THE footpaths of any country may be expected to yield some glimpses, both of the land and the people, not obtainable along the dusty and well-beaten highway. It is sincerely hoped that this may prove equally true of these Bye-paths in Baptist History. That they occasionally cross the main roads, and now and then run parallel with them, is no more than other "Bye-paths" have done before them; but care has been taken throughout to preserve, as much as possible, their distinctive character.
In the sketches thus given of the Early English Baptists, no attempt has been made to diminish their excellencies or to gloss over their defects. Their early and persistent advocacy of the broadest religious freedom (an honour of which none will now seek to rob them); their zealous regard for Scriptural precedents; and their willingness to sacrifice all things in the maintenance of what they deemed to be the truth, commend them to the warmest sympathies and loving regard of their descendants. Nor should their disputatious and angular character; their literal observance of customs now fallen into desuetude, and their vigorous and inquisitorial discipline, be judged apart from the ferment of the age in which they lived, their natural reaction against the commandments of men, and their steadfast desire that those who associated with them should live unblamable and unreprovable before God.
The author tenders his hearty thanks to the gentlemen who have kindly rendered him help in the preparation of this volume. He desires especially to mention Rev. W. Robinson, of Cambridge, who very cheerfully examined for him the Baker MSS. in the University Library of Cambridge; Rev. J. C. Means, London, who permitted him the free use of the MS. Proceedings of the General Baptist Assemblies; Rev. R. Wallace, Tottenham, for the earliest extant Minute Book of the Particular Baptist Board; and Dr. Underhill, London; Dr. Underwood, Chilwell College; Revs. W. Urwick, Hatherlow; J. Jenkyn Brown, Birmingham; R. Harris, Esq., Leicester; J. Barlow, Esq., Accrington; T. Bayley, Esq., Lenton Abbey, Nottingham; and many other friends, for their generous loan of rare and valuable books.