« PrécédentContinuer »
1.–That Infant Baptism is Anti-Christian;
3.—That Christ commanded teaching to go before Baptism; Sentiments which the Baptists still profess, and which they conceive have never been disproved. The persecuting spirit shewn in this eign was manifested against four women, whose crime was the REFUSING to have their children dipped in the font of St. Peter's Church, at Ipswich.*
This reign of religious terror terminated December 2, 1558.
Upon the death of the popish Mary, the protestant Elizabeth ascended the throne, a princess who is considered as the stern and uncompromising promoter of the Reformation. What was the progress of Baptistical sentiments during her reign? It may at once be stated that those holding such views found no favour with the Queen Elizabeth, who being determined to enforce uniformity of faith and worship amongst all her subjects, the Baptists, that incorrigible and obstinate sect, were called to no small share of suffering at this period. The recital of an example or two will evince the severities to which the Baptists were subjected. “In 1578, on Easter-day, was discovered a congregation of Dutch Anabaptists, without Aldgate, in London, whereof seven-and-twenty were taken and imprisoned, and four, bearing faggots at Paul's Cross, solemnly recanted their dangerous opinions. Next month, one Dutchman, and ten more were condemned; of whom one woman was persuaded to renounce her error; eight WERE BANISHED the land, and two men were so obstinate, that command was issued out FOR THEIR BURNING in Smithfield.”+
The arbitrary and intolerent spirit prevailing in this reign, is further shown from an extract of the ABJURATION OATH, taken hy those who recanted :-“I confess that the whole doctrine established and published in ihe Church of England, and also that which is received in the Dutch (Episcopal) Church in London, is found true, and according to God's word, whereunto, in all things, I subscribe myself, and will most gladly be a member of the said Dutch Church, from henceforth utterly abandoning and forsaking all and every Anabaptistical error.”I Comment upon the tenor and spirit of such a document is needless.
* Fox, vul. 3, p. 791.
Crosby's History, vol. 1, p. 68.
In 1589, a treatise appeared, written by Dr. Some, in which the Baptists were charged with holding sentiments which, Crosby says, when stripped of the dress that he has put upon them, are as follows:That the ministers of the gospel ought to be maintained by the
voluntary contributions of the people; That the civil power has no right to make and impose ecclesi
astical laws. That the High Commission Court was an unchristian usurpation. That those who are qualified to teach ought not to be hindered
by the civil power:
That though the Lord's Prayer be a rule and a foundation of
prayer, yet it is not to be used as a form, and that no form
ought to be imposed in the church. That the Baptism administered by the Church of Rome is invalid. That a true constitution and discipline are essential to a true church.*
On Anabaptists' opinion of baptizing believers only the Doctor touches but lightly. “The Baptists of the present day,” observes Ivimey, “have no reason to be ashamed of these sentiments of their predecessors, who, at a time when the principles of dissent were so imperfectly understood, had such clear ideas on the subject, and sealed the truth with their blood.”
Such were the HETERODOX principles maintained by Anabaptists nearly three hundred years ago, according to the testimony of Doctor Some. The learned Doctor also wrote, that “There were several Anabaptistical conventicles in London and other places ;" from which it may be inferred that Baptists had, at this early period, formed distinct churches of persons of their own sentiments, both in London and in different parts of the country.
Doctor Some also adds, “Some persons of these (Baptists) sentiments had been bred in our universities,” that is, they had rejected infant Baptism. Ivimey expresses obligation to the Doctor for tracing the history of Baptist churches in England since the Reformation, to a period almost as early as that of the Presbyterian churches, the first of which in England was formed at Wandsworth, in the year 1572.1
That the denial of Infant Baptism was a crime, by which Baptists were considered unfit to reside in a Christian country, will appear from the proclamation of the Queen, commanding “all ANABAPTISTS and other hereties to leave the kingdom ; whether they were natives or foreigners, under the penalty of imprisonment and loss of goods.
* Crosby, vol. I, p. 77.
† Ivimey, vol. 1, p. 107.
Under the influence of such an edict, Baptists were obliged either to conceal their sentiments, or to leave their homes, and fly to other countries, where they might be permitted to worship God according to the dictates of conscience.
Enough has been stated to shew the spirit of these times, from the earliest to the latest period of the reign of Elizabeth. Those who professed baptistical sentiments were the objects of the Royal hate, and the subjects of ecclesiastical penal inflictions.
Queen Elizabeth closed her reign March 24, 1602. As to her religion, she affected a middle way between popery and puritanism, though she was more inclined to the former, She understood not the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and is therefore justly chargeable with persecuting principles. More sanguinary laws were made in her reign than any of her predecessors ; her hands were stained with blood of papists and puritans; the former were executed for denying her supremacy, and the latter for sedition or nonconformity.”
James the First succeeded Elizabeth, whose sanguinary laws and persecuting spirit had driven from the country so many who preferred banishment to conformity, and the testimony of a good conscience before worldly ease. Pursuing the course proposed, of tracing, in some degree, the progress of sentiment, Mr. Smyth, who left this country for Holland, may receive an early notice, He had been a beneficed minister in the Church of England, at Gainsborough ; before his secession, he had spent some months in studying the controversy, and held a disputation with several divines, on conformity with the ceremonies of the Church of England, and on the use of a prescribed form of prayer. In Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, and Nottinghamshire, the principles of the separation made an extraordinary impression ; Mr. Smyth, with Mr, Robinson, and Mr. Clifton, the pastor of another church, being harassed by the High Commission Court, removed with their followers to Holland. Mr. Smyth (who had become a Brownist) and his followers settled in Amsterdam, in 1608. He was led TO RENOUNCE INFANT SPRINKLING, and came to the conclusion that immersion was the true and proper manner of Baptism; and that it should be administered only to those who are capable oF PROFESSING FAITH IN CHRIST,*
In the year 1608, it seems Enoch Clapham wrote a small piece, entitled, “Errors on the right hand,” against the several sects of protestants in those times. He distinguished the Anabaptists from Puritans and Brownists on the one hand, and from the Arians and Socinians on the other; and makes all these zealous opposers of each other. The Anabaptists, according to his accoun:, held that repentance and faith must PRECEDE Baptism; that the Baptism of the Church of England, and of the Puritans, was invalid ; and that the true Baptism was amongst them (the Baptists.) He further says, that they complained of the term Anabaptist, as a name OF REPROACH cast upon them.
* Ivimey, vol. 1, p. 116.
The piece of Enoch Clapham is in the form of dialogue.
When the Anabaptist is asked, What religion he is of ? he is made to answer,
OF THE TRUE RELIGION COMMONLY TERMED ANABAPTISM, FROM
When he is asked concerning the church or congregation he was joined to in Holland, he answers, –
THERE BE CERTAIN ENGLISH PEOPLE OF US THAT CAME FROM THE BROWNISTS.
When the Arian says, I am of the mind that there is no true Baptism on earth; the Anabaptist replies
I PRAY THEE, son, SAY NOT so. THE CONGREGATION I AM OF CAN AND DOTH ADMINISTER TRUE BAPTISM.
When an inquirer after truth offers, upon the Anabaptist proving what he says, to leave his old religion,
YOU MAY SAY, IF GOD WILL GIVE THEE GRACE TO LEAVE SODOM AND EGYPT, SPIRITUALLY SO CALLED.
When the same person offers to join with them, and firmly betake himself to their faith, the Anabaptist replies :
THE DEW OF HEAVEN COME UPON YOU; TO-MORROW, I WILL BRING YOU INTO OUR SACRED CONGREGATION, THAT YOU MAY COME TO BR INFORMED IN THE FAITH ; AND AFTER THAT TO BE PURELY BAPTIZED
The preceding views were not written by a Baptist ; he, however, assures his readers that the characters which he gives of each sect were not without sundry years' experience of them all.”
In 1611, a confession of faith appeared, written, it has been stated, by Mr. Smyth, it has also been attributed to Mr. Helwis,)* entitled,
* There appears to be some doubt whether Mr. Smyth or Mr. Helwis wrote the Confession of Faith of 1611. Mr. Underhill observes, “Mr. Helwis, che successor of Mr. Smyth, was probably the author of the Confession of Faith of 1611, to silence, if possible, the calumnies widely circulated against the opinions and practices of his people. He refers to it in a work dated the same year, entitled, “A proof that God's decree is not the cause of man's condemnation, and that all men are redeemed by Christ, and that no infants are condemned.” This work agreeing in sentiment with the Confession.
* A Declaration of Faith of English people remaining at Amsterdam, in Holland, printed 1611.” The part of the confession referring to Baptism runs thus :“That every church is to receive in all their members by Baptism,
on the confession of their faith and sins, wrought by the preaching of the gospel according to the primitive institution and practice ; and therefore, a church, constituted after any other manner, or of any other persons, is not according to
Christ's testament. “That Baptisnı, or washing with water, is the outward mani
festation of dying unto sin, and walking in newness of life,
and, therefore, is no wise appertaining to infants.” There can be no misconception either as to the subjects for, or the mode of Baptism.
Mr. Smyth died in 1611. He appeared to have been a man of eminence amongst the ministers of the separation : of great consequence, and his disciples were very numerous.” Ephraim Paget said, that “ He was accounted one of the grandees of the separation, and that he and his followers did at once swallow up all the sect of the separation.”
The flames of persecution were again enkindled in this reign. In the year 1611, the king, to shew his zeal against heresy, had an opportunity of exercising it upon two of his subjects; one was charged with Arianism; and the other, Edward Wightman, a Baptist, in the town of Burton-upon-Trent. Amongst the charges brought against the latter were these :- Mantaining
That the baptizing of infants is an abominable custom.
they are now practised in the Church of England; and, that
of England, but only a part. Such were the counts of the indictment, Who would have thought that such a person wouid have been BURNT BY PROTESTANTS, and for such opinions? It is. justly observed by lvimey,—“Happily for our native country, this day of bigotry is past, and the flames of martyrdom were extinguished with the death of Edward Wightman, who was the last that suffered in this way, and it is mentioned as a singular historical fact.— Assuming that William Sawtree, the Lollard, opposed infant Baptism, the Baptists have had the honour of leading the van, and bringing up the rear of that part of the noble army of martyrs who have laid down their lives at the stake in England.
* Neal, vol. 2, p. 6, appendix.