PERSECUTION OF THE BAPTISTS IN ENGLAND.
Baptists enjoy the enviable distinction of having excited the hostility and suffered from the oppression of every dominant religious party in England, from the days of Henry the Eighth to the days of the Revolution in 1688. It is not difficult to understand how this has happened. The Baptists argued that the Church of God should be a community of godly men; that faith is the gift of God, and not to be compelled by force of arms, that only those rites sanctioned or commanded by Christ and His Apostles are binding upon His people, and that the only Lawgiver of the Church is Christ Himself. Each party had, therefore, its own reason for hating the Baptists; and as each had yet to learn the true nature of religious freedom, each oppressed and persecuted in turn. Believers in national State Churches, in the power of the secular magistrates to punish error, in the authority of bishops or synods to decree rites and ceremonies, and in the supremacy of the Sovereign as Head of the Church, all had their own ground for repugnance to the Baptists. We see this in their persecution by
Henry the Eighth (1509-1547.)
Bitterly as he hated the Papist party, after he had broken with Rome, he was not long before he revealed a still more bitter hatred of all Baptists, English and Continental. The year in which he became supreme head of the Established Church in England, two proclamations were published against Baptists and the followers of Zwingle. Many of the King's subjects, we are told, "had been induced and encouraged, arrogantly and superstitiously (?) to argue and dispute in open places, taverns, and ale-houses, not only upon baptism, but also upon the sacrament of the altar;" and, to put a stop to these "pestilent fellows," the King declares that, "like a godly and Catholic prince, he abhorreth and detesteth the same sects, and their wicked and abominable errors and opinions, and intendeth to proceed against such of them as be already apprehended, according to their merits, and the laws of the realm." Ten days only were allowed to all who held these "pestilent heresies " to leave the country. Close upon the heels of this followed a second proclamation still more severe. Many strangers in England, "who had been baptized in infancy, but had contemned that holy sacrament, and had presumptuously re-baptized themselves, were spreading everywhere their heresies against God and His Holy Scriptures to the great unquietness of Christendom, and perdition of innumerable Christian souls;" and the King, forsooth, "daily studying and minding above all things to save his loving subjects from falling into any erroneous opinions," warns them to depart from England within twelve days, reminds them that some of their company are already convicted, and will presently "suffer the pains of death," and threatens all other Anabaptists and Zwinglians with the same fate, if they are caught. The following year ten were put to death, and ten saved their lives by recantation. Besides these, fourteen Hollanders were burnt for holding "damnable errors drawn from an indiscreet use of the Scriptures."
Four years past away, when a third proclamation was issued, this time appointing Cranmer and eight others to make diligent search for Anabaptist men, books, and letters. Full power was given to Cranmer and his party to deal capitally with each obstinate heretic. Books and men were, "at their pleasure," to be committed to the flames. Little seems to have come of this; since a month later a fifth proclamation was issued, forbidding unlicensed books from being imported or printed, and singling out for special condemnation the works of Baptists and Zwinglians. The same month, November 1538, some of these hated and persecuted people were burnt in Smithfield; and the following month, in consequence of the King's letter to the justices of the peace throughout the country, in which increased rigour was enjoined against the unfortunate Baptists, numbers fled to Holland, where they were betrayed. On the 7th of January, 1539, fifteen women were drowned, and sixteen men beheaded, The King, still failing in his efforts, now adopts a milder course. He is pleased to speak of himself, as "like a most loving parent much moved with pity " for the "many simple persons" who have been seduced by Anabaptists and Sacramentarians, and offers "all and singular such persons" his royal forgiveness. This parental feeling did not last many months, since in July, 1540, those who declared "that infants ought not to be baptized," were specially exempted from all benefit in a general pardon. But neither threats nor cajolery prevented the spread of Baptist opinions. Like the Israelites in Egypt, "the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew."
Nor did the position of Baptists much improve under the reign of
Edward the Sixth (1547-1553).
In the first year of Edward's reign, Ridley and Gardiner united together in a commission to deal with two Baptists in Kent. A Protestant Inquisition was established, with Cranmer at its head. They were to pull up "the noxious weeds of heresy." Their work was to be done with the forms of justice and in secret. They might fine, imprison, torture, and, in all cases of obstinate heretics, hand them over to the civil power to be burnt. Four years later this commission was renewed, and in the same year Baptists were a second time excluded from a general pardon. It was this Inquisition that condemned Joan Bocher, and scattered, or tried to scatter, the congregations of Baptists gathered in Kent. Still their numbers increased. Strype tells us that "their opinions were believed by many honest meaning people;" and another writer affirms, that the articles of religion, issued just before the King's death, "were principally designed to vindicate the English Reformation from that slur and disgrace which the Anabaptists' tenets had brought upon it, a clear proof that the Baptists were, at that period, neither few nor unimportant.
The sour bigot, who next occupied the English throne, made matters worse, although Baptists were now partly lost in the common ranks of Protestants.
regarded herself as a "virgin sent from heaven to rule and tame the people of England." How faithfully she executed her pretended mission, a long array of martyrs too surely testifies. Essex had the honour of yielding scores of Baptist martyrs during this gloomy reign. Humphrey Middleton, and three others, were burnt at Canterbury in 1535. "Would to God," wrote the Commissioners who visited Essex, and especially the district around Colchester, to find fresh victims for the martyr's stake--"Would to God the Honourable Council saw the face of Essex as we do see it. We have such obstinate heretics, Anabaptists, and other unruly persons here as never was heard of. If we should give it off in the midst" [that is, cease their disgraceful work], "we should set the country in such a roar, that my estimation, [reputation] and that of the Commissioners, shall ever be lost."
That some who avowed their belief in the doctrines commonly held by the Baptists recanted, when the rack dislocated their limbs, and the shadow of the stake fell upon them, is no more than one might expect. It is not every woman that can bear to have her joints racked, "and lie still and not cry," as Ann Askew did, and "even suffer her bones and joints to be plucked asunder in such sort that she was nigh unto death," without breathing a single syllable of recantation. It is not every man who can face his scowling judges, when they were athirst for his blood, and extort the declaration from one of them, "that he was the most unshamefaced heretic he ever saw;" and then, after being "baited," now by one inquisitor, and now by another, go back to his prison cell, and write cheery notes to his wife, sending therewith “a threepenny token and comfits for little Katherine; two nutmegs, “a poor prisoner's gift,” to some friends; “two pieces of Spanish money, and a key-log for a token to his wife, wishing “she could make means for her money to send a cheese to Peter;” and in the midst of these touching traits of human affection and home feeling, bursting out into a passionate petition, "Be fervent in prayer. Pray, pray, pray! that God would, of His mercy, put up His sword, and look on His people!" But though some could not endure the ordeal of fire, many showed, like Robert Smith, a yeoman of the guard at Windsor, the heroism of their faith.
Another instance may be given. Robert Smith had declared to Bonner, that "it was a shameful blasphemy to use such mingle-mangle" as holy oil, salt, and other things, "in baptizing young infants." John Denby shook the nerves of the same irate bishop by assuring him "that the christening of children, as then used in the Church of England, was not good, nor allowable by God's Word, but against it; likewise confirming children, giving of orders, saying of matins and evensongs, anointing of persons, making of holy bread and holy water." Denby, and his friend Newman, both of Maidstone, were pounced upon by an arch and bitter enemy of the Baptists. The persecutor had just returned from the burning of some heretics either at Raleigh or Rochford, when he fell in with these friends, then visiting in Essex. "Even as I saw them I suspected them," says this sleuth-hound of Bonner. "And when I did examine and search them, and found about them certain letters, which I have sent you, and also a certain writing in paper what their faith is. And they confessed to me that they had forsaken and fled out of their country for religion's sake." Denby and his friend were hurried off to Bonner's palace, where both remain firm to their faith. "As touching the christening, the sacrament of baptism, which is christening of children," said Denby, "it is altered and changed. For St. John used nothing but the preaching of the Word and water, as it doth appear when Christ required to be baptized of him, and others also, who came to John to be baptized of him, as it appeareth in Matt. iii., Mark i., Luke iii. and Acts i. The chamberlain said, ‘See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?' It appeareth here, that Philip had preached to him; for he said, ‘Here is water.' We do not read that he asked for any cream, oil, or spittle, or conjured water, or conjured wax, no croysom, no salt, for it seemeth that Philip had preached no such things to him; for he would as well have asked for them as water; and the water was not conjured, but even as it was before. Also Acts x., ‘Then answered Peter, Can any forbid water, that these should not be baptized?' Acts xvi, ‘And Paul and Silas preached unto him the Word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house; and he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds; and so was he baptized, and all them of his household straightway:' where you see nothing but preaching and the Word."
Denby was condemned and burnt at Uxbridge. He gave expression to his joy, even in suffering; but a fanatical persecutor, urged by Dr Story, hurled a faggot at his face: "wherewith, being so burnt that his face bled, he left singing, and clapt both his hands upon his face." "Truly," said the inhuman doctor to the man who obeyed his malicious command, "Truly thou hast marred a good song." The brutal jest was only half true. Denby recovered himself; and "stretching his hands abroad, whilst the flames were licking off the skin and flesh, he burst into another song, and then resigned his soul into the hands of God, through Jesus Christ." Newman did not long survive his friend. He was burnt at the end of the same month at Saffron Walden.
Many of the Baptists who perished during this reign are purposely hidden by Fox in the crowd of other sufferers. Either from a desire to please the ruling party in his day, or from dislike to the men who could not sound his shibboleth, the Martyrologist has slighted the Baptists. He commonly omits all reference to their sufferings, or suppresses the particulars by which we could identify them as belonging to the "sect everywhere spoken against."
The last of the Tudors treated the Baptists with very little pity.
had scarcely been on the throne four years, before Baptists, "natural born people of the land and foreigners," were ordered to depart within twenty days, upon pain of imprisonment and loss of goods. This was a terrible blow, since many exiles, full of hope for future liberty and peace in their own land, had returned from their places of sojourn abroad. The "bright occidental star," whose rising had been hailed at home and abroad, heralded nothing but evil to the much-defamed Anabaptists. They crept out of their numerous hiding-places "an exceeding great army,"* but only to find themselves in the presence of peril and suffering from Protestant persecutors. The virulent misrepresentations of the trimming Cranmer, the sturdy Latimer, the gentle Hooper, and the able Ridley of earlier days, were now repeated, with variations, by the judicious Hooker, the vehement and impetuous Knox, and many men of inferior reputation. The Queen's proclamation against Anabaptists was seconded by her obsequious bishops although Parkhurst, Bishop of Norwich, forms an honourable exception. He was still regarded as "winking at heretics and Anabaptists," and special inquiry was therefore ordered to be made in his diocese.
(*The remorseless butcheries of Alva had driven many Dutch Baptists into England. "The realm," said Dr. Parker, " was full of Anabaptists, Arians," &c. Many Anglican divines of the same period give similar testimony. Aylmer speaks of "Anabaptists, with infinite swarms of other Satanistes;” Jewel, of "large and inauspicious crops of Arians and Anabaptists;" and Some, of "Anabaptist conventicles in London, and elsewhere.")
In 1568 the Queen ordered a general visitation to be made in every parish through England, wherever strangers congregated, to hunt out Anabaptists and other teachers of what she deemed "evil doctrine." Many Germans and Flemings suffered in consequence of these repressive measures. Numbers of English Baptists also fled to the Continent for safety. About seven years after this visitation, two Dutchmen were burnt in Smithfield--Hendrick Terwoort and Jan Pieters--with the story of whose end everyone is familiar. The old and barbarous writ against heretics (de hæretico comburendo), which had been passed at a Parliament held in Leicester a century and a half before, had been hung up by the Queen as a menace, but it was now put into execution. Terwoort and Pieters were the only two victims who perished at the stake; but many languished in loathsome dungeons, and more Baptists were expelled from England during Elizabeth's reign, than during the reign of any other sovereign that ever sat on the throne of these realms.
The Baptists fared but badly under the Tudors; they fared little better under the Stuarts.
James the First (1603-1625)
talked liberally enough, but his practice did not agree with his words. "No State," said James the First, "can evidence that any religion or heresy was ever extirpated by the sword, nor have I ever judged it a way of planting the truth." Yet two men were burnt for their opinions, Bartholomew Leygate and Edward Wightman. Wightman has been claimed as an Anabaptist; but so many heresies are charged upon him, some foolish, others inconsistent, that if he held them all, he must either be regarded as a madman or an idiot. James the First dealt roughly with the Baptists. From Busher's treatise, published some years after James' ascension to the throne, there is strong proof that "his Majesty's bishops and ministers had been armed and weaponed with fire and sword, and not with Scripture." It was the thought of numbers who were falling astray or into error because of persecution, that indeed induced Helwyss and others, to return to England; and in the pamphlet of which these Anabaptists were the authors, they tell the King "that it is no small persecution to lie many years in filthy prisons, in huger, cold, idleness, divided from wife, family, calling; left in continual miseries and temptations, so that death would be to many less persecution." A similar revelation of their condition is made in the Humble Supplication presented to the King in 1620: "Our miseries are long and lingering imprisonments for many years in divers counties in England, in which many have died, and left behind them widows, and many small children; taking away our goods, and others the like, of which we can make good probation: not for any disloyalty to your Majesty, nor hurt to any mortal man, our adversaries themselves being judges; but only because we dare not assent unto, and practise in the worship of God, such things as we have not faith in, because it is sin against the Most High." They appeal to the King "to repeal and make void those cruel laws that persecute poor men only for matters of conscience." These general declarations will show the melancholy condition of Baptists under the meanest and most despicable sovereign that ever held an English sceptre.
His son and successor,
Charles the First (1625-1642),
bettered his father's instructions. He had scarcely been on the throne twelve months before the spies of Laud pounced upon Thomas Brewer a zealous Baptist preacher, at Ashford, in Kent. Brewer was dragged before the High Commission Court, and committed to prison, where he remained no less than fourteen years. Laud, speaking of "the mischief" done by Brewer and others, declares, "that it is so deeply rooted, it is impossible to be plucked up on a sudden." He asks the King for "time to work it off, little by little!" It appears, however, from the account of his province sent to the King eleven years after Brewer was imprisoned, that Laud adopted anything but dilatory and indirect methods for accomplishing his ends. "I must give your Majesty to understand," says Laud, "that at and about Ashford, in Kent, the Separatists continue to hold their conventicles, notwithstanding the ex-communication of so many of them as have been disclosed. Two or three of their principal ringleaders, Brewer, Fenner, and Turner, have been long kept in prison, and it was once thought fit to proceed against them by the statute of abjuration. Not long since Brewer slipt out of prison, and went to Rochester and other parts of Kent, and held conventicles, and put a great many people into great distemper about the Church. He is taken again, and was called before the High Commission, when he stood silent; but in such a jeering, scornful manner as I scarcely ever saw the like. So in prison he remains " In 1640 Brewer was released from prison by order of the House of Commons.
It was, however, in the same year in which Brewer was set at liberty that a convocation of the bishops and clergy of York and Canterbury was held in London, with more pomp and parade than the troublesome state of the times justified. At this Synod seventeen canons were adopted. One of them, under the pretext of discouraging Popery, but evidently with the design of crushing Dissenters, ran as follows:--"All ecclesiastical persons within their several parishes and jurisdictions shall confer privately with Popish recusants; but if private conference prevail not, the Church must and shall come to her censures; and to make way for them, such persons shall be presented at the next visitation who came not to church, and refuse to receive the holy sacrament, or who either hear or say mass; and if they remain obstinate after citation, they shall be ex-communicated. But if neither conference nor censures prevail, the Church shall then complain of them to the civil power; and this sacred (?) synod does earnestly entreat the reverend justices of assize to be careful in executing the laws, as they will answer it to God.
"The synod further declares, that the canon above-mentioned against Papists shall be in full force against all Anabaptists, Brownists, Separatists, and other sectaries, as far as they are applicable."
The following year, to the great relief of many persons, the High Courts of Commission and the Star Chamber were both dissolved by Act of Parliament. The spirit of persecution was not thereby destroyed. The Act abolishing these two courts decreed, "that none should be erected with like powers in future." Yet in the same year Edward Barber, the minister of a congregation of Baptists in the Spittle, Bishopsgate-street, London, was committed to prison for eleven months. His only offence was the publication of "A treatise on Baptism, or dipping; wherein is already showed," says the title-page, "that our Lord Christ ordained dipping, and that sprinkling of children is not according to Christ's institution and also the invalidity of those arguments which are commonly brought to justify that practice." Mr. Barber had once been a clergyman in the Established Church.
The Civil War (1642-1649).
Hitherto the Baptists had suffered from the arbitrary power of Protestant and Popish sovereigns and their ready tools; they were now to have a taste of Presbyterian oppression. Presbyterianism was in the ascendant at the outbreak of the Civil War, and retained its predominance among the Parliamentarians for some years. The Presbyterian ministers began to clamour for the suppression of the Sectaries, as they styled the Baptists and Independents. “If you do not labour,” said Calamy, in a sermon preached before the House of Commons in 1644, "according to your duty and power to suppress the errors and heresies that are spread in the kingdom, all these errors are your errors, and these heresies are your heresies. They are your sins; and God calls for a Parliamentary repentance from you this day. You are the Anabaptists, you are the Antinomians, and it is you that hold all religions should be tolerated." "Is it persecution," said Dr Burgess, in another sermon before the House the year after (April 30th, 1645), "Is it persecution and anti-Christianism to engage all to unity and uniformity? Doth Paul bid the Philippians beware of the concision? Doth he beseech the Romans to mark those that cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrines they have received, and avoid them? Doth he, in writing to the Galatians, wish ‘I would they were even cut off that trouble you?' And is it such an heinous offence now for the faithful servants of Christ to advise you by the same course? Good heavens!" Even Baxter said, "I abhor unlimited liberty and toleration of all, and think myself easily able to prove the wickedness of it."
The same year that Dr. Burgess preached his sermon, Parliament, now filled with Presbyterians, passed an ordinance, which ran as follows:--"That no person shall be permitted to preach, who is not ordained a minister of this (the Presbyterian) or some other Reformed Church, and it is earnestly desired that Sir Thomas Fairfax take care that this ordinance be put in execution in the army." The savage and bitter Edwards, author of Gangræna, not content with retailing every silly and damaging story to the discredit of Baptists that any gossips might bring him, calls upon the magistrates "to declare that Anabaptists who go dipping persons in cold water in winter, whereby persons fall sick, &c., should be proceeded against as vagrants and rogues, that go from country to country;" that in the event of "any falling sick upon their dipping, and die," the Anabaptists, who administered the rite, "should be indicted upon the statute of killing the King's subjects, and be proceeded against accordingly." But whatever note might be taken by the Presbyterian admirers of Edward's scandalous suggestions the ordinance of the Parliament was not allowed to remain a dead letter. Thomas Lamb was one of the earliest to feel its severity.
Lamb was a native of Colchester, and, in the earlier part of the reign of Charles the First, had been dragged in chains from that city to London by the emissaries of Laud, being cited to appear before the Star Chamber. The fanatical and persecuting Archbishop asked him, "If he had dared to administer the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper?" Lamb pleaded the right of an Englishman not to bear witness against himself, and refused to answer. He was rudely ordered back to prison during the pleasure of the Court, and for some months remained in custody. His devoted wife besieged the Court with her prayers for her husband's liberation, not merely for her own sake, but for the sake of her eight young children. "Take that troublesome woman away!" shrieked out the Archbishop to the court officers; and Mrs. Lamb was forcibly ejected from the Star Chamber. It is not known by what means he regained his liberty; but such was his zeal in his Master's service, that though he had been in all the gaols in and about London on account of his recusancy, he no sooner regained his liberty than he instantly returned to his pastoral and itinerating labours. He was wont to say, that no man was fit to preach Christ's Gospel who was not also ready to die for it the moment he had done. Animated by such quenchless zeal and fearless courage, he speedily gathered about him a Christian community, which usually met in Bell Alley, Coleman-street, London. A flourishing church was already in existence at the beginning of the quarrel between King Charles and his Parliament. The congregation was large, and the yard of the chapel was not unfrequently crowded with eager listeners. The church became a missionary centre, and labourers went forth into Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and other counties. Conspicuous among these itinerating preachers was Henry Denne, formerly a clergyman at Pyrton, in Hertford, a man of great decision and courage, and very largely successful.
Soon after the ordinance against unlicensed preachers was enacted by Parliament, the Lord Mayor of London sent officers to arrest Lamb and his assistants. Their arrival at Bell Alley Chapel was the signal for a great tumult, and provoked, in their hearing, some not very complimentary language. When Mr. Lamb had succeeded in repressing the agitation of his friends, he spoke courteously to the officers, asked permission to continue the service, and pledged his word that at six o'clock the same evening he himself and the young preacher, whose discourse they had interrupted, should both appear before the Lord Mayor. The officers then retired, and the service proceeded. Punctually to the time both Mr. Lamb and his young help-fellow made their appearance. The Lord Mayor began by calling their attention to the recent ordinance of Parliament. He then asked the young man, "Why do you preach? and where is your warrant?" "The Lord hath opened my mouth," he replied, "and I must show forth His praise." The Lord Mayor suggested that he might do this by a right discharge of his duties as a private Christian." Lord Mayor--"How long have you been a preacher?" Mr. Lamb's Assistant--"Ever since I was baptized." Lord Mayor--(whose thoughts were running on infant baptism)--"Hath your mouth been open ever since your infancy?" Mr. Lamb's Assistant--"My infant baptism was no baptism. I have not been baptized more than six months."
It was now Mr. Lamb's turn to be questioned. "Have you not transgressed an ordinance of Parliament?" asked the Lord Mayor. "No," said Lamb, quoting the precise words of the Ordinance itself, "I am a preacher called and chosen by as reformed a church as any in the world." On further inquiry, Mr. Lamb frankly acknowledged that he and his friends did not regard infant baptism as valid. The two men were bound over to appear before a Committee of Parliament. A brief hearing before that Committee decided their case, and both were hurried off to prison. They were afterwards released by the intercession of powerful friends and again returned with fresh zeal and boldness to their work.
It was during the time immediately following his release, that Thomas Lamb baptized the wife of a man who was a bitter enemy of the Baptists. The ordinance was administered in the Old Ford river, near Bromley, a spot commonly selected for that purpose by Thomas Lamb and his friends. The husband was among the crowd of spectators, hiding under his coat a heavy stone, which he intended to throw at Mr. Lamb whilst he was standing in the river, ready to administer the rite of baptism. But the fervent prayer of the preacher touched his heart, the stone was permitted to slide noiselessly to the ground, and tears filled the eyes of the softened and penitent husband: he was himself the next person baptized by Mr. Lamb in the Old Ford river.
Paul Hobson was another victim. He was a zealous Baptist; had helped to found a Baptist Church in London; signed the Confession of the Seven Churches in 1644, and in 1645 entered the army. He still retained his zeal, and "wherever he came, would preach publicly in the pulpits, and privately to the soldiers." He is regarded as the founder of several Baptist Churches in the West of England. Hobson, now Captain Hobson, was taken into custody, by the Governor of Newport Pagnell, for preaching against infant baptism. After being kept there a prisoner for a short time, Sir Samuel Lake, the governor (the original of Butler's Hudibras, and with whom Butler resided during the interregnum), sent him to London. His case was brought before the Committee of Examination, and having some powerful friends, upon being heard, he was discharged. Edwards says that Hobson afterwards preached regularly every Wednesday in Chequer Alley, Finsbury Fields.
The following May (1645), the Lord Mayor of London, the Court of Aldermen, and the Common Council, presented a petition to Parliament, praying " that some strict and speedy course might be taken for suppressing all private and separate congregations; that all Anabaptists, Brownists, heretics and schismatics, blasphemers, and all other sectaries, who conformed not to the public discipline established, or to be established by Parliament, may be fully declared against, and some effectual course settled for proceeding against such persons; and that no person disaffected to Presbyterian government set forth, or to be set forth, by Parliament, may be employed in any place of public trust." This intolerant and infamous request is commonly known as the City Remonstrance. The appeal of the Lord Mayor and his colleagues was backed by the whole Scottish nation, and all the Presbyterians in England. A month after its presentation, the General Assembly, in moving a vote of thanks to the London civic authorities and their companions, commends them for their courage and their firm adherence to the Covenant, and beseeches them to go on boldly in their work until the three kingdoms were united in one faith and worship.
Some of the Presbyterians in Lancashire far outstripped the Lord Mayor and his colleagues in the vehemence with which they expressed their hatred of toleration. They, however, claimed for their paper this title, The Harmonious Consent of the Lancashire ministers with their brethren in London. One passage will give a taste of the whole: "Toleration would be putting a sword into a madman's hand; a cup of poison into the hand of a child; a letting loose of madmen with firebrands in their hand, and appointing a city of refuge in men's consciences for the devil to fly to; a laying a stumbling-block before the blind; a proclaiming liberty to the wolves to come into Christ's fold to prey upon the lambs; neither would it provide for tender consciences, but take away all conscience."
Nothing loth to yield to this pressure, the Presbyterian Parliament passed "A declaration against all such persons as shall take upon them to preach or expound the Scriptures in any church or chapel, or any other publique place, except they be ordained either here or in some other Reformed Church." The "Declaration was also ordered to be forthwith printed and published; and that the knights and burgesses of the several counties and places do send some of the said declarations so printed, in the several counties and places for which they serve, to be there published." The Declaration is as follows : "The Commons assembled in Parliament do declare, That they do dislike, and will proceed against all such persons as shall take upon them to preach, or expound the Scriptures in any church or chappel, or any other publique place (except they be ordained either here or in some other Reformed Church, as it is already prohibited in an Order of both Houses of 26 April, 1645). And likewise against all such Ministers or others, as shall publish, or maintain by Preaching, Writing, Printing, or any other way, anything against or in derogation of the Church Government, which is now established by the authority of both Houses of Parliament. And also against all and every person or persons, who shall willingly and purposely interrupt and disturb a Preacher who is in the publique exercise of his function. And all Justices of Peace, Sheriffs, Mayors, Bailiffs, and other Head Officers of Corporations, and all Officers of the Army, are to take notice of this Declaration; and by all lawful ways and means to prevent offences of this kind, and to apprehend all offenders, and give notice hereof unto this House, that thereupon course may bee speedily taken for a due punishment to bee inflicted upon them."
When such were the opinions of Presbyterians, it is no wonder that Baptists, ever the persistent advocates for liberty of conscience, the fullest, freest, and broadest, should be the special victims of Presbyterian intolerance.
We take the following curious illustration from the account left by Edwards. Sims, a Baptist minister, residing at Southampton, being on a journey to Taunton, in Somerset, was prevailed upon to preach in a parish church. He was apprehended at Bridgwater, by virtue of the "Declaration." The Committee of the County finding some letters upon him written to friends on religious subjects, forwarded them to London, as the ground of their complaint against Mr. Sims. For some cause or other not explained, the Government did not at once "silence" Mr. Sims; and Edwards, therefore, published these letters, with his own charges against him. The letters are innocent either of heresy or rebellion; but the "crimes" of which Mr. Sims was guilty were, in Edwards's estimation, of the blackest kind: (1) "Denying infant baptism;" and. (2) "presuming to take a text, and preaching before two Presbyterian ministers." These are Edwards's own words: "Sunday, the last of May, he (Sims) preached in the parish church of Middlesey; took his text out of Col. iii. 1, before one Master Mercer, and Master Esquier, ministers, with a hundred more persons; and being desired to know how he durst presume to teach so publicly, being not called, and an Ordinance of the Parliament to the contrary, answered: ‘If Peter was called, so was he.’ (2) Being desired to know why he taught contrary to the law of God, and the laws of the land, he answered, ‘ Why are they suffered to teach in London so near the Parliament House?’ and that he allowed of the Parliament, so far as they go with his doctrine. (3) Being desired to know whether he allowed of our baptism, he answered, ‘No; that for his part he was baptized by one Master Sickelmoor, and his manner of baptizing was, that the aforesaid Sickelmoor went first into the water, and he after him; so that he, for his part, would not allow of our baptism.’”
Hanserd Knollys was one of the last victims to this Presbyterian rancour. His account will best be given in his own words : "The Committee for plundering ministers sent their warrant to the keeper of Ely House to apprehend me, and bring me in safe custody before them. They took me out of my house, carried me to Ely House, and there kept me prisoner several days, without any bail; and at last carried me before the Committee, who asked me several questions, to which I gave sober and direct answers. Amongst others, the chairman, Mr. White, asked me who gave me authority to preach. I told him the Lord Jesus Christ. He then asked me whether I was a minister. I answered that I was made a priest by the prelate of Peterborough; but I had renounced that ordination, and did here again renounce the same. They asked me by what authority I preached in Bow Church. I told them, after I had refused the desire of the churchwardens three times one day after another, their want of supply and earnestness prevailed with me, and I went thither. They opened the pulpit door, and I went up and preached from Isaiah lviii:, and gave them such an account of that sermon (thirty ministers of the Assembly of Divines, so-called, being present), that they could not gainsay, but made me withdraw, and said nothing to me, nor could my jailor take any charge of me, for the Committee had called for him, and threatened to turn him out of his place for keeping me prisoner so many days. So I went away without any blame or paying my fees." Soon after this, Knollys was brought before another Committee, that of examination, on the score of causing great disturbance to ministers and people in Suffolk. "I was stoned out of the pulpit," says Knollys, "and prosecuted at a privy sessions, and fetched out of the country sixty miles to London, and was constrained to bring up four or five witnesses of good repute and credit, to prove and vindicate myself from false accusation." A second time he satisfied the higher tribunal, and the following minute was entered upon the records of the House: "Ordered: that Mr. Kiffin and Mr. Knollys be permitted to preach in any part of Suffolk, at the petition of the Ipswich men."
But every Baptist minister was not equally fortunate. Knollys, probably, got more merciful treatment, owing to a declaration published by the Lords and Commons the year before, March 1647: "That as the Baptist opinion against infant baptism is only a difference about a circumstance of time in the administration of an ordinance; we hold it fit that men should be convinced by the Word of God with great gentleness and reason, and not beaten out of it by force and violence." The same year in which Knollys escaped so leniently, an ordinance of Parliament was published, one article of which ran thus: "Whosoever shall say that the baptism of infants is unlawful, or that such baptism is void, and that such persons ought to be baptized again, and in pursuance thereof shall baptize any person formerly baptized; or shall say the church government by Presbytery is anti-Christian or unlawful, shall, upon conviction by oath of two witnesses, or by his own confession, be ordered to renounce his said error in the public congregation of the parish where the offence was committed; in case of refusal, he shall be committed to prison until he shall find sureties that he will not publish or maintain the same error any more." The ordinance itself is a melancholy witness to the persecuting spirit of the Presbyterians of that day; and, no thanks to them, if it was never used as an engine of fierce and remorseless persecution.
The Commonwealth (1649-1660).
Three months after the King's death, Mr. Kiffin and other leading Baptists in London, received the thanks of the House of Commons for repudiating, in their petition, the opinions advocated in a book entitled, The Second Part of England's New Chains discovered. The petitioners declared, in their address, that though this book had been read in some of their public assemblies, it was read without their consent. "Our meetings," say they, "are not at all to intermeddle with the ordering or altering of the civil government, but solely for the advancement of the Gospel." After their address had been read, they were called to the bar of the House, when the Speaker returned them this reply: "The House doth take notice of the good affection to the Parliament and public you have expressed both in this petition and other ways; that they have received satisfaction thereby, concerning your disclaiming of the pamphlet which gave such just offence to the Parliament; and also concerning your disposition to live peaceably and in submission to the civil magistrate, your expressions whereof they account very Christian and seasonable; that for yourselves and other Christians walking answerably to such professions as in this petition you make, they do assure you of liberty and protection, so far as God shall enable them, in all things consistent with godliness, honesty, and civil peace; and the House doth give you leave to print your petition."
The fruit of this "assurance of liberty and protection" soon began to appear. Baptist churches rapidly sprang into existence in all parts of the country. On the assumption by CromweIl of the style and title of Lord Protector, great indignation was felt by many Baptists in the army; but it would be unfair to regard the biting and sarcastic letter written by them to Cromwell as expressing the common opinions among Baptists. Envious and disappointed officers might declare, in their vexation, "Anabaptists are men that will not be shuffled out of their birthrights as free-born people of England; " but the addresses sent to the Lord Protector from the Baptists in Northumberland, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, London, and Dublin, to say nothing of the flattering account of him by Richardson, which has been already quoted in an earlier portion of this book, show that the Baptists generally had no fear as to their protection and liberty. Nor were they disappointed. The Council, soon after Cromwell's installation, issued a State paper, containing some forty-two articles and in the thirty-sixth it is declared, "that none shall be compelled to conform to the public religion by penalties and otherwise; but that endeavours be used to win them by sound doctrine, and the example of a good conversation." In the thirty-seventh it is further ordered, "that such as profess faith in God by Jesus Christ, though differing in judgment from the doctrine, worship, or discipline publicly held forth, shall not be restrained from, but shall be protected in, the profession of their faith and the exercise of their religion, so as they abuse not this liberty to the civil injury of others, and to the actual disturbance of public peace on their part; provided this liberty be not extended to Popery or Prelacy, or to such, under a profession of Christ, as hold forth and practice licentiousness." There is a further article which declares that all the penal laws, contrary to this liberty, shall be null and void. Cromwell's notions of toleration were not so broad as the Baptists, nor were all his officers disposed to carry out, where they could do it with impunity, the strict letter of the Council's articles. Grantham complains that, "in the time of Cromwell's usurpation, they did pull us before the judgment seats, because we could not worship God after the will of the Lord Protector, for so they styled him in the articles against us; and we had then our goods taken away, and never restored to this day." But these petty local persecutions were the exception, and not the rule, and were manifestly a violation of the articles of the Council. On the whole, the Commonwealth, dearly loved by many Baptists, was a time of comparative quiet and prosperity. But dark and dismal days were drawing near days which Richardson had predicted, when those Baptists, who had once been so ready to find fault with Cromwell, "would weep for the want of him."
The Baptists suffered immensely during the reign of
Charles the Second (1660-1685).
His declaration from Breda, "that man should be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matters of religion which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom,"--proved to be worthless. The Baptists, and indeed all Dissenters, were "scattered and peeled." The Restoration was scarcely in sight, before the Baptists began to have warning of what would speedily follow. Several London chapels were destroyed by Royalist mobs, and their congregations dispersed. A very whirlwind of persecution burst upon the Baptists. Venner's rebellion was made the occasion of fresh severities, although the Baptists in London, speaking on behalf of their brethren generally, washed their hands of all participation in it. "We should be stupid and senseless, if we did not deeply resent these black obloquies and reproaches," say they, "cast upon those of our profession and practice in the point of baptism, by occasion of the late most horrible treason and rebellion in this City of London. . . . We protest that we neither had the least foreknowledge of the said late treasonable insurrection, nor did we any of us, in any kind and degree whatever, directly or indirectly, contrive, promote, assist, abet or approve the same; but do esteem it our duty to God, and to his majesty, and to our neighbour, not only to be obedient, but also to use our utmost industry to prevent all such treasons, murders, and rebellions." They protest against being confounded with the Anabaptists of Munster, because they happen to be known by the same name. They quote their own Confession of Faith to show their respect for magistrates; and earnestly plead that they may be permitted "to worship God in peace and freedom." All was in vain. Blow after blow was dealt upon them by the unscrupulous men who were now in power. Jails soon became choked with prisoners, sixty men often being crammed into a room nine feet by fourteen! Some died of the rough usage received from the soldiers and constables when seized at their meeting-houses; others perished from the foetid and poisoned air of their prisons "On the15th June, 1662, the soldiers came with rage and fury, with their swords drawn," to a meeting of the Baptists in Petty France and London. A mere lad was cruelly wounded--"almost to death, so that it was doubtful whether he would recover." The minister was carried off to Newgate, and there remained a close prisoner. Less than a fortnight afterwards, the soldiers again visited this chapel, with drawn swords. "They wounded some, and struck others. They broke down the gallery and made great spoil." At a second meeting-house they broke open the cupboard, and drank up the wine provided for the Lord's Supper. At a third, finding the congregation was dispersed before they arrived, the soldiers egged on the mob that followed at their heels to gut the chapel. This was only a sample of the usage the Baptists received in all parts of the country. They were robbed and insulted in the open streets, were heavily fined, were pilloried, were dragged by soldiers out of bed at night, were cast headlong down winding stairs. Everywhere the same coarse brutality marked the conduct of the persecutors.
Often driven forth from their humble meeting-houses, the Baptists met wherever shelter or secrecy could be obtained; in out-of-the-way barns, in malt-houses, in hay-lofts, in woods, in sheltered lanes. All manner of contrivances were adopted to elude the infamous spies, called informers, who were now doing a profitable trade. At Reading the Baptists met in a humble house in Prince's-lane, near of the river Kennet. A door opened behind the house upon a rude bridge hastily thrown across the stream, and over this the preacher escaped when the alarm was given. At Newport Pagnell their meeting-place was a barn, from which they could escape down a back lane, when the approach of informers was signalled. At Bendish, near Hitchin, they met in a low, thatched malt-house. The high pew in front of the pulpit hid the ministers from the informers, and gave them time to flee out from a door near at hand. In other places the pulpit communicated with the yard behind, and so permitted the preacher to get a few minutes' start of his pursuers. At Wallingford, however, Mr. Stennet secured the means of uninterrupted worship for some time by a novel expedient. "He dwelt in the castle of Wallingford, a place where no warrant could make forcible entrance but that of a Lord Chief Justice; and the house was so situated, that the assemblies could meet, and every part of religious worship be exercised in it, without any danger of a legal conviction, unless informers were admitted, which care was taken to prevent; so that for a long time he kept a constant and undisturbed meeting in his hall." An attempt to obtain a conviction by suborned witnesses signally failed, through an unexpected chapter of accidents. The chief instigator, at the time of the trial, was chasing after a prodigal son, who had eloped from Oxford with an actress; the clergyman, who was to be his right-hand man, died suddenly; and out of the eight witnesses, only one could be found on the day of the trial, and he refused to appear. The case was, therefore, dismissed.
Even bishops were not ashamed to play the part of spies. Many were contented to encourage the informers secretly, and throw the odium on the civil magistrates; but Dr. Peter Gunning, the Bishop of Chichester, marched in person, at the head of a posse of constables, to disperse the assemblies of the schismatics. If he found the doors closed, he gave orders that they should be broken open with sledge-hammers. On seeing this done, a wag in the crowd once exclaimed, "What! has Peter lost his keys?" The clergy, the magistrates, the nobles, all joined with the mob in insulting and defaming the Baptists. Informers were feed by Oxford Chancellors, and protected by justices of the peace. One of these wretches first passed himself off as a Quaker, but letting fall over his cups, that he was an informer, he found it prudent to escape. He next appears as a Baptist; and to prove his contempt of infant-baptism, he actually christened a cat Catherine-Catherina. Some simpleminded people were gulled by this infamous creature, among whom was Mr. Headach, a man of good repute. But for the disclosures against the informer's character, made at the very time Mr. Headach was on his trial for "treasonable words" which this informer had declared Mr. Headach had spoken, Mr. Headach would have been heavily fined, or perhaps have lost his life. The country people, not knowing this informer's name, called him Trepan. His real name was John Poulter. He was the son of a butcher at Salisbury. So savage and relentless were the informers in Devon also, that they were commonly known, in that county, as the bloodhounds.
A story is recorded of one good minister's out-witting an informer. George Hammon, a devoted and zealous General Baptist minister in Kent, whilst residing at Canterbury, was going to preach at some distant place, and was overtaken by a violent storm. As he stood under a tree for shelter, a man from the house opposite called to him, told him he was an informer, and having heard there was to be preaching in such a place that night, he was going thither in order to give information of the persons assembled. This was the very place where Mr. Hammon was himself appointed to preach. He instantly replied, "I am a man-taker also." "Are you?" said the informer; "then let us go together." When they came to the house, after sitting some time, Mr. Hammon said to the informer, "Here are the people! but where is the minister? Unless there is a minister, we cannot make a conventicle of it; and, therefore, I propose that either you or I should preach." The informer, of course, declined. "Then," said Hammon, "I must." He discoursed, with so much energy and point, to the utter surprise of the informer, that from that night the informer gave up his hateful calling, and became an altered man.
Every county in England has its own story to tell of the persecutions of this period. But one case will illustrate a score. John Miller, of Minthenton, Dorset, had come of Presbyterian parents, but had embraced Baptist opinions. He gathered a church, and became an active itinerant preacher. For ten years he lay in prison for his recusancy, and hardly escaped a præmunire. At the close of the reign of Charles the Second, his goods were seized, and be himself imprisoned. Like John Bunyan, he was charged with "devilishly and perniciously abstaining from coming to church" for eleven months. At the Assizes at Sherbourn only one witness could be found against him, and it was found difficult to prove the charge until a neighbouring justice, one of the King's poor knights, turned evidence. Miller was fined the full penalty, according to the Conventicle Act, of twenty pounds a month, that is,--two hundred and twenty pounds. He objected to the sentence as illegal, but was told by the judge that he might seek his remedy elsewhere. As Mr. Miller declined to pay the fine, the sheriff seized all his property: four hundred sheep, twenty cows, seven horses, seven fattening pigs, all the hay, corn, and wool of last year's produce, and the malt and hops reserved for the family. For four months the sheriff's men levied their exactions. Mr. Miller remained in doors, since the prosecutor threatened to imprison him again. His eldest son, by merely taking an inventory of what was seized, so incensed the legalised plunderers, that a warrant was issued to apprehend him, and he was compelled to fly. At length, two neighbours, one of them a benevolent Churchman, seeing the havoc they were making of Mr. Miller's property, paid the fine, and dismissed the sheriff's officers. During this period they had wasted or seized goods to the amount of five hundred pounds. Miller, meanwhile, ventured to London, and laid a petition before the King, not asking for the restoration of what had been destroyed, but only that the little of his corn that remained might be spared for the wants of his wife and eight children, the rapacious bailiffs refusing them provisions unless they paid for them. He might have saved himself his journey. The debauched voluptuary listened with undisguised indifference to the story of his wrongs, and only deigned to reply--"I have nothing to say to you. You must go home, and conform!" This was just the last thing Mr. Miller would do. He found there would be no more peace for him in Dorset; he sold his estate, retired to a lonely farm in a region where he was unknown; and there, with straightened income, lived on undisturbed until some years after the Revolution.
Plots, false charges, forged letters,--all manner of mean and despotic devices,--were vamped up to justify the prosecution of Baptists. Kiffin suffered imprisonment for the last; John James was hanged on Tyburn for the first. But enough. The story of the wrongs endured by the Baptists, during the days of Charles the Second, remains yet to be written. The Lincolnshire General Baptists complained to the King, at the very commencement of his reign: "We are abused as we pass along the streets, and as we sit in our houses. We are threatened to be hanged if heard praying to the Lord in our families, and disturbed in our so waiting upon God by an uncivil beating at our doors, and sounding of horns; yea, we have been stoned when going to our meetings, the windows of the places where we have met struck down with stones; yea, also taken as evil-doers, and imprisoned when peaceably met to worship the Most High in the use of His precious ordinances." These proved only the beginning of sorrows, not in Lincoln alone, but in every part of the island.
James the Second (1685-1688).
For the first few months after the King ascended the throne, persecution still darkened the land. Justices and clergy were as busy as ever; Spiritual Courts continued their mockery; bishops were persistent in their "injunctions" to their clergy and churchwardens to look up absentees from the parish churches; and the King was taking hasty strides toward absolute power. All the judges but one gave it as their opinion--"(1) That the laws of England were the King's laws; (2) that it was an inseparable branch of the prerogative of the Kings of England, as of other sovereigns, to dispense all the penal laws on particular occasions; (3) that of these reasons and cases the King is the sole judge; and (4) that this is not a trust now invested in and granted to the present King, but the ancient remains of the sovereign power of the Kings of England, which was never yet taken from them, nor can be!" Thus the whole body of laws in England was at once put into the hands of the King.
A little before this time, the meeting-place of the Baptist church at Luppit, Devon, was discovered, and the congregation scattered. Presently afterward they met again at a farm-house in a wood, about a mile and a half from Upottery, where the chapel is now situated. Again they were surprised. Some were apprehended, and transported to Jamaica for seven years, and the rest escaped. On the sudden favour shown by King James to Nonconformists, the remnant reassembled, and resolved to build a place of worship. Half a century ago there still existed, behind the farm-house, the dam in which the midnight baptisms were administered.
One singular instance of the licences or Dispensations now granted to Dissenters, is worth repeating, with the licence itself. The Baptists at Abingdon, near Oxford, had been so harassed by informers, and muleted in fines by justices, and persecuted in other ways, that they were compelled to close their chapel. The pastor at this time was Henry Forty. He and seven others were indicted at the assizes for absenting themselves from church, while others of their number were cited to appear in the Spiritual Courts for not receiving the Sacrament at Easter. Their trial came on in July 1686, before Mr. Justice Holloway, and Mr. Justice Luwick. The Recorder, Mr. Finmore, greatly exaggerated their offences, and their enemies felt certain of convicting them. They had, themselves, looked for no mercy; and in telling Mr. Medlecot their case, suggested that he should obtain them a Dispensation from the King. Two Justices of the Peace signed their appeal, and the Dispensation was obtained. When Mr. Medlecot stood up in the Assize Court on their behalf, he was asked the formal question, "Are you retained for these people?" "Yes," said Mr. Medlecot. Judge Holloway being on the bench, answered, "We thought so," greeting him at the same time with a malicious scowl. Mr. Medlecot replied, "Your lordship has served them more effectually than I." At this, Judge Holloway was greatly indignant. Still the attorney went on"--And they give you the greater thanks; for your lordship, and my lords the judges, have declared his Majesty a sovereign prince; that the laws are his laws; that he might dispense with them when necessary; that he was judge of that necessity; and he has thought it necessary in the case of these defendants." Mr. Medlecot then produced in Court the patent under the broad seal. The effect was electrical. Most of those present were filled with consternation. Their colour came and went; they hung down their heads in shame and vexation. There was, however, but one course open to the judges they discharged the prisoners. This was on Saturday, July 10, 1686. The very same evening the old meeting-house was cleaned and prepared for worship; and the following day, both morning and evening, hundreds assembled in it quietly, and without molestation.
The patent, or Dispensation, which extended to twenty-five persons and their families, cost some six-and-twenty pounds. It ran as follows:--
"We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, do certify that Henry Forty, &c., &c., &c., to the best of our knowledge have demeaned and behaved themselves peaceably and quietly towards his late majesty, Charles the Second, and his present majesty, King James, and their governments.
"Given under our hands and seals this -- day of July, 1686, by two justices of the peace in the County of Berks.
"James I. Rex: Whereas, our most dear brother, the late King deceased, had signified his intention to his Attorney-General for the pardoning such of his subjects who had been sufferers in the late times of usurpation and rebellion for their royalty; and whose parents and relatives had been sufferers for the same cause, or who had themselves testified their loyalty and affection for the government; and were presented, indicted, and convicted, for not taking, or refusing to take, the oath of allegiance or supremacy, or one of them; or had been prosecuted by the Prerogative Writ, called the Long Writ of the Exchequer, for the penalty of twenty pounds per mensem; or upon outlawries or writs, de Excom. cap., or other processes of the causes aforesaid; or for not coming to church; or receiving the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the usage of the Church of England, or by reason of their convictions of recusancy or exercise of their religion; or who were otherwise prosecuted as recusants, or imprisoned for any of the crimes aforesaid; and for the doing thereof our said brother in divers counties had given orders. Now, in pursuance of these gracious intentions of our said most dear brother, and for that the persons hereunto annexed have produced unto us, certificates of their services and sufferings of themselves, their parents, and nearest relations; our will and pleasure therefore is, that the persons mentioned in the said schedule, their wives, and families, and servants, shall not in any sort be prosecuted or molested for any of the causes above-mentioned. Wherefore we recommend and direct you, every one of you in your respective places, to forbear all prosecution against the said persons, their wives, families, and servants, and every of them; and that you cause all processes and proceedings whatsoever so commenced and issued, or to be commenced and issued, against such persons, their wives, families, and servants, and every of them, for the causes aforesaid, to be wholly superseded, discharged, and stayed; and they and every one of them absolutely discharged and set at liberty until our royal will and pleasure be further known and signified unto you respectively. And for doing these, and for the entry and enrolment thereof with you respectively, shall be unto you and every one of you respectively a sufficient warrant.
"Given at our Court at Windsor, the 7th July, in the second year of our reign, 1686.
"By his Majesty's command.
"To all archbishops and bishops, their chancellors and commissaries; and to all archdeacons and their officials, and all others exercising any ecclesiastical jurisdiction; and to our judges, and justices of assize, of gaol delivery, justices of the peace, sheriffs, mayors, bailiffs, and all other persons whom it may in any wise concern."
The persecutions against Dissenters still went on, and many were driven from the country. Meanwhile the King continued to grant his Dispensations. In April, 1687, the King published a Declaration of Toleration, and protested that it was in his heart to have done it sooner if he had not been restrained by the bishops. Fulsome addresses now went up to the King. The long hidden Baptists crept out of their hiding-places, and once more assembled in their chapels as of yore. The King further sought to gain favour with Dissenters, and offered to make Kiffin an alderman; with what result we are all familiar. Not long after these transactions James fled to France, and in his flight threw the great seal into the Thames. A brighter era was approaching--the era which will ever be memorable to English Dissenters. William of Orange landed in Torbay in 1688, and in the following year the Toleration Act was passed, which secured to all Dissenters the right of unmolested public worship.