored by Heaven," says Macauly, "receives no countenance from the Old Testament; for in the Old Testament we read that the chosen people were blamed and punished for desiring a king, and that they afterwards commanded to withdraw their allegiance from him. Nor does a this system receive any countenance from those passages of the New Testament which describe government as an ordinance of God; for the government under which the writers of the New Testament lives was not a hereditary monarchy. The Roman Emperors were republican magistrates, named by the senate."], the Church of England directed the stream, allied herself in the closest union with a court whose vices were the scandal of Christendom, and exhausted her anathemas, not upon the hideous corruption that surrounded her, but upon the principles of Hampden and of Milton. All through the long series of encroachments of the Stuarts she exhibited the same spirit. It was not till James II. had menaced her supremacy that the church was aroused to resistance. Then indeed, for a brief but memorable period, she placed herself in opposition to the Crown, and contributed largely to one of the most glorious events in English history. But no sooner had William mounted the throne than her policy was reversed, her whole energies were directed subversion of the constitutional liberty that was then firmly established, and it is recorded by the great historian of the Revolution that at least nine-tenths of the clergy were opposed to the emancipator-of England. All through the reaction under Queen Anne, all through the still worse reaction under George III., the same spirit was displayed. In the first period the clergy, in their hatred of liberty, followed cordially the leadership of the infidel Bolingbroke; in the second they were the most ardent supporter" of the wars against America and against the French Revolution, which have been the most disastrous in which England has ever engaged. From first to last their conduct was the same, and every triumph of liberty was their defeat."
The despotic and persecuting spirit of the "Church of England" was manifested against its own Puritan, or Non-conformist members; and against the Independents (or stricter Puritans, who formed churches separate from the Established " Church"); still more against the Covenanters (or Covenanted Presbyterians who entered into a compact to resist the imposition of Episcopacy upon Scotland); and most of all against the Baptists and Quakers. And this spirit was manifested both in the early part of the seventeenth century, when the leading clergy of the Establishment were Calvinistic, and in the later part, when they were Arminian; but the Arminian persecutions far surpassed the Calvinistic both in number and atrocity—persecution being more logically consistent with Arminianism, especially when, as in this case, the latter was blended with ritualism and sacerdotalism.
The Independents, originating in England about the year 1581 under the leadership of Robert Browne (hence first called Brownists), and being deserted by Browne, who in 1590 conformed to the " Church of England," chose John Robinson, a pious Calvinist, as their pastor in 1603, and in 1608, to secure liberty of conscience and worship, fled to Amsterdam, and in 1609 to Leyden, in Holland; and one hundred and one of them, for the same purpose, emigrated, with their Ruling Elder, William Brewster, in the Mayflower, in 1620, to Plymouth, Massachusetts. These emigrants (forty-one men, with their families) are known as the "Pilgrim Fathers ;" they were mostly poor men and artisans; they advocated the self-government of each local church, and the admission of none but true believers to the Lord's Supper; and they were not much disposed to persecute others for having different religious views and practices from themselves. But in 1629 the "Puritans,' or Episcopalians, who wished to purify the discipline and worship of the " Church of England," and still not separate from that " Church," began emigrating to Massachusetts. They consisted in great part of the professional and middle classes; and, though establishing a system of Congregationalism, yet like their brethren in England they set up a sort of theocratic state, and strove to secure uniformity of worship by rigorous laws for the civil punishment of heresy and schism. They unscripturally retained the pedobaptism of the "Church of England;" and they therefore wreaked their peculiar vengeance on Baptists and Quakers. The "Church of England" was established by law "in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, in Maryland after the decline of the Roman Catholic influence, and in New York after its cession by the Dutch;" and its tyrannical and persecuting spirit, combined with its lack of "Bishops" and its dependence on England, caused it to languish in a country destined by providence to be the home of religious liberty.
The Scottish Covenanters made a bold stand for civil and religious freedom especially from 1660 to 1688, during the reigns of Charles II. and James II. The persecutions that they suffered from the "Church of England" were very numerous, and in many cases most harrowing. It is computed that, during these twenty-eight years, eighteen thousand of them were either banished or put to death.
The Friends or Quakers originated in 1647. They were, in some respects, the successors of the Mystics of the Middle Ages, and the predecessors of the Methodists of the eighteenth century. George Fox (1624-1690), a moral, meek, odd, uneducated, bold and poor man, was their founder; Robert Barclay (1648-1690) their apologist and theologian; and William Penn (1644-1718) their statesman and politician. They claimed, not to be founders of a new sect, but revivers of primitive Christianity. They taught the spirituality of true religion; the indispensable need of "the inner light" or the Spirit of Christ for the understanding of the Scriptures; the privilege of direct access to God without the intervention of human priest or ceremony; entire freedom of conscience and worship for all men; that the ministry need no human education or theological training, but only the preparation afforded by the Holy Spirit, and that they ought to preach without hire or bargaining, though they may receive voluntary contributions from those to whom they administer in spiritual things. They steadfastly opposed tithes, oaths, infant baptism, war, slavery, intemperance, vain fashions, corrupting amusements and flattering, titles; and these eccentricities brought upon them the terrible vengeance of the "State Church." It is said that, from 1650 to 1689, 13,258 Quakers suffered fine; imprisonment, torture and mutilation in the British Isles, 219 were banished, and 360 perished in prisons, some almost literally rotting in pestilential cells; and, in New England, 170 cases of hard usage are enumerated, 47 were banished, and four (including one woman) were hanged. These sufferings they bore with exemplary patience and heroism, leaving their enemies to the correction of the Lord, and meekly saying that it was better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. But, with their wonderful light, they had much spiritual darkness. They taught that the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper were not designed by Christ and His Apostles to be observed outwardly by the church, but only inwardly; that Christ died for every individual of the human race, and that the inner light or grace of His Spirit is given in sufficient measure to every human being, in all ages and countries of the world, to save all if they obey it, and condemn them if they reject it (the Quakers thus being the most Arminian of Arminians, and surpassing all other denominations in their latitudinarian view of the Spirit's influence); that men are justified in their works, though not on account of their works; and that it is possible, in the present world, to reach a state of sinless perfection. Their four grades of meetings for discipline—the preparative, the monthly, the quarterly and the yearly, the latter exercising exclusive legislative and finally appellate power over a large collection of Societies—somewhat resemble the polity of Presbyterianism; the system has too much worldly wisdom, and too little New Testament authority. Some of their writers, even in the seventeenth century, approached very near to Socinianism, denying the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the vicarious nature of the atonement, and imputed righteousness. And in 1827 a schism took place among the American Quakers, Elias Hicks, of New York (1769-1830), openly advocating Socinianism, and drawing off into a separate body (called the Hicksite Quakers) the most of the Quakers in the Atlantic States; while this movement caused those called the Orthodox Quakers to adhere more closely to the Scriptures. Each party professes to hold the views of the founders of the Society in the seventeenth century—the name which they have given themselves not being the church, but "The Religious Society of Friends." Towards the close of the seventeenth century they numbered about 75,000; and they have never had as many as 200,000 members.
The most of the seventeenth century was a time of outward persecution, but of spiritual prosperity, for the Baptists in Europe and America. By the so-called "Reformed Churches" in the departments of Zurich and Berne, in Switzerland, hundreds of the poor people styled Anabaptists or Mennonites were, on account of their religion, whipped, branded, robbed, imprisoned and banished. Similar punishments were inflicted upon the Baptists by the Episcopalians in England and Virginia, and by the Congregationalists in Massachusetts. The last man burned alive in England for his religion was Edward Wightman, a Baptist, April 11th, 1612; just as the first man, William Sautre, burned in 1400, in England, for his religion, is said to have been a Baptist in sentiment. The only other person bullied in England for his religion during this century was Bartholomew Legate, an Arian, March 18th, 1612. The horror of the people at these renewed executions for heresy caused James I. and his successors to adopt slower and less public modes of death for heretics',—such as long and barbarous imprisonment. Baptist ministers especially suffered from long imprisonment." "Francis Bampfield was eight years in Dorchester jail, and spent the last year of his life in Newgate, where he died. John Miller was confined ten years in the same jail. Henry Forty was twelve years in prison at Exeter. John Bunyan was in Bedford jail twelve years. Joseph Wright lay in Maidstone jail twenty years. George Fownes died in Gloucester jail. Thomas Delaune, and many other servants of God, died in Newgate."
Samuel Howe, a cobbler and a Baptist preacher, and author of a pamphlet called " The Sufficiency of the Spirit's Teaching, without Human Learning," died in prison in 1640, and was buried in the highway, because interment in consecrated ground, so called, was refused him.
It was particularly during the infamous reigns of Charles II. and James II. (1660-1688) that the Baptists were persecuted in England. In November, 1661, John James, an excellent, inoffensive and benevolent Seventh-Day Baptist minister in London, was on suborned and perjured testimony as to treasonable words used by him, hanged, drawn and quartered, his quarters being placed over the city gates, and his head set on a pole opposite the meeting-house where he had preached the gospel. The ''Act of Uniformity" in 1662, drove two thousand conscientious ministers from the Establishment, and subjected many Baptists to the pillory and imprisonment. The first "Conventicle Act" in 1664 forbade as many as five or more persons, over sixteen years of age, besides the household, from meeting anywhere for religious worship in any other manner than allowed by the liturgy or practice of the "Church of England;" the penalty for the first offense was three months imprisonment, or a fine of five pounds; for the second offense six months' imprisonment, or a fine of ten pounds; and for the third offense banishment to America (the West Indies) for seven years (and death, if they returned without per mission), or a fine of one hundred pounds. Vast numbers suffered under this act in every part of the kingdom. The Five-Mile Act in 1665 forbade Non-conformist ministers from going within five miles of any city or town that sent members to Parliament, or within five miles of any place where there was stated service in the Established "Church" also declared them incapable of teaching any public or private schools. The penalty for each offense was forty pounds. This Act inflicted great suffering upon the true ministers of the word and upon their families; and it caused many Baptist Churches to be formed in villages, nooks and corners of the land, beyond the reach of the Five-Mile Act. The second "Conventicle Act " in 1670 was still more searching and extensive than the first. "All persons attending conventicles (or the religious meetings of Non-conformists) were to be fined five shillings for the first offense, ten shillings for the second; the preachers were to be fined twenty pounds for the first offense; forty pounds for the second; the owners of the houses, barns, buildings or yards in which the meetings were held were to be fined twenty pounds each time; the fines were to be levied by distress and sale of the offender's goods and chattels; the money was to be divided into three parts, one-third for the king, one-third for the poor, and one-third for the informer and his assistants; in case of the poverty of the ministers, their fines were to be levied on the goods and chattels of any others present. If the first Act scourged the Dissenters with whips, the second was a scorpion plague. They were plundered and imprisoned without remorse. Many of the Bishops exerted themselves in every possible way to enforce the Act. They sent circulars to the clergy, directing them to stimulate and aid the civil authorities; and some of the Bishops went in person to the places where the meetings were supposed to be held, in order to encourage the constables, or insure the rigorous discharge of their duty. The activity- of the informers was cited by the promised share of the penalties. Their infamous trade became lucrative, and many of them amassed large sums, mercilessly filched from the servants of God. A more degrading and detestable occupation cannot well be imagined. They spent their time in prowling about the retired streets and by-lanes of towns, or in exploring the recesses of woods, and wild, desolate places, if happily they might hear the voice of singing or prayer, or watch the movements of some straggler hastening to join his brethren. With savage glee they darted upon the secret assembly, gloating over their confusion and distress, and specially rejoicing when they seized the preacher, because of the heavier fine. They accompanied the constables when they executed warrants of distress on property; and they attended the sales of the goods seized, taking care to get bargains for themselves. They scrupled not to take the bed from under the sick; they robbed of their bread children whose fathers were languishing in prison. The law created their calling, and encouraged them in diligently pursuing it. Magistrates urged them on. Clergymen and country squires applauded their cleverness; and judges on the bench commended them for their zeal. There was an unholy alliance against truth and righteousness, in which the titled and the learned were willing to associate themselves with the meanest, the wickedest, and the most brutal of men. The prisons were crowded. Families were ruined. Houses were desolated. Estates were impoverished or abandoned. Numbers fled their native shores, and sought in Holland or in the American wilderness for freedom to worship God." But all this severe persecution did not succeed in putting an end to the religious meetings of the Dissenters in England. They met for worship in private houses, in the lanes, in the fields, in the woods, at all hours of the day and of the night, wherever and whenever they could best escape the vigilance of the authorities. The word of the Lord was very precious in those days. There was a very lively spirit of faith and prayer among the people of God; their numbers increased; it was a spiritual spring-time with them, though a period of great outward gloom; they felt and declared that the time of the singing of birds was come, and that the voice of the turtle was heard in the land. They blessedly realized the holy rejoicing of the prophet Habakkuk, not in worldly prosperity, but in the God of their salvation (Hab. iii. 17-19). It has been computed that, from 1660 to 1689, in England, seventy thousand persons suffered on account of religion, eight thousand persons perished, and two million pounds sterling (ten million dollars) were paid in fines. "The Baptists," says Sir James McIntosh, "suffered more than any others under Charles II., because they had publicly professed the principles of religious liberty." Bonds and imprisonment and scourging attended the Baptists in Massachusetts. A few came over with the first emigrants, but not making their sentiments public, were not molested for several years. In 1635 Roger Williams was banished, and, leaving Massachusetts, founded Rhode Island. In 1639 several Baptists were fined, or imprisoned, or disfranchised, or threatened with banishment (different penalties being inflicted on different ones), for attempting to found a church in Weymouth, a town about fourteen miles southeast of Boston. In 1644 a poor man named Painter, in Boston, was tied up and whipped for refusing to have his infant child baptized. In July, 1651, upon the request of an aged Baptist, of Lynn, named William Witter, who was not able to travel and visit his church at Newport, Rhode Island, three members of that church, John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes and a John Crandall, came to Lynn, Mass., twelve miles from Boston, to hold meeting with him. While Mr. Clarke was preaching from Revelation iii. 10, two constables entered the house and arrested Clarke, Holmes and Crandall; and the Court sentenced Clarke to pay a fine of twenty pounds, Holmes thirty pounds, and Crandall five pounds, or be publicly whipped. All conscientiously refused to pay the fines, and were sent back to prison. Some of Mr. Clarke's friends paid his fine without his consent. Mr. Crandall was released on a promise to appear at the next Court. Mr. Holmes was kept in prison at Boston until September, when, his fine not having been paid, he was brought out and publicly and severely whipped, receiving thirty stripes with a three-corded whip, so that he could take no rest for some weeks except as he lay on his knees and elbows, not being able to suffer any other part of his body to touch the bed. While he was undergoing the cruel strokes, the Lord gave him a more glorious manifestation of His presence than ever before, so that he scarcely felt the outward pain, and he told the magistrates that they had struck him as with roses, and he prayed the Lord not to lay this sin to their charge. Warrants were issued against thirteen persons, whose only crime was showing some emotions of sympathy towards this innocent sufferer; but eleven escaped, and, while the other two were preparing to receive ten lashes apiece, some friends paid their fines. Notwithstanding Congregational persecutions, the Baptists increased in Massachusetts. A Baptist Church was formed in Boston in 1665, and for several years some of the members spent most of their time in courts and prisons. In 1643 the "Church of England" was established by law in Virginia. In 1653 Sir William Berkeley, royal governor of Virginia, strove, by whippings and brandings, to make the inhabitants of that colony conform to the Established "Church," and thus drove out the Baptists and Quakers, who found a refuge in the Albemarle country of North Carolina, a colony which "was settled," says Bancroft, "by the freest of the free, by men to whom the restraints of other colonies were too severe."
Having described, in the same connection, the religious persecutions by Protestants during the seventeenth century, I will now briefly speak of some individual Baptist Churches, Baptist principles and practices, and a few Baptist ministers of this century.
The first English Baptist Church was formed, in 1608, of refugees in Amsterdam, under the pastoral care of John Smyth, who had been an Episcopalian, and afterwards a Brownist clergyman, and who has been called a Se-Baptist because he was said to have baptized himself; but it is more probable that one of the brethren baptized him, and he then baptized the others. This church, as shown by their Confession of Faith, published in 1611, held Arminian views—the members being what are called in England General Baptists, because they believe in a general atonement. In 1612, Mr. Smyth having died, Mr. Thomas Helwys was chosen to succeed him as pastor, and he and the most of the church returned to England, and located their place of worship in London. In 1633, September the 12th, the first Particular or Calvinistic or Predestinarian English Baptist Church was founded in London, under the pastoral care of John Spilsbury, from those members of an Independent Church who rejected infant baptism; it was called Broad Street Church, and was in the parish of Wapping. London. In 1644 they numbered seven churches in London, and forty-seven in the country; and the same year, three years before the Westminister Confession, in answer to the calumnies of Daniel Featley, an Episcopalian clergyman, the seven London churches published, in fifty-two Articles, a Confession of Faith, showing that, in all important doctrinal principles, the Baptists agreed with the "orthodox Reformed Churches." The concluding paragraph of this Confession is most admirable. It is as follows: "Thus we desire to give unto Christ that which is His, and unto all lawful authority that which is their due; and to owe nothing to any man but love; to live quietly and peaceably, as it becometh saints, endeavoring in all things to keep a good conscience, and to do unto every man (of what judgment soever) as we would they should do unto us: that, as our practice is, so it may prove us to be a conscionable, quiet and harmless people (no ways dangerous or troublesome to human society), and to labor and work with our hands that we may not be chargeable to any, but to give to him that needeth, both friends and enemies, accounting it more excellent to give than to receive. Also we confess that we know but in part, and that we are ignorant of many things which we desire and seek to know; and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and them. But if any man shall impose upon us anything that we see not to be commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ, we should in His strength rather embrace all reproaches and tortures of men, to be stripped of all outward comforts, and, if it were possible, to die a thousand deaths, rather than to do anything against the least tittle of the truth of God, or against the light of our own consciences. And if any shall call what we have said heresy, then do we with the Apostle acknowledge that 'after the way which they call heresy, worship we the God of our fathers,' disclaiming all heresies (rightly so called), because they are against Christ, and to be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in obedience to Christ, as knowing our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord."Devonshire Square Church, one of the seven churches that published this Confession, is still in existence. In 1656 was published, in forty-six Articles, the Confession of Somerset, signed by the messengers of sixteen churches in Somerset and the adjoining counties. What is called the Confession of 1688, in thirty-two chapters, by far the most important and authoritative of all uninspired Baptist Confessions, and still generally received by all Baptists who hold the doctrine of personal election and the certainty of the final perseverance of the saints, first appeared in 1677 at London, and was, in 1688 and 1689, approved and recommended by the ministers and messengers of above a hundred churches who were in session in London July 4-11, 1689. It was adapted by the Philadelphia Baptist Association, in Philadelphia, Sept. 25th 1742, and is hence also called the Philadelphia Confession—the latter retaining all the old London Confession, and adding two other Articles (Chapter xxiii., Of Singing of Psalms, and Chapter xxxi., Of Laying on of Hands). The Charleston (South Carolina) Association was organized, in 1751, on the basis of the old London Confession; and the Kehukee (North Carolina) Association w as organized in 1765 on the same Confession, adding, from the Philadelphia Confession, the Chapter on the Singing of Psalms, but not adding the Chapter on the Laying on of Hands. The practice of laying the hands of the presbytery on all believers after baptism was first introduced among the Baptist Churches in England about the year 1645, and became common, though not universal, among the Baptists in England and America during the seventeenth century, and its observance or non-observance sometimes caused bitter controversies, and even rent churches; but the practice is now almost entirely discontinued, except in cases of ordination to the deaconship and eldership. As the English Congregationalists had done in the Savoy Declaration in 1658, so the Baptists, in the London Confession, followed the Presbyterian Westminster Confession both in sentiment and in language, with very few verbal alterations, except in the doctrine of the church and the ordinances,—for the purpose, as they said, of showing their agreement with the Presbyterians and Congregationalists "in all the fundamental articles of the Christian religion." And they say in their Appendix: "If any of the servants of our Lord Jesus Christ shall, in the spirit of meekness, attempt to convince us of any mistake, either in judgment or practice, we shall diligently ponder his arguments, and account him our chiefest friend that shall be an instrument to convert us from any error that is in our ways; for we cannot wittingly do anything against the truth, but all things for the truth."
By the close of the seventeenth century there were probably, in England and Wales, about two hundred Baptist Churches with about twenty thousand members; and there were in the present United States sixteen churches, organized as follows: First Newport, R. I., 1638; Providence, R. I., 1639 ; Second Newport, R. I., 1656; First Swansea, Mass., 1663; Boston, Mass., 1665; North Kingston, R. I., 1665; Seventh Day, Newport, R. I., 1771; South Kingston, R. I., 1680; Charleston, S. C., 1683; Tiverton, R. I., 1685; Middletown, S. J., 1688; Lower Dublin, Pa., 1689; Piscataway, N. J., 1689; Cohansey, N. J., 1691; Second Swansea,Mass., 1694; First Philadelphia, Pa., 1698. Several of these churches were composed of General or Arminian Baptists. From the most recent and thorough investigation, it is believed that Dr. John Clark (a physician) and eleven other persons formed, at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1638, the first Baptist Church in America; Clark resigning the proposed care of the church in 1651, in order to return to England, was succeeded by Obadiah Holmes. The pastors and members of this oldest Baptist Church in America remained strongly Calvinistic or predestinarian until about the year 1820.—In 1636 the town, and in 1639 the Baptist Church, of Providence, Rhode Island, were founded by Roger Williams (1599-1683). He was a Welshman by birth, an Episcopalian by training, and had been a Congregationalist by choice, and he was a graduate of the University of Cambridge. He came to Massachusetts in 1631, and was for a few years assistant minister of the Congregational Church at Salem; but, denying the right of the magistrates to punish offenses of a purely religious character, he was banished, and, leaving his wife and children at Salem, he fled, in the depth of a severe winter, to the Narragansett Indians, and, in gratitude to God for his preservation during fourteen weeks of bitter wilderness wandering, he called the town that he founded Providence and he made it a shelter for persons distressed for the sake of conscience. He established the colony of Rhode Island upon principles of entire religious liberty—principles which have since been adopted in all the States of the American Union, but upon which no State before Rhode Island had ever been founded. In March, 1639, Roger Williams, Ezekiel Holliman and ten others constituted the Baptist Church at Providence. Holliman baptized Williams, and then Williams immersed Holliman and the others. Four months afterwards, doubting the validity of this procedure, Williams withdrew from the church, and seems never again to have united with any religious organization, but remained a Seeker, seeking but never finding a church of pure apostolic faith and practice. "For one hundred and thirty years the ministers of the Providence Church were natives, bred on the spot, generally advanced in years, worked for their daily bread, and had no special training." For a long time it was thought that this church was the first Baptist organization in America; but the best evidence seems to show that the Newport Church was the first.—John Miles formed a Baptist Church at Swansea in Wales in 1649; and removing, with a few of his members and a copy of the old church records, to America, he founded in 1663 the first Baptist Church in Massachusetts at Swansea or Swanzy.
The Baptists of the seventeenth century acknowledged no master but Christ, no infallible authority but the Scriptures. They advocated perfect religious liberty for all men. They required true piety as the indispensable re requisite for church membership; and, in accordance with First Corinthians v. 11 and Second Corinthians vi. 17, they excluded from their fellowship, those guilty of immoral, unscriptural or disorderly conduct. They debarred or excluded from fellowship persons who sold spirituous liquors; those who drank to excess; those who borrowed money and did not repay it; those who married irreligious and disorderly companions; those who did not treat their companions with proper love and kindness; those who told lies; those who swore; and those guilty of unchastity. Upon thoroughly satisfactory proof of heartfelt repentance, the churches were rejoiced to restore excluded members again to fellowship. They silenced preachers for improper conduct which was not thought to be so gross as to demand their exclusion; and, upon proper repentance, restored to them the privilege of exercising their gifts in public. Some of the churches observed the Lord's Supper weekly, but most of them monthly. Singing was not commonly practiced; and, when engaged in, it was only at the close of the meeting, so that all opposed to it could freely go out, and the church would not be offended. Many churches had two or more Elders or pastors. In some churches there were "ruling Elders," who, in the absence of the pastor, presided at church-meetings and preached. Any preacher, whether ordained or not, could baptize. Strict communion was practiced in most of the churches; but some admitted unbaptized persons, if pious, to communion. They were not perfect, and did not have perfect light on all subjects. In some of their controversies, especially on predestination and free-will, there was great virulence, Arminians charging Calvinists with uncharitableness, and Calvinists charging Arminians with latitudinarianism. There was, as already mentioned, a great contention on the subject of laying on of hands, and this was by some made a bar to fellowship. Some believed in the perpetuity of the Jewish Sabbath, but most observed the first day of the week as the day of rest and worship. A very few churches observed the washing of feet; but this was placed among the things indifferent, and was never made a bar to fellowship. Some churches had a love-feast before the Lord's Supper. Only so far as the people of God have been taught by the Spirit of Christ, have they been perfectly agreed in faith and practice.
John Bunyan (1628~1688) was the most gifted preacher of the seventeenth century, and the most wonderfully gifted experimental and spiritual writer since the days of the Apostles. His " Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners," his " Pilgrim's Progress," and his "Holy War," are the records of his own deep and varied spiritual experience. Next to the Bible, his Pilgrims Progress has been translated into more languages, and has passed through more editions (about four hundred), than any other book in the world. It is generally the first book after the Bible translated into the heathen languages. The common people heard and read Bunyan gladly. Until the present century, few except the poor and lowly and uneducated admired Bunyan's writings; but it is now the fashion of the rich and lordly and educated to commend them for their pure and strong English, and their simple, natural and allegorical power. Only the spiritual can admire their spirituality. Bunyan was himself, like the Apostles of Christ during His ministry, a poor, hard-working, uneducated man. He was a tinker, like his father. At seventeen years of age he served a year in the Parliamentary army; and then, returning home, married a poor orphan girl—both being so poor that they had not a dish or a spoon between them. All the portion that she brought him was two religious books which her father had left her, " The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven," and "The Practice of Piety." He soon experienced some concern on the subject of religion, and he began a constant attendance at prayers and sermons, and became a strict Pharisee, a "poor, painted hypocrite," he says, worshiping the Established Church and all its appurtenances. He gradually abandoned his favorite amusements, playing at tip-cat on the "Sabbath," swearing, ringing the church bells, and dancing, and he made some outward reformation both in his words and life, and set the ten commandments before him for his way to Heaven, and thought that he generally kept them pretty well; and, when he broke one, he was sorry for it, and promised God to do better next time, and he thought he pleased God as well as any man in England He was now talked of by his neighbors as an eminently pious man, and he was proud of his "godliness." But, while working at his calling, he heard three or four poor women one day talking of a new birth, and of the work of God in their hearts, and how they were convinced of their miserable natural state, and how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted and supported against the temptations of the Devil, and they contemned their own righteousness for its filthiness and insufficiency. This conversation made a deep impression upon Bunyan, and he sought the company of the same truly godly persons again and again, and he was convicted by the Holy Spirit of his own dreadful sinfulness, and made to long and cry to God for deliverance—he felt that he would have given ten thousand worlds, if he had them, for true conversion. But he seemed to grow worse and worse; terrible temptations and trials assailed him for more than a year; he feared that he had committed the unpardonable sin, and the day of grace was forever gone with him, and he was about to sink in despair, when Christ seemed to speak mercy and pardon to his soul. Reading Martin Luther's commentary on the Galatians, he saw his own spiritual conflicts fully described, and he esteemed that book above all others except the Bible as fit for a wounded conscience. His soul seemed to be filled with the love of Christ; but, after this, he experienced many sore temptations, which, however, he was enabled to overcome by the all-sufficient grace of Christ. The Holy Spirit taught him that his righteousness did not consist in his own perfections or his own frames and feelings, but that Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, to-day and forever, was his righteousness. Now his chains fell off indeed, and he gloried and rejoiced in Christ Jesus as his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption; and he was led by the Lord into the mysteries of the union with the Son of God, and enabled to feel that he was joined to Him, and was flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bones (Eph. v. 30). He united with the Baptists (at Bedford, forty miles northwest of London), " the most thorough-going and consistent of all Protestant sects," says Mr. J. A. Froude in this connection. He passed through other severe spiritual trials and temptations, and was led into the heights and depths of Divine grace, love and mercy; and he was enabled especially to realize the sweetness of Heb. xi . 22-24 "Ye are come unto Mount Sion," etc. Two years after his baptism, some of the wisest and best of his brethren thought that they saw in him a special gift of spiritual understanding and utterance, and they earnestly requested him to speak a word of exhortation to them at one of their meltings. Though much abashed, he after a while consented to try to do so, yet, he says, with much weakness and infirmity. The church was much affected and comforted, and encouraged him to persevere, and soon ordained him to the work of the ministry. After preaching very acceptably to the brethren five years, and working at his trade for the support of himself and family, he was arrested and thrown into Bedford jail twelve years (1660-1672) for " teaching men to worship God contrary to the law." He would have been released any day if he had promised not to preach; but he felt called of God to the work of the ministry, and he continually replied to his jailors, " If you release me to-day, I will preach again tomorrow." His separation from his poor wife and his four small children, one of them a blind daughter whom he loved with peculiar tenderness, and who died while he was in prison, was very distressing to him. Not being able to practice his old trade, he took up a new one, that of making long-tagged-thread laces, of which he made many thousands for the support of his family. He was allowed to preach and pray with the other prisoners in jail, where no informers were prowling about to catch him; and he was there providentially and graciously directed and assisted to compose his three most influential writings, Pilgrim's Progress, Holy War, and Grace Abounding. Thus the wisdom of God overruled the malice of Satan, and enabled His highly gifted servant to preach to millions who would perhaps otherwise have never heard of His name. His only books, while in prison, were the Bible and Concordance, and Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The Bible was his constant companion, and he is said to have almost known it by heart. " It is easy," says Mr. Froude, 'to conceive a university-bred Bunyan, an intellectual meteor, flaring uselessly across the sky and disappearing in smoke and nothingness." He lived sixteen years after his release from prison, and remained all the while pastor of the church in Bedford, though he visited other churches much, " animating the zeal of his brethren, collecting and distributing alms for the poor, and settling difficulties." He rode to London, on a preaching tour, once a year, and it is said that three thousand persons would meet before breakfast on a dark winter morning to hear him. The learned Independent minister, John Owen, said to Charles II. that he would gladly relinquish all his learning for the tinker's preaching abilities. Bunyan abstained all his life from politics. He steadily refused official, pecuniary or eecclesiastical promotion for himself or family. He did not speak of his own talents, but was low in his own eyes; and, instead of seeking, he humbly put aside the applause of men. "A little grace, a little love, a little of the true fear of God," he said, "is better than all the gifts; the Scripture does not say, the Lord gives gifts and glory, but the Lord gives grace and glory; true grace is a certain forerunner of glory." He was a strong predestinarian, maintaining not only the doctrine of personal, unconditional, efficacious election unto holiness and eternal life, but also the doctrine of reprobation, which, he said, made no man a sinner, but left him as he made himself. " No man ever quickened his own soul, or had any power to take a single step in the way of salvation, till God made him willing in the day of His power. The absolute promises are big promises, containing in themselves all the conditional promises, with all their conditions and all their blessed fulfillments. All that the Father giveth the Son shall come to Him; they may say they will not, but they will be found liars, for Gods' word is true; they shall come to Him; they shall be enabled to see and repent and believe; their hearts shall be inclined to come by God, who worketh in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure; He will give them power to come, and to rest in Jesus and be saved." Bunyan's last sermon, preached a month before he died, was from the text, " Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God " (John i. 13). " They that believe," said he, "are born to it as an heir is to an inheritance—born, not of natural privileges or desires or will (I am not a free-willer; I do abhor it), but born of God, of the Spirit of God, raised out of the grave of sin, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, and made to live a new life. And the new-born child that has life will cry; the spiritual child will cry to God for mercy, and will desire the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby, and will crave to be comfortably clothed with the golden righteousness of Christ, and will be satisfied with the breasts of God's consoling promises, and will bear some resemblance to his heavenly Father, and will be trained up in the ways and house of God, the true church, and will go to God for the supply of his necessities, and for relief and strength in trials anti temptations If you have not these marks, you will fall short of the kingdom of God; if you are not a child of God, you will have no heavenly inheritance. If you have these marks, you are the children of God, and you should set your affections on things above, and not on things below; you should talk of your Father 's promises, and love His will, and be content and pleased with your worldly lot, and live lovingly together with all the children of God, serve one another, do good to one another, and, if any wrong you, pray God to right you; and be holy in all manner of conversation and live like the children of the holy God." "Happy in his heavenly work and influence, which spread over his own country and to the far-oft settlements in America, Bunyan spent his last years in his own Land of Beulah, Doubting Castle out of sight, and the towers and minarets of Emmanuel Land growing nearer and clearer as the days went on. Returning on horseback from a successful journey from Bedford to Reading undertaken to reconcile an angry father and an offending son, he was thoroughly wetted in a storm of rain, and was attacked with chill and fever, and died in ten days, towards the end of August 1688, between two and three months before the landing of King William." His last words were, "Take me, for I come to Thee." The ablest writers testify that there were no nonsense, no fanaticism, and no harshness in Bunyan. He had a horror of the Roman Catholics, whom he thought to compose Mystical Babylon; and also of the Quakers, whom he understood to deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, the divinity and atonement of Christ, and the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and general judgment, and whom he understood to affirm that every man in the world had the Spirit of Christ, grace and faith. With all Protestants, if moral and pious, he was willing to commune, considering differences in judgment about water baptism no bar to such communion; but could cite no plain scriptural precept or example for his open communion views satisfactory to the most of Baptists then or since, and the natural tendency of such views is illustrated by "the progress backwards of his own Bedford Church to infant sprinkling and Congregationalism." The New Testament shows this practice of open communion to be erroneous; and history proves it to be a failure. There can be no agreement between truth and error. It is evident that even Bunyan, with his extraordinary gifts, was in darkness on the subject of communion.
"Great as was the authority [or influence, rather] of Bunyan with the Baptists," says Macaulay, " that of William Kiffin was greater. Kiffin was the first man among them in wealth and station." He was born in 1616, and died in 1701. He was an industrious, honest, skillful and successful merchant of London, and had great influence at the courts of Charles II. and James II., and took pleasure in using his wealth and influence for the relief and protection of his poor, persecuted brethren like Mordecai at the Court of Ahasuerus. He was himself arrested many times, and imprisoned once. He was for five years a member and minister in an Independent Church, and then joined the first Particular Baptist Church formed in England, of which Mr. Spilsbury was pastor. Two years afterwards he and those of his brethren who thought it improper to allow ministers that had not been immersed to preach to them, withdrew in 1640 and formed another church, which met in Devonshire Square; and of this church Mr. Kiffin was pastor sixty-one years, until his death, being aided in his long pastorate, at different times, by three assistant pastors. He kept aloof from politics, and always tried to obey the powers that be, and he submitted with unmurmuring resignation to the most painful dispensations of Providence. One of his sons was poisoned in Venice by a Catholic priest for denouncing his religion. And two of his grandsons the pious William and Benjamin Hewling. under the pretense of complicity in Monmouth's rebellion were sent to the gallows by the infamous Judge Jeffries, and hanged amid the lamentations of: the spectators, including even the soldiers on guard. Chief Justice George Jeffries, whose name is "a synonym for a monster of bloodthirsty cruelty, blasphemous rage, and brutish intemperance," whose yell on the bench sounded, it was said, like the thunder of the judgment day, and who was the fit tool of the bigoted and unfeeling Catholic King, James II., in his notorious circuit of 1685 , sentenced 320 prisoners to be hanged, 841 to be sold into slavery beyond the sea, and a still larger number to be whipped and imprisoned. The sufferers were, for the most part, says Macaulay, blameless and pious, and regarded as martyrs to the truth of the Protestant religion. "He left behind him a character of rare excellence, tried alike by the fire of prosperity and adversity in the most eventful times." The only work he ever published was a defense of Close Communion.
Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) was a poor, sickly, uneducated boy, who found peace in Christ in his fifteenth year, and united with a Baptist Church. Three years afterwards he was invited by the church to preach, though he did not undertake a pastoral charge till his twenty eighth year, when he was chosen pastor of Horsleydown Church in London, and retained that office till his death. At first he was an Arminian as to free-will and the extent of the atonement; but, by reading the Scriptures and conversing with those who understood the truth more perfectly, he abandoned those errors. He wrote forty-three works, polemical, practical and poetical—some of his subjects being the laying on of hands, the lawfulness of singing in public worship, the authority of the "Christian Sabbath," baptism, Scripture metaphors, gospel mysteries, the parables, the travels of true godliness and the travels of ungodliness, Zion in distress, distressed Zion relieved, and spiritual melody (nearly three hundred hymns). The historian, Thomas Crosby, was a member of his church, and expresses his warm admiration of him as a man and a minister. Mr. Keach was often imprisoned for preaching, and his life was sometimes endangered. He was a bold defender of the truth, and his books were widely circulated. In 1644 he wrote a small book for children, called " The Child's Instructor," in which he affirmed that none but believers should be baptized, and he also taught the personal reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years. And, what was especially of offensive, he said: " Christ's true ministers have not their learning and wisdom from men, or from universities, or human schools; for human learning, arts and sciences are not essential to the making of a true minister; but only the gift of God, which cannot be bought with silver or gold. And also, as they have freely received the gift of God, so they do freely administer; they do not preach for hire, for gain or filthy lucre; they are not like false teachers, who look for gain from their quarters, who eat the fat, and clothe themselves with the wool, and kill them that are fed (Ezek. xxxiv.). Also, they are not lords over God's heritage; they rule them not by force and cruelty, neither have they power to force and compel men to believe and obey their doctrine, but are only to persuade and entreat; thus is the way of the gospel, as Christ taught them." For publishing this heretical book, Mr. Keach was indicted and tried and condemned to go to jail two weeks, and then stand in the pillory two hours in the open market place of Aylesbury, and two hours in the open market place of Winslow; and, at the latter place, to have his book openly burnt before his face by the common hangman, in disgrace of him and his doctrine, and to pay a fine of twenty pounds, and then remain in jail until he found sureties for his good behavior, and appearance at the next court, there to renounce his doctrines and make such public submission as should be enjoined him. This shameful sentence was rigorously executed, and Mr. Keach bore the indignities with great patience and manliness, and, even while standing in the pillory, boldly defended the Bible doctrine that he had taught, and the people treated him not only with respect but with sympathy.
Hanserd Knollys (1598-1691) was a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and experienced conversion while a student there. He was first a Deacon and a priest in the " Church of England ;" but, funding that infant baptism was not taught in the Scriptures, he gave up his salary, but continued preaching, and the subject of his discourses was "the doctrine of free grace, according to the tenor of the new and everlasting covenant." In 1636 the High Commission Court, or Protestant Inquisition, arrested and imprisoned him; but, through the connivance of his jailor, he escaped, in 1638, with his wife to America. He arrived in Boston a penniless fugitive, and was treated as an Antinomian, and had to work with a hoe for his daily bread. Going to Dover, N. H., he preached there three years, and then, summoned by his aged father, returned to England. He settled in London, and gained his livelihood by teaching school till near the close of his life. Commanded by the Chairman of " The Westminster Assembly of Divines " to preach no more, he readily and boldly replied that he would preach the gospel publicly and from house to house. In 1645 he was ordained pastor of a Baptist Church in London, and he remained so till his death, though for a while a fugitive in Holland and Germany. He was frequently imprisoned for preaching, even in his eighty-fourth year being in jail six months. He was a strong predestinarian, a decided Baptist, and was a man of great learning and preaching abilities. He wrote eleven books, one of which was a grammar of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages His learning was seasoned with Divine grace, so that it did not puff him up or lead him away from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ.
"The mild, harmless, godly and persecuted Baptists," are frequent names given by eminent historians to the people of God in the seventeenth century.