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This denomination greatly increased. Their arguments weighed with many; their exemplary lives spoke in their favor: but the number of their converts excited against them a spirit of jealousy and resentment, and they were the objects of clamor and defamation. Many books were published, misrepresenting them, and their chiefs were reproached, as jesuits and heretics. This induced them to publish many confessions of faith; some in vindication of particular churches, others of particular persons. In 1678 one was agreed to, and signed by fifty ministers and mes. sengers in the several counties of Bucks, Hertford, Bedford and Oxford, in behalf of themselves and many others, containing fifty articles. It was sopn published under the title of “ An Orthodox Creed ; or, a Protestant Confession of Faith ; being an essay to unite and confirm all true protestants in the fundamental articles of the christian religión, against the errors and heresies of the church of Rome."*
As the baptists consisted of two parties, distinguished by the names general and particular, when one published a declaration of their principles, the other soon after did the same.t
In this period may be placed several who made a distinguished figure as ministers among the baptists, the time of whose deaths is not ascertained.
The first was Mr. William Dell, A M. famous in the time of the civil wars; be received his education at the university of Cambridge, and held the living of Yeldon in the county of Bedford, worth about 2001. a year. About the year 1615 he became chaplain to the army, constantly attending Sir Thomas Fairfax, and preaching at the headquarters. In 1649, when several were turned out of the universities for refusing to take the oaths to the government, he was made master of Caius college at Cambridge, which preferment he held with his living at Yeldon, till he was ejected by the act of uniformity. Party prejudice fixed on bis memory the charge of glaring contradictions and inconsistencies of conduct, from which more candid posterity has vindicated him. The fact was, that he was at first satisfied with episcopacy and the ceremonies; but when the change in the state brought on a reformation in
Crosby, vol. iii. Appendix, No. i. + lbid. pol. ii. p. 344, 5.
religion, he was one of the first and most zealous to promote it, and would have carried it farther than was agreeable to the principles and views of many others. He was obnoxious to the rigid presbyterians, whose attempts to monopolize all power, in civil and ecclesiastical affairs, he opposed. A sermon at Marston occasioned bim much trouble, and another on a fast-day, before the house of commons, led him into a controversy with Mr. C. Love, and who opposed him in the afternoon of the same day; they thus were made the beads and champions of the two contending parties of the nation. Mr. Love justified the punishing of heretics and schismatics, and vindicated the authority of the civil magistrate, in imposing articles of faith and a form of worship ; in a word, pleaded for persecution. Mr. Dell was the advocate of liberty: be preached against making a whole kingdom a church ; be thought that no power belonged to the clergy but what is spiritual ; he protested against blending the civil and the ecclesiastical power together, as the constant method of setting up a spiritual tyranny; he pleaded that all persons ought to have liberty to worship God in the manner they think most agreeable to his word; and argued, that the imposition of uniformity and all compulsion in matters of religion were anti-christian. These principles created him enemies, who blackened his character by odious names.But, though he was tinctured with the enthusiasm of the times, he was a man of substantial learning, of real piety, and a noble defender of the rights of conscience. Besides several sermons and a tract written in this cause, the author of a tract in quarto, 1648, entitled “the Doctrine of Baptism reduced from its ancient and modern corruptions."*
Another person of note was Mr. Francis Cornwell, M. A. who was sometime student of Emanuel-college, Cambridge, and commenced master of arts in that university. When he left it, be was preferred to a living in the estab. lished church; and, at the beginning of the civil wars, was minister at Orpington in Kent. In the reign of Obarles I. he was imprisoned for non-conformity, refusing to wear
Crosby, vol. i. p. 323–333. Palmer's Non-conformist's Memorial, vol. i. p. 201, and p. 225, note,
the surplice, to kneel at the sacrament, and to use the sign of the cross in baptism. His companion in Maidstone gaol was Mr. Wilson, of Otham near that town.
Among the visitors w bo came to see them was a woman who had some doubts in her mind whether the baptism of infants could be proved from scripture. Mr. Corowellendeavored, by the best scriptural arguments he could produce, to resolve her doubts, but found he could not do it so well to her or his own satisfaction as he could wisb. When bis visitant had left him, he conversed on the subject with his fellow-prisoner Mr. Wilson, who assured him he never thought that infant baptism could be proved from scripture, but had its authority from human tradition, being handed down from primitive times as a practice generally received from the church. Mr. Cornwell, taking the scriptures to be the only rule of faith, and considering that on this principle only, all the protestant churches vindicated their separation from the church of Rome against all her impositions, founded on pretended primitive antiquity, was induced to make a more diligent search. The result was, that infant baptism did not appear to him to derive its authority from the scriptures, but to have had its dependence, in all ages, on the decrees, canons, and councils of the church. Entering into tbese views of the subject, he relinquished the doctrine of infants' baptism, and adopted the opinion of those who think that believers only, making profession of their faith and repentance, are the proper subjects of this institution.* In 1613, he publicly avowed this principle, and wrote in defence of it a tract, entitled " The Vindication of the royal Commission of Jesus." After the publication of this book, he went on to preach and propagate his opinion. In 1614, in a visitation sermon preached at Cranbrook in Kent, from Mark vii. 7, before the min. isters of those parts, he took the liberty of freely declaring his sentiments, and asserted, that podobaptism was an antichristian innovation, a human tradition, and a practice for wbich there was neither precept, or example or true deduction from the word of God. This, as might be expected, much startled the clergy who were present, but
* Mr. Thompson's Collections, MSS. under the words STAPLEHURST and SMARDEN. VOL. V.
greatly offended several of them. The matter was debated between them, and the argument in support of antipoedobaptism was strongly pushed by Mr. William Jeffery, of Sevenoaks, who had baptized Mr. Cornwell, and to whom he had referred them, till Mr. Christopher Blackwood, one of the ministers, desired them to desist at that time, for he had taken down the sermon in short hand, and would return an answer in priut, which he hoped might be to the satisfaction of them all. * His advice was adopted; it was agreed to postpone, for the present, the discussion of the question, to re-examine the point, and to bring their collections together at the next meeting, which was to be within a fortnight. In the mean time Mr. Blackwood studied the question with great diligence and close attention. The impression made on his mind was very different from what was anticipated. He began to suspect that infant-baptism was no more than an human tradition, and was attended with evil consequences; and, when they met, he brought in bis arguments against it. As no one produced any defence, one properly observing, that they sought for truth and not victory, proposed, that Mr. Blackwood's papers should be left with them for examination; to this motion he acceded: but when, after waiting a long time, no answer was given to his arguments, he sent for his papers, and published them with corrections and enlargements. Thus the controversy was revived in the county of Kent, and the sentiments of the baptists gained ground. Mr. Cornwell soon after this withdrew from the national church, for he disapproved both of national and parochial churches; and taught that a church was to consist of such only as professed repentance from dead works, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and were baptised according to his commands after the pattern of the first churches in Judea. He quickly gathered a church in Kent, formed on this plan, of which he was pastor to the day of his death, and was succeeded in that place and office by his son. It reflects bonor on Mr. Cornwell's name and memory, that he was a zealous opposer of persecution and an imposed aniformity. He wrote against the ordinance of parliament made to silence all lay-preachers, that is, such as bad not re
* Mr. Thompson's Collections, MSS.
ceived episcopal or presbyterian ordination, or who should preach any thing contrary to the articles of faith and directory for public worship, set forth by the assembly.-The piece which he published on this occasion was entitled, “ Two Queries worthy of consideration."
Q: 1. Whether that ministry that preachoth freely the gospel-faith, that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, as the apostle Peter did, be not truly orthodox?
Q. 2. Whether it be agreeable to the word of God, containcd in the sacred scriptures, to silence or iubibit any
ministers of Jesus Christ for preaching this gospel freely?
He affirmed the former, and maintained it by several arguments; the latter be denied ; and intimated, that they who were guilty of such practises acted like the Jews of old, who cast the blind man out of the temple, for confess. ing that Jesus was the Christ. *
In close connection with Mr. Cornwall's history stands, as we have seen, that of Mr. Blackwood, who, in consequence of his visitation sermon, became a proselyte to be. liever's baptism, and with Mr. Richard Kingsnorth, who likewise was convinced by it, gathered a church at Staplehurst in Kent; but his sentiments being calvinistic, and contrary to those of the society, he afterwards left it under the pastoral care of Mr. Kingsnorth, who held universal redemption and final perseverance. Mr. Blackwood was possessed, at the beginning of the civil wars, of a parochial church in the county of Kent; from whence, it is prob. able that he was educated at one of the universities. After he changed his sentiments on the questions concerning baptism, he did not continue long in the established church; for he was as zealous against national churches as agaiust infant-baptism. He was an advocate for liberty of conscience, and opposed the establishment of presbyterianism. In the first piece he pulished, he joined together infant-baptism and compulsion of conscience, and called them “ the two last and strongest garrisons of antichrist.” He was reckoned among those worthy guides, well qualified in all respects for the ministry,” who voluntarily left their benefices in the establishment, by one who lived in those times,
Crosby, vol. i. p. 331–319, and vol.ii. p. 8-9.
† Thompson's Collections, MSS.