From the Archives: In Defense of the Baptized Churches

While Anglicans, Presbyterians, Catholics, and Quakers all took their turns in defaming the Baptist position, Baptists were not without their own effective apologists. One of the most outstanding of these was Thomas Grantham (1634–1692), a General Baptist who was a pastor at Norwich, England, lecturer, and messenger in the General connection. Grantham did much to dispel erroneous opinions about the Baptists, and his classic treatises helped to define the theology and polity of General Baptists on both sides of the Atlantic. Following is a selection from his major workChristianismus Primitivus(1678) in which it was important to refute charges that Baptists were seditious.

Should the Principles of the Baptized Churches be censured, as of a State-seditious Nature, I see not how Primitive Christianity itself can escape. For whether we consider, first,

Their Principles in reference to the Deity, Christ’s Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and second Coming to judge all the World in Righteousness: In all these Points, they hold in general with all sound Christians, both Ancient and Modern. Among whom, notwithstanding there hath been some differing Apprehensions about the Extent of the Ransom, occasioned, especially with respect to these latter Times, by Calvin’s too much rigidity about Predestination, Election, and Reprobation; so that nothing from hence can be inferred to be of dangerous consequence to the Worldly Government, but it must equally reflect upon the first Christians. No, not that Point of their Faith concerning the Kingdom of Christ. to be established upon the Earth a thousand Years. For assuredly this was the Opinion. or Faith, of the Primitive Christians. And indeed, seeing we all believe that Christ shall come to Judge the World; and that till his coming, we are to keep the Word of his Patience; yea, to be patient until the coming of the Lord: How can it be offensive to any professing Christianity, (or any other Person) that some hold he shall judge the World in a short, and some in a longer time? But if any Man be impatient of Christ’s coming, and would be doing any thing to the disturbance of the Civil Peace of Nations, as if he must usher the Lord Christ into his Seat of Judgment: We look upon Such Men to be more busy than wise, and do exhort them to study to be quiet, and do their own business, and let God Almighty, and His Holy Child Jesus alone, as to the accomplishment of what he hath promised in this behalf. And let it suffice us to do what we are allowed in this case, and that is, to pray daily, Thy Kingdom come; thy Will be done, as in Heaven, so on Earth, etc.

Meanwhile, let all Christians seriously consider, That the Scriptures seem not to be more express in anything, than in taking care that Christians be not of a State-disturbing Spirit, but to render to all their dues, Honor, Fear, Custom. Tribute, etc. Yea, that every Soul be subject to the Higher Powers; and that because there is no Power but of God; for by him Kings Reign, and he it is who putteth down one, and setteth up another; sometimes he doth this in Mercy, sometimes in Justice. Now the Christian Man is under a constant direction to pray for Kings, and all that are in Authority; to obey Magistrates, and to be ready to every good work: to speak evil of no Man,—but to shew all meekness to all Men. Yea, to be short, To fear God, and honour the King, are his indispensible Duties. In all Religious things God must have His due; In all Civil Obedience Ceasar must have his due. And of this Doctrine care was taken by the Apostles, that the succeeding Ministry should put the Brethren in remembrance of these things.

For assuredly Christianity is never like to be acceptable to Magistrates who yet know not Christ, if once they have just cause to suspect it to be destructive to Civil Government; nor will the Christians themselves be comforted in their Sufferings, when their Provocations do procure them. Let none of you suffer—as an evil-doer, as a busy-body in other Men’s matters. Yet if any suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, I Pet. 4:15, 16.

2. If we consider the Baptized Churches, with respect to their Principles touching a Church State, and the publick Worship of God, surely here also they are free from a Seditious Spirit. However, their Principles are innocent: for here they preach the common Doctrine of Christianity, Repentance from dead Works, and Faith towards God, as the first things to be learned by every Man that will be a Christian. The next, that Men be baptized with Water, in the Name of the Father, Son, etc. for the Remission of Sins, and thence to walk in newness of Life, according to the Doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ: An Epitome whereof we have in those six particulars, Heb. 6. And herein they follow Christ and his first Churches, as hath been fully shewed above.

For that Separation which we maintain, in the Treatise next following this, we trust it is clearly evidenced to be made upon warrantable and necessary grounds. However, here it may suffice to say, That all which hold any thing conscientiously, in reference to Christian Religion, do also maintain their Separations respectively. As the Papists, How severe are they for Separation from the Protestants, and all whom they are pleased to count Hereticks, may be seen in the Rhemists Testament, or their Annotations on 2 Cor. 6:14 where they make it utterly unlawful to have to with such, especially in Religious Exercises. And as stifly on the other side do the Protestants maintain their Separation from the Papists, to be necessary from the same Scripture. And the like is done by Presbyterians and Independents (at least many of them) from them both. And it must be granted by all that profess Christianity, that upon a supposition, that the things which we allege are true, on which we ground our Separation, it is more clear and rational, according to the Principles of Religion, than any of the Separations maintained by them: For No Baptism, no Church, is a Proposition so convincing, as very few have hitherto had the boldness to deny it. Whereas on the contrary, the Parties aforesaid do all acknowledge the same Baptism; and upon any Person coming off from one of these Parties to the other, they allow the Baptism fore-received to be valid. Yea, and if Ordination have been received there, they ordinarily so ratifie it also, and yet defend their Separations respectively with great vehemency. But the case is far more pressing on our part: And we do unfainedly profess, that did we believe that these differing Parties, or any of them, had lawful Power as Ministers, and true (or a valid) Baptism, we durst not (as now we do) maintain Separation from them; especially such as are of pious and sober Conversations. Wherefore we conclude, That it is not rational, or at least less rational, to charge the Separation maintain’d by the present Baptized Churches, with Sedition or Disturbance to Civil Government, than the Separation maintain’d by any of the forementioned Parties.

No less Irrational is it to charge our Preaching and Praying together with Sedition, (though we be forbidden by the present Authority) when it is most certain, that they have all done, and upon occasion. do frequently justifie the same thing; though for so doing they have suffered the loss of Goods, Liberty, and Life itself, as well as many of ours have done. And yet they rejoice in such their Sufferings respectively, counting it their Martyrdom. And surely, the Premises duely and impartially considered, we have no less. but rather much more cause to rejoice in our Sufferings, for meeting together to Preach, Pray, and edifie one another in the use of all the Holy Ordinances of the Gospel. Thus ad Hominem: which may very well abate the hard thoughts of many against us.

But we shall also shew some (as we trust) convincing Reasons why we cannot but uphold our Christian Assemblies, as of late we have done, notwithstanding the severity of human Laws against us in that behalf, in a Chapter by itself hereafter in this Treatise: But now shall proceed to shew the innocency of the Baptized Churches, as to the charge of Sedition, by reciting their Apologies in that behalf, printed upon occasion of some Emergencies requiring such Testimonies. 

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #6 in 1985]

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