Posted on March 22, 2013 by Steve Weaver
Baptists have historically defended the principle of religious liberty. Since Baptists have always believed in churches made up only of professing, baptized believers, they have always rejected the idea of a state church union which results in a church composed of all citizens. In the sixteenth century, the European Anabaptists opposed the use of the sword to mandate matters of the conscience. Seventeenth-century proto-Baptists such as Thomas Helwys (in England) and Roger Williams (in Colonial America) spoke directly to the governing authorities appealing for religious liberty. Baptists have always stood on the side of religious liberty for all. In fact, it was a group of Baptists in Danbury, CT, concerned about the infringement of the newly formed federal government upon the consciences of American citizens, to whom Thomas Jefferson responded in a letter with the famous expression of “separation of church and state” that has become such an important part of the American discussion concerning religious liberty. This expression was a summary of the rights guaranteed in the 1st amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
We have the first amendment, in large part, due to the efforts of American Baptists such as Isaac Backus and John Leland. Leland, prominent Baptist preacher at the turn of the 19th century, had petitioned his Virginia legislator, James Madison, directly regarding his concern that more needed to be done to ensure religious liberty in the new country than the “Religious Test” clause of Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution. Since Baptists represented a significant portion of the vote in Madison’s district, Leland’s threat to run for Madison’s seat in the House of Representatives resulted in a visit by Madison to his home. Coming out of that meeting was a compromise that included Leland agreeing not to run for Madison’s seat and Madison agreeing to champion Leland’s and his fellow Baptists’ concern for religious liberty. Madison kept his word and pushed for the Bill of Rights. Without Baptist involvement in the political process, it is at least possible that the protection of religious liberty from Congress would not exist.
Today, more than at any point since the turn of the 19th century, religious freedom in America is in jeopardy. Once again, Baptists need to lead the way in guaranteeing that our commitment to freedom of conscience in religious matters is preserved. The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky today vetoed a bill (HB 279) which included important protections of religious liberty on the state level. This bill passed both houses of the Kentucky legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. The Kentucky Baptist Convention, in historic Baptist manner, championed this bill and called for its passage. Now, we stand in need for the Baptists of Kentucky to speak up and ask their representatives to overturn the governor’s veto. For information on how you can help, please see this post on the website of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Committee on Public Affairs.
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Posted on March 20, 2013 by Steve Weaver
This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. This Protestant document was written in Heidelberg in 1563 on behalf of Frederick III, Elector Palatine and spread over the world when it was approved by the Synod of Dort in 1619. A new volume has recently been released to commemorate this important event in church history—Power of Faith: 450 Years of the Heidelberg Catechism, edited by Karla Apperloo-Boersma and Herman J. Selderhuis. See flyer from the German academic publisher, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, here.
In this 454 page hardcover book, respected specialists in their fields present how the Heidelberg Catechism spread and influenced culture, education and ecclesiastical life. In addition to the text, over 700 pictures illustrate the contributions making an attractive volume for display. This work includes the following contribution co-authored by Michael A. G. Haykin and me: “To ‘concenter with the most orthodox divines’: Hercules Collins and his An Orthodox Catechism—a slice of the reception history of the Heidelberg Catechism.”
Power of Faith is slated to be released in Dutch, English and German editions. You can order the English edition from Amazon.com (German edition) now.
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Posted on January 31, 2013 by Steve Weaver
John Smyth (c. 1570-1612) is an important figure in Baptist history, mainly because of his commitment to religious liberty, a believer’s church, and “baptism” of believers. He was not, however, the founder of Baptists (Wikipedia is wrong.). His baptism was not technically baptism as it was done by affusion (pouring) and he did this to himself (se-baptism). The seventeenth-century English Baptists did not acknowledge Smyth as their founder or initiator of the practice of baptism. In his work on baptism published in 1691, Hercules Collins directly refuted the claim that the English Baptists had received their baptism from John Smyth. This refutation was made in response to the paedo-baptist Thomas Wall who had claimed in his book Baptism Anatomized that the current “English Anabaptists” had “successively received” their baptism from Smyth who had baptized himself. In Believers-Baptism from Heaven, Collins asserted that the Baptist community of which he was a part had not, in fact, had their baptism passed down to them from Smyth. In refuting this charge, he referenced then living sources who knew better. In so doing, he charged Wall with falsehood in his derogatory accusation regarding the origin of Baptists.
How many Leaves hast thou spent in thy Book, in asserting and maintaining a Lie, and to cast Filth upon the holy Ways of the Lord? Could not the Ordinance of Christ, which was lost in the Apostacy, be revived, (as the Feast of Tabernacles was, tho lost a great while) unless in such a filthy way as you falsly assert, viz. that the English Baptists received their Baptism from Mr. John Smith? It is absolutely untrue, it being well known, by some yet alive, how false this Assertion is; and if J.W. will but give a meeting to any of us, and bring whom he pleaseth with him, we shall sufficiently shew the Falsity of what is affirmed by him in this Matter, and in many other things he hath unchristianly asserted.
Those “yet alive” would certainly have included William Kiffin (1616-1701) and possibly Hanserd Knollys (b. 1599), who did not die until September of 1691, the same year in which these words were published.
Thomas Wall, Baptism Anatomized (London: G. Croom, 1691), 106-8.
For some reason, Collins calls Thomas Wall “John Wall” in his response. Cf. Collins, Believers-Baptism from Heaven (London, 1691), 108 and 114. Thus, the initials “J. W.” in this quote. This is all the more curious since the cover page and table of contents both use Thomas Walls. Perhaps it was an intentional slight to liken Walls with the infamous John Child with whom he compares him on p. 114.
Collins, Believers-Baptism from Heaven, 114-15. Italics in the original.
Knollys had attended the 1691 General Assembly held 2-8 June 1691. He died on September 17, 1691, in his ninety-third year. For more on Knollys, see Barry H. Howson, Erroneous and Schismatical Opinions: the Question of Orthodoxy Regarding the Theology of Hanserd Knollys (c. 1599–1691) (Leiden: Brill, 2001).
Filed under: 17th Century Baptists, Baptist, Church History, Hercules Collins | Tagged: 17th Century, Baptist History, Baptist Origins, Hercules Collins, John Smyth | 12 Comments »
Posted on October 11, 2012 by Steve Weaver
Next year (2013) marks the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. This Protestant document was written in Heidelberg in 1563 on behalf of Frederick III, Elector Palatine and spread over the world when it was approved by the Synod of Dort in 1619. A new volume is being released next March to commemorate this important event in church history. Power of Faith: 450 Years of the Heidelberg Catechism, edited by Karla Apperloo-Boersma, Herman J. Selderhuis. See flyer from publisher here.
In this 440 page hardcover book, respected specialists in their fields present how the Heidelberg Catechism spread and influenced culture, education and ecclesiastical life. In addition to the text, over 250 pictures illustrate the contributions making an attractive volume for display. This work will include the following contribution from Michael A. G. Haykin and Steve Weaver “To ‘concenter with the most orthodox divines’: Hercules Collins and his An Orthodox Catechism—a slice of the reception history of the Heidelberg Catechism.”
Power of Faith is slated to be released in Dutch, English and German editions. You can preorder the English edition from Amazon.com (German edition).
This was also posted at the blog of the Andrew Fuller Center.
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Posted on September 28, 2012 by Steve Weaver
In 1680, Hercules Collins penned his first work, an adaption of the Heidelberg Catechism, which he titled An Orthodox Catechism. In his preface, Collins defended his inclusion of three creeds from the early church: the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian. His defense includes great advice on how a Christian should read works by those with whom they may have disagreements. He essentially says to chew the meat and spit out the bones. Great advice for us all.
I have proposed three Creeds to your consideration, which ought throughly to be believed and embraced by all those that would be accounted Christians, viz. The Nicene Creed, Athanasius his Creed, and the Creed commonly called the Apostles; The last of which contains the sum of the Gospels; which is industriously opened and explained; and I beseech you do not slight it because of its Form, nor Antiquity, nor because supposed to be composed by Men; neither because some that hold it, maintain some Errors, or whose Conversation may not be correspondent to such fundamental Principles of Salvation; but take this for a perpetual Rule, That whatever is good in any, owned by any, whatever Error or Vice it may be mixed withal, the Good must not be rejected for the Error or Vice sake, but owned; commended, and accepted.
 Collins, An Orthodox Catechism, The Preface.
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Posted on August 24, 2012 by Steve Weaver
Today marks the 350th anniversary of the Act of Uniformity (1662). This Act resulted in the ejection of approximately two thousand Puritan ministers from their pulpits since it would have required complete subscription to The Book of Common Prayer. Most Puritan ministers resigned rather than conform to these demands. In reality this Act was just one part of a body of legislation enacted during the early years of the reign of Charles II (r. 1660-1685). Although Charles II had promised religious toleration when he returned to the throne following the Commonwealth Protectorate of Oliver and Richard Cromwell, hopes for such were short-lived among the Dissenters. It is unknown whether Charles II actually had any intention of keeping his promise of religious liberty. What is known, however, is that Parliament passed a series of laws between 1661 and 1665 known as the Clarendon Code that were designed to enforce conformity to the worship of the Church of England. Along with the Act of Uniformity, a number of bills were passed with the intent of suppressing dissent from the Church of England. The Corporation Act of 1661, for example, required that a person had to have received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the Church of England within the past year to be eligible for election to any government office. Eligible persons were also required to take the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy to the king of England. The Conventicle Act of 1664 forbade the assembling of five or more persons for religious worship other than Anglican worship. This, in essence, outlawed Dissenting churches. The Five-Mile Act of 1665 forbade any Nonconforming preacher or teacher to come within 5 miles of a city or corporate town where he had previously served as a minister. Each of these Acts was aimed at stamping out both the Dissenters and Catholics. Baptists were hit particularly hard by these laws since they made their conscientious worship of God illegal. London’s oldest Baptist Church  was the Wapping congregation which originally had John Spilsbury as pastor. The second pastor of this congregation, John Norcott, is believed to have been one of a small number of Baptists who were actually ejected from their pulpits in Church of England in 1662. Although only a handful of Baptists were affected by the actual ejection of 1662, the other laws of the Clarendon Code, of which the Act of Uniformity was a part, continued to have major effects for over a quarter of a century. During this period dubbed by B. R. White, the doyen of seventeenth-century English Baptist studies, as “The Era of the Great Persecution,” all dissenters, including the Baptists, were persecuted. An unintended result of the persecutors was that a rich body of literature was produced that reflects a vibrant spirituality of persecution and suffering for the sake of the gospel. Ironically, without this persecution we would not have many of the enduring works forged by men such as John Bunyan, Hercules Collins, Abraham Cheare in their furnace of affliction.
 For a fuller description of these Acts and their impact upon Baptists, see Ernest A. Payne and Norman S. Moon, Baptists and 1662 (London: The Carey Kingsgate Press Limited, 1962).
 Oldest continuous congregation still in existence. For the history of the church, see Ernest F. Kevan, London’s Oldest Baptist Church: Wapping 1633—Walthamstow 1933 (London: Kingsgate Press, 1933). The church is now called Church Hill Baptist Church, Walthamstow. Their website is: http://www.chbc.org.uk/.
 For a discussion of the evidence, please see Geoffrey F. Nuttall, “Another Baptist Ejection (1662): The Case of John Norcott” in Pilgrim Pathways: Essays in Baptist History in Honour of B. R. White, eds. William H. Brackney and Paul S. Fiddes with John H. Y. Briggs (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1999), 185–188.
 B. R. White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century (Didcot: The Baptist Historical Society, 1996), 95–133.
 For an excellent study of this era, see Gerald R. Cragg, Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution 1660–1688 (Cambridge: University Press, 1957). See also Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters. Volume 1: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 221–262.
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Posted on March 7, 2012 by Steve Weaver
In 1684 Hercules Collins penned a discourse from his prison cell in London’s notorious Newgate Prison. The occasion of this discourse upon Job 3:17-18 was the death of two of his fellow prisoners, Francis Bampfield and Zachary Ralphson. The purpose was to provide comfort to those like him who had been imprisoned for their religious convictions. Near the end of the discourse, Collins reflects upon the rest that all God’s people will experience in heaven. He writes:
after the Resurrection comes the day of Jubile; in the Jubile of old, upon the sound of the Trumpet, they were every man to return to their Possessions; so when the great Trumpet shall sound, and the Dead in Christ Rise first, we shall take Possession of our Eternal Inheritance, which Christ is gone to prepare and secure for us: this Jubile was to return of old, but once in fifty years, but in Heaven in glory, it’s all Jubile; in this year of Jubile, the Jews were not to Sow nor Reap, but it was to be a year of Rest unto them: O! when we enter upon our spiritual one, all our labouring under Sin, Suffering, Satanical Temptations, will have end, and we shall Rest from our Labours. This temporary Jubile continued but a year, and then to their Toyl and labour again; Oh but the Spiritual Jubile will be an Everlasting Eternal one, that Rest which remains for the people of God will know no end: (Counsel for the Living, Occasioned from the Dead, 32-33).
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Posted on January 26, 2012 by Steve Weaver
Somethings never change: I just came across the Latin phrase “non est inuentus” beside a name of a Brother Williams in the Wapping church roll from the 17th century. It is common to see the words “withdrawn from” or “deceased” in the margin, but this Latin phrase got my attention. It means “He has not been found.” We still have a lot of those today! Who says history can’t be fun?
Filed under: 17th Century Baptists, Hercules Collins | 2 Comments »
Posted on January 26, 2012 by Steve Weaver
On a bit more pleasant note than the Christmas 1677 meeting, the Wapping Church took up a special collection for London pastor Benjamin Keach on December 25, 1679 in response to his recently having been robbed.
December 25th 1679 The Congregation in old Gravell Lane Did then Raise and give to Bro. Benj. Keach when he was Robed the Sum of Three pound five shillings
The church ultimately gave 3 pounds and eight shillings to Keach. On December 30th 1679, it was recorded in the minute book that: “Bro. Collings gave to Bro. Keach the Sum of three pound Eight Shillings which was gathered for him of the Church.”
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Posted on January 26, 2012 by Steve Weaver
In the January 2012 issue of The Gospel Witness, I had an article published on how the 17th century Baptists used the Reformation’s Regulative Principle of Worship to argue for believer’s baptism by immersion. The kind folks at The Gospel Witness have graciously granted me permission to post a PDF of my article here. The title of my article is “The Plain Testimony of Scripture”: How the Early English Baptists Employed the Regulative Principle to Argue for Believer’s Baptism.
For more information about The Gospel Witness, including subscription details see here.
To download my article, click here.
Filed under: 17th Century Baptists, Baptist, Hercules Collins | 13 Comments »