What Is It?
How the "Fathers" of New England Baptists, regarded Pedobaptist societies and their ministers, from A.D. 1638 until 1776—not as churches or brethren, but enemies and persecutors.
"Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jer 6:16).
"My people have forgotten me; they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths in a way not cast up" (Jer. 18:15).
Having shown in the last chapter that our fathers, from the first to the sixteenth century, in obedience to the divine injunction, withdrew from those who departed from the teachings of Christ, and thus preserved pure churches and a pure faith, I now propose very briefly, to show that the Baptists of America, from the planting of the first church in Newport, Rhode Island, A.D. 1638, until A.D. 1776, were in faith and practice "Old Landmarkers."
1. what was the practice of new england baptists?
The Puritans who landed from the Mayflower, A.D. 1620, did not come hither with the intent of establishing here a government where the oppressed of all nations would have absolute
"freedom to worship god."
but where their own particular creed would be protected and secured against disturbances from all other opposing religious faiths. Therefore, when they framed their laws, they put their creed and the sword into the bands of the magistrates, and made it their highest duty to see that all men, who would enjoy the protection of their laws, should, on peril of estate and life, accept the creed. This was freely acknowledged by them:
"And because they foresaw that this wilderness might be looked upon as a place of liberty, and, therefore, might in time be troubled with erroneous spirits; therefore, they did put one article into the confession of faith, on purpose, about the duty and power of the magistrate in matters of religion" (Morton’s New Eng. Mem., p. 145-6).
Says Bro. Samuel Mather: "The reforming churches, flying from Rome, carried, some of them more, some of them less, all of them something of Rome with them, especially in that spirit of imposition and persecution, which has too much cleaved unto them all." (Apology, Appendix, p. 149).
(1.) My first position is, that the Baptists of New England, during this period, could not have affiliated with Pedobaptists had they desired to have done so.
Of all "erroneous spirits" the Puritans regarded the Anabaptists, as they stigmatized Baptists, as the most pernicious and dangerous to the state, and against them they enacted the most cruel laws. I copy the first one they passed against them:
"Forasmuch as experience hath plentifully and often proved that since the first rising of the Anabaptists, about one hundred years since [a gross, willful, or ignorant misrepresentation], they have been the incendiaries of the Commonwealth, and the infectors of persons in matters of religion, and the troublers of churches in all places where they have been, and that they who have held the baptizing of infants unlawful, have usually held other errors, or heresies, together therewith, though they have [as other heretics used to do] concealed the same till they spied out a fit advantage and opportunity to vent them, by way of question or scruple; and, whereas, divers of this kind have, since our coming into New England, appeared amongst ourselves, some whereof [as others before them] denied the ordinance of magistracy, and lawfulness of making war; and others, the lawfulness of magistracy, and their inspection into any breach of the first table; which opinions, if they should be carried out by us, are like to be increased amongst us, and so, must necessarily bring guilt upon us, infection and trouble to the churches, and hazard to the whole Commonwealth; it is ordered and agreed that if any person, or persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance, or shall deny the ordinance of magistracy, or their lawful right and authority to make war, or to punish the outward breaches of the first table, and shall appear to Court willfully and obstinately to continue therein, after due time and means of conviction, every person, or persons, shall be sentenced to banishment" (Mass. Records, quoted by Backus, vol. 1, p. 126).
The pages of this book would not suffice to detail all that Baptists suffered in New England from fines, imprisonment, bloody whippings, and banishment from their homes and possessions. A few cases must indicate all:
In 1644, one Painter, a poor man, turned Baptist, and refused to have his child baptized, and when arraigned for it before the Court, told them that it was, in his opinion, an antichristian ordinance. For this he was tied up and whipped. Governor Winthrop declared he was whipped for "reproaching the Lord’s ordinance" (Related in Backus, vol. 1, p. 127).
John Smith, for gathering a church at Weymouth, "contrary to the orders," was’ fined twenty pounds ($100) and committed during pleasure of Court.
Richard Sylvester, for going with Smith, was disfranchised and fined forty shillings.
Ambrose Morton, for calling their covenant a human invention, and that their ministers did dethrone Christ and set up themselves, was fined ten pounds ($50).
Thomas Makepeace, because of his novel disposition, was informed that we were weary of him unless he reformed.
John Spur and John Smith were bound in forty pounds to pay twenty pounds the first day of next Court, 1640.
Their crime was the avowal "that only baptism [i.e., a profession of faith] was the door into the visible church" (Backus).
July 19, 1651, Messrs. John Clark, pastor of the Baptist Church at Newport, O. Holmes, and Crandel, members of the same, upon the request of William Witter, of Lynn, arrived there, he being a brother of the church, who, by reason of his advanced age, could not undertake so great a journey as to visit the church (Newport). He lived about two miles out of town. The next day, being Sabbath, Mr. Clark concluded to preach in his house. In the midst of the sermon two constables appeared, and arrested them, and carried them away to an ale house first, and then proposed to carry them to the meeting. Mr. Clark replied: "Then we shall be constrained to declare ourselves, that we can not hold communion with them," i.e., even by appearing in their religious assemblies. "We shall declare our dissent from you both by words and gesture." The constables persisted. Says Mr. Clark: "At my first stepping over the threshold, I unveiled myself, civilly saluted them, and turned into the seat I was appointed to, put on my hat again and sat down, opened my book, and so fell to reading."
It will be seen that he was not invited up into the pulpit. or even called upon to close by prayer!
At the close of the sermon Mr. Clark arose and courteously asked permission to state why he was there, and why he put on his hat to declare his dissent:
"I could not judge that you were gathered together and walk according to the visible order of our Lord."
Some thoughtless Baptists will think this act of Bro. Clark unchristian and discourteous, but he believed that he, in common with all, favored, and by act approved, of the worship he attended; and he knew that he was forbidden, in any way, to bid an unscriptural worship or teacher of error "God-speed," and so, by "gesture," he declared his dissent. Do we, as Baptists, declare our dissent from the teachings and ministrations of Pedobaptists and Campbellites when we attend upon their preaching with our families, month after month, and thus aid, by our presence and personal influence, to increase their congregations, and swell their collections to pay their preachers to oppose our faith, and build up societies in our communities to destroy our own churches? There are many Baptists in the South who give annually far more to support Pedobaptist preachers than their own, because they take their families three times a month to such meetings, where the collection is never missed, and only once to their own. There are many places where they would cease preaching altogether for want of congregations and support were it not for the attendance and contributions of Baptists. It is a great thing to be consistent Baptists—like John Clark, Holmes, and those early Baptists of New England were. Who dare, before God, to charge them with inconstancy or inconsistency?
They were committed to prison. Mr. John Spur, then a member of the Baptist church at Newport, was present and relates: "Mr. Cotton, in his sermon, immediately before the Court gave their sentence against Mr. Clark, Holmes, and Crandel, affirmed, that denying infant baptism would overthrow all, and this was a capital offense; and therefore they were soul-murderers."
They were fined, Mr. Clark twenty pounds, Holmes thirty pounds, and Crandel five pounds, and to remain in prison until their fines be either paid or security given, or else to be "well whipped." Friends, without Mr. Clark’s knowledge, paid his fine. When Mr. Holmes was brought forth to receive his stripes, he desired of the magistrates permission to speak, which was refused him, and they (Flint and Norvel) said to the executioner: "Fellow, do thine office."
"He, having removed so much of his garments as would hinder the effect of the scourge, and having fastened him to the post, (This was planted on Boston Commons—the soil of liberty!) seized a three-corded whip, and laid on the blows in a most unmerciful manner. Stroke followed stroke as rapidly as was consistent with effective execution, each blow leaving its crimson furrow, or its long blue wale on the sufferer’s quivering flesh. The only pause which occurred was when the executioner ceased for a moment in order to spit in his hands, so as to take a firmer hold of the handle of the whip to render the strokes more severe. This he did three times" (Banvard).
Ninety stripes! The blood flowed down, filled, and overflowed his shoes and bathed the ground. For weeks after he could only rest upon his knees and elbows. So lacerated was his body, he could not suffer it to touch the bed.
When released from the post, his brother Spur took him by the hand, and with a joyful countenance, said, "Praised be the Lord!" and walked with him to the prison. For this grievous offense he was arrested and fined by the Pedobaptist Court ‘forty shillings, or to be whipped."
John Hazel, another of Mr. Holmes’ brethren, above three-score, and infirm, had traveled nearly fifty miles to see his beloved brother, also gave him his hand, and said, "Blessed be God." He was likewise arrested, thrown into prison, and fined forty shillings, or to receive ten strokes with a three-corded whip, equal to thirty stripes.
This was the fellowship Protestants had for Baptists in that age.
How Baptists regarded Pedobaptists may be learned from Bro. John Clark’s charge to his church. Says C. E. Barrow, of Newport, Rhode Island: "He also charges the people to steer clear of both Scylla and Charybdis,—of the opinion of those, on the one hand, who destroyed the purity and spirituality of the church by uniting it with the civil power, and by introducing into it unregenerate material by infant baptism; and of the opinion of those, on the other hand, who denied that there were any visible churches. He would have them avoid both extremes,—not turn to the left side in a visible way of worship, indeed, but such as was neither appointed by Christ, nor yet practiced by those who first trusted in him; nor to the right in no visible way of worship or order at all, either pretending . . . that the church is now in the wilderness, or that the time of its recovery is not yet," etc. (Semi-centennial Discourse, p. 22).
Thus John Clark warned his people against the false order and worship of Pedobaptists on the one hand, and the no order and anarchy of Roger Williams and his party—the Seekers—on the other.
Those who would pursue the sickening details of Baptist suffering at the hands of Pedobaptists for the next centuries, I refer to the History of Baptists, by Backus, two volumes.
The only instance of affiliation I find for one hundred years after, was the case of a "liberal" Baptist, who invited Bro. P. Robbins to preach to his people. This he did January 6th, 1742, and for this act Mr. Robbins was promptly tried and excluded from his Consociation as a disorderly person.
One hundred and twenty-seven years after this, we find the Baptists in New England still fined and imprisoned, and the objects of the most disgraceful indignities.
This is related by Backus: "For two young ministers were called to preach in Pepperell, near forty miles north-westward of Boston, to whom six persons offered themselves as candidates for baptism. Therefore, on June 26th they met in a field by a river side, where prayers were made, and a sermon begun, when the chief officers of the town, with many followers, came and interrupted their worship . . . A dog was carried into the river and plunged in, in evident contempt of our sentiments. A gentleman of the town then invited the Baptists to go and hold their meetings at his house, which was near another river. They accepted it, and so went through with their worship—at the close of which a man was hired, with a bowl of liquor, to go into the river and dip another two or three times over, when also two or three dogs more were plunged; after which three officers of the town came into the house where the Baptist ministers were, and advised them to immediately depart out of that town for their own safety" (Backus, vol. 2, p. 221).
They left, agreeing to meet the candidates at a distant place of water, where the baptism did take place. This was near Boston, in the year 1778; and it is worthy of note that the first meeting house Baptists built in Boston was nailed up, and they forbidden to worship in it.
If there can be any doubt in the mind of anyone how the "fathers" of New England Baptists regarded the Puritan Pedobaptists of their day (1770), I copy this from Backus. These Puritans declared to the Court that—
"Some [Baptists] have had the affrontery to say that the standing ministry [Congregationalists] is corrupt; ministers themselves unconverted; the churches impure and unholy, admitting unconverted and unsanctified persons into their communion" (Vol. 2, p. 158).
Can any one believe that Baptists would believe this, which they most undoubtedly did, and then, before the world, by affiliating acts recognize these unconverted ministers, and these impure and unholy sects as scriptural churches, and in every way equal to their own? They certainly did not do it. And are not these charges as true today with respect to all Pedobaptist societies as they were then? And if we walk in the "paths our fathers trod," what ought to be our testimony?
The Warren Association, which last year voted to exclude the church in Newport, Rhode Island, for its open communion practices, or failure to discipline its pastor and those members who practiced this disorder, is the oldest Association in New England. It was organized in 1767. Three years after, such were the intolerable oppressions of the "standing order," in selling out their lands and homes to pay the tax to support the hireling ministers of the Puritans, that the Association resolved to appeal at once to the King and Council, and appointed a committee to collect grievances. That committee of leading ministers published the following in the Boston Post, August 20th, 1770, and I publish it— 1, because it will give the Baptists of this age some idea of what our fathers suffered at the hands of those whom we are now taught to call "evangelical brethren," and "evangelical churches," and "evangelical ministers," and what we would suffer today had our old persecutors only the power; and, 2, how our brethren regarded them, not as "Christian brethren" certainly—which they were not — but enemies and persecutors.
"To the Baptists in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, who are, or have been, oppressed in any way on a religious account, it would be needless to tell you that you have long felt the effects of the laws by which the religion of the government in which you live is established. Your purses have felt the burden of ministerial rates; and, when these would not satisfy your enemies, your property has been taken from you and sold for less than half its value. These things you can not forget. You will, therefore, readily hear and attend when you are desired to collect your cases of suffering, and have them well attested; such as the taxes you have paid to build meeting-houses, to settle ministers and support them [i.e., for their enemies], with all the time, money, and labor you have lost in waiting on courts, feeing lawyers," etc., etc. (Backus, vol. 2, p. 155).
I add but one more instance of persecution which took place twenty years after the Declaration of Independence:
"Mr. Nathan Underwood [Pedobaptist minister of Harwich] and his collector seized six men, who were Baptists, on the 1st day of December, 1795, and carried them as far as Yarmouth, where one of them was taken so ill being old and infirm before, that he saw no way to save his life but to pay the tax and cost [all Baptists were taxed to pay the salaries of Pedobaptist ministers still!]; which he did and the other five were carried to the prison at Barnstable, where they also paid the money rather than to lie in the cold all winter. . . . Their collector went to the house of one of the Baptists when he was not at home, January 8th, 1796, and seized a cow for a tax to said minister; but his wife and daughter came out and took hold of the cow, and his wife promised to pay the money, if her husband would not do it, and they let the cow go, and she went to Mr. Underwood the next day and paid the tax and costs, and took his receipt therefor. Yet four days after, the woman and two daughters, one of whom was not there when the cow was taken, were seized and carried before the authorities, and fined seven dollars for talking to the collector and his aide, and, taking hold of the cow while they had her in possession, so they had to let her go" (Backus, vol. 2, p. 551).
This and scores of such like exactions and oppressions took place in New England, in the year 1796.
I close this century of bitter sufferings with the letter that the Warren Association sent to the Philadelphia Association, only six years before the Declaration of Independence:
Letter from the warren association, massachusetts.
‘The laws of this province were never intended to exempt the Baptists from paying toward building and repairing Presbyterian meeting-houses, and making up Presbyterian ministers’ salaries; for, besides other insufficiencies, they are all limited, both as to extent and duration. The first law extended only five miles round each Baptist meeting-house; those without this circle had no relief, neither had they within; for, though it exempted their polls, it left their estates to the mercy of harpies, and their estates went to wreck. The Baptists sought a better law, and, with great difficulty and waste of time and money, obtained it, but this was not universal. It extended not to any parish until a Presbyterian meeting-house should be built and a Presbyterian minister settled there; in consequence of which the Baptists have never been freed from the first and great expenses of their parishes, expenses equal to the current expense of ten or twelve years. This is the present case of the people of Ashfield, which is a Baptist settlement. There were but five families of other denominations in the place when the Baptist Church was constituted; but those five, and a few more, had lately built a Presbyterian meeting-house there, and settled an orthodox minister, as they called him; which last cost them 200 pounds. To pay for both, they laid a tax on the land; and, as the Baptists are the most numerous, the greatest part fell to their share. The Presbyterians, in April last, demanded the money. The Baptists pleaded poverty, alleging that they had been twice driven from their plantations by the Indians’ last war; that they were but new settlers, and had cleared but a few spots of land, and had not been able to build commodious dwelling-houses. Their tyrants would not hear. Then the Baptists pleaded the ingratitude of such conduct; for they had built a fort there at their own expense, and had maintained it for two years, and so, had protected the interior Presbyterians, as well as their neighbors, who now rose against them; that the Baptists to the westward had raised money to relieve the Presbyterians who had, like them, suffered by the Indians; and that it was cruel to take from them what the Indians had left! But nothing touched the hearts of these cruel people. Then the Baptists urged the law of the province; but were soon told that that law extended to no new parish till the meeting-house and minister were paid for. Then the Baptists petitioned the General Court. Proceedings were stopped till further orders, and the poor people went home rejoicing, thinking their property safe; but had not all got home before said order came, and it was an order for the Presbyterians to proceed. Accordingly, in the month of April, they fell foul on their plantations; and not on skirts and corners, but on the cleared and improved spots; and so, have mangled their estates, and left them hardly any but a wilderness. They sold the house and garden of one man, and the young orchards, meadows, and cornfields of another nay, they sold their dead, for they sold their graveyard. The orthodox minister was one of the purchasers. These spots amounted to three hundred and ninety-five acres, and have since been valued at 363 pounds, 8s., but were sold for 35 pounds, 10s. This was the first payment. Two more are coming, which will not leave them an inch of land at this rate.
"The Baptists waited on the Assembly five times this year for relief, but were not heard, under pretense they did no business there. At last the Baptists got together, about a score of the members, at Cambridge, and made their complaints known; but in general they were treated very superciliously. One of them spoke to this effect:
"‘The General Assembly have a right to do what they did, and, if you don’t like it, you may quit the place!’
"But, alas, they must leave their all behind! These Presbyterians are not only supercilious in power, but mean and cruel in mastery. When they came together to mangle the estates of the Baptists, they diverted themselves with tears and lamentations for the oppressed. One of them, whose name is Welk, stood up to preach a mock sermon on the occasion; and, among other things, used words to this effect:
"‘The Baptists, for refusing to pay an orthodox minister, shall be cut in pound pieces, and boiled for their fat to grease the devil’s carriage,’" etc.
And yet, in the face of these facts, a Puritan poetess, with the blood of Painter and Holmes flowing before her eyes, and the midwinter prisons filled with Baptists, and the tracks of others leading into the bleak wilderness, into which Christian men were driven by the Puritans, could say:
"Aye, call it holy ground,
The place where first they trod;
They have left unstained what there they found—
Freedom to worship God!"
Let the most prejudiced Anti-Landmark Baptist—the moat "liberal" Baptist on the continent—if a Christian man, with the facts of this chapter before him, decide whether the Baptists of New England, from 1638 to 1796, regarded or treated Pedobaptist organizations as Evangelical churches, and their bloodthirsty and cormorant preachers as ministers of the gospel of love and peace. Turn back to Chapter XV and learn their decision.
Baptists of that age were what landmark Baptists are in this.