Hercules Collins

Historians and Anniversaries

Historians love dates and anniversaries. If you look hard enough, you can always find a historical event to celebrate, or at least remember, every day of the year. In the newest issue (Summer 2012, 89) of the Founder’s Journal, Dr. Nettles writes in his editorial introduction about this propensity among historians and explains why anniversaries matter. He points to the fact that 2012 marks the anniversaries of such important events as the publication of Thomas Helwys’ The Mistery of Iniquity (1612), the passing of the Act of Uniformity (1662), and the departure of Adoniram and Ann Judson’s (along with Luther Rice) departure for India.

In addition to Dr. Nettles’ illuminating introduction, the journal also includes his address from the Founder’s Breakfast at this year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The essay “‘Traditional’ Baptists Under the Microscope of History” offers Dr. Nettles’ perspective on the past, present and future of Southern Baptist theology.

Last and least, the journal also includes my essay on “Baptists and 1662” which was recently presented at a mini-conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. For an audio version of me reading my paper, click here. (Dr. Nettles also talks about the importance of Helwys here.)

The Founder’s Journal is now completely digital and the newest issue can be purchased as an ePub (for Apple iBooks, the Nook and other ePUB readers) or as mobi (for Kindle and other mobi readers). The price is $1.99. Past Issues of the journal are available free online in PDF format.

God’s Sovereignty, Foreknowledge, and Human Responsibility in the Death of Christ

God’s determination that Christ should die to save man, laid none under a necessity of sinning, but God foreknew what the malice of the Devil, Jews and Gentiles would be against this person to put him to death.  And God did determine not to prevent it, but suffer[1] it, because he knew how to bring glory to himself out of it.  It was necessary Christ should suffer.  God could not be mistaken in his foreknowledge, or come short of his determinate decree.  But this neither took away the liberty of Christ’s suffering, neither did it take away the liberty of the Jews, and their voluntariness in putting Christ to death.  God’s decree, Christ should suffer, did infallibly secure the event, but did not annihilate and destroy the liberty of the act, neither in Christ as aforesaid, who freely suffered himself, nor the Jews, who as freely and voluntary put him to death, as if there had been no decree of God at all about his death.[2]  The gardener’s foreknowledge that such seeds and roots will in the Spring produce such leaves and flowers, is no cause of their rise and appearance in Spring; but knowing the virtue of such roots, so concludes.  So God’s foreknowledge what wicked words would proceed from the root of a wicked heart concerning Christ’s death, is no more cause of those evil acts, than the gardener is the cause of the rise of such flowers in Spring from such roots, because he foreknew the nature of them.  God’s foreknowledge that Adam would fall, put him under no necessity of it, but ‘twas done voluntarily and freely.  Yet God foresaw infallibly he would fall, and God determined not to prevent it, knowing how to glorify himself by it.  So God’s foreknowledge of the Jews putting Christ to death, did not necessitate them to it, but done as freely as if it had not been foreknown, nor any determination of God about it.  Thus we have proved those acts of divine providence in time in the world, are the product of God’s eternal purposes.

From: Hercules Collins, Mountains of Brass: Or, A Discourse Upon the Decrees of God (London:  1689), 6-8.

[1] i.e., allow, let

[2] Mr. Charnock, on the Attributes.  This is a reference to Stephen Charnock (1628-1680) whose lectures at Crosby Hall in London on the attributes of God were transcribed after his death and are presently in print as The Existence and Attributes of God. Grand Rapids:  Baker Books, 1996.  Collins is most likely referring to Charnock’s discussion of the relationship between God’s foreknowledge of man’s voluntary actions and man’s liberty of the will on pages 446-451 of the above volume.

Hercules Collins on the Jubilee of Heaven

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).

A 17th Century Missing Church Member

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?

Christmas 1679: A Collection for Benjamin Keach

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.”

The Regulative Principle and the Immersion of Believers

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.

“Faithful to the Last”: An Article in Grace Magazine, June 2011

I was privileged to be asked to contribute an article to Grace Magazine of the UK on persecution in 17th-century Baptist life. It will be probably come as no surprise to those familiar with my research that I chose to focus on “Hercules Collins and Enduring Persecution.” The article is available in PDF format.

Thanks to Grace Magazine for granting me permission to post my article.

Grace Magazine (June 2011), 12-13.

Hercules Collins Audio

No, we don’t have any recordings from this seventeenth-century Baptist pastor, but I have delivered a few lectures about Hercules Collins which are available in MP3 format below:

Hercules Collins: “Hold Fast What Thou Hast”

Hercules Collins published A Voice from the Prison from his prison cell in 1684. This work was an extended meditation on Revelation 3:11 where Christ admonishes the church of Philadelphia with the words, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (KJV) Collins addressed this sermon “To the Church of God, formerly Meeting in Old-Gravel-Lane Wapping, and all who were Strangers and Foreigners, but now Fellow Citizens with the Saints, and of the Household of God.” In this sermon, Collins drew from at least 213 passages of Scripture to encourage his congregation to stand firm in the face of persecution. Collins urged his besieged flock to not abandon the cause of Christ. “Hold fast what thou hast, when Satan would pull thy Souls good from thee; when Relations, Husband, Wife, Children call upon you, and perswade you because of danger to cease from the work of the Lord, then hold fast.” Collins offered as a motivation for holding fast to Christ and His work that the one who stood fast would hear Christ profess to the Father on the day of judgment these words:

These are they which have continued with me in my Temptation; therefore I appoint unto you a Kingdom; therefore, because you owned me in an Evil Day.

These are the Men, Women, People, which spoke of my Testimonies before Kings, and was not ashamed when many Cried, Crucify him and his Cause; these are the Souls which came forth and declared they were on the Lords Side: These are they, Father, whose Love to me many Waters nor Floods could not quench nor drown; these are they that chose me on my own termes, with the Cross as well as the Crown; these have made Choice of me with Reproaches, Imprisonments, with Fines, Confiscation of Goods, Banishment, loss of Limbs, Life, and all, they have born all, indured all for my sake, in the greatest affliction, they kept from wavering, and the more they endured and lost for my sake, the more they loved me.

Hercules Collins on Sermon Preparation and Dependence Upon God

We may say in this case, as we use to speak about Salvation, that we ought to live so holily as if we were to be sav’d by our living, and yet when we have done all, to rely upon Christ and his Righteousness; so we should labour in Study, as if we should have no immediate Assistance in the Pulpit, and yet when we have done all, to go about our Work depending upon God for further Assistance.

Hercules CollinsThe Temple Repair’d, 36-37.