Baptist unitarianism in the 17th and 18th centuries..dsv


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A detailed analysis of how compromise of the full inspiration of Scripture and a loss of doctrinal clarity on the deity of Jesus Christ led the General Baptist Church and even many parts of the Evangelical Baptist Church to Unitarian unbelief and apostasy in the 18th and 19th centuries. Several footnotes !

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Baptist unitarianism in the 17th and 18th centuries..dsv

  1. 1. Baptist Unitarianism in the 17th and 18th Centuries In Britain and America. This paper shall begin with a short introduction of Unitarianism in Europe andGreat Britain before 1650 to form a historical background and a broad theologicalcontext for explaining why Unitarianism infected the Baptists in England and Americafrom about 1675-1815. Unitarianism heresy particularly affllicted the General Baptists inEngland and those Baptists affected by the related heresy of Universalism in ColonialAmerica. This study will doubtlessly contain many unfilled gaps, important unseenhistorical connections, and inadequate theological analyses of the issues, but the writerdoes hope to sketch at least a few solid markers for future in-depth studies in theprimary sources as well as secondary sources. Since this is a seminary term paper, it isrealized that it will be hardly impressive to scholars acquainted with 17th, 18th, and 19thcentury primary sources and to those who have actually visited important historic sitesand have immediately perceived their connection to the historic milestones of theUnitarian controversies among the Baptists. But we pledge to do our best and let thereader decide for himself.
  2. 2. 2I. Early Unitarianism Until 1600. In the history of Christianity erroneous attempts have been made to have areligion " of Jesus " without having a religion " about Jesus ". This really an old heresycard which has been played many times in the march of Christs Church through time.The history of Unitarianism certainly has exemplified this tendency repeatedly. Jack W.Traylor, distinguished professor of history at William J. Bryan College in Tennessee,succinctly introduces the main points of historic Unitarianism. So we begin with hisanalysis of the Unitarian movement prior to the Protestant Reformation: Unitarians. A monotheistic religion born within Christianity which recognizes the existence of a transcendent God, but denies the deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The term "Unitarian" refers to belief in God as one Person in a unified Godhead rather than three Persons or a Trinity in the Godhead. The Unitarian conception of Christs Atonement is that it was not a literal vicarious substitute to pay for human sins but rather was a moral act by a man chosen by God that was designed to bring unity between God and man. Arius (d. 336), a priest in Alexandria , Egypt, may have been the first to pop- ularize the antitrinitarian views that came to characterize later Unitarians. His teaching that Christ was a created being rather than coequal and coeternal with God the Father led to the Arian controversy whose doctrines the Council of Nicea condemned in A.D. 325. Arianism nearly extinguished Western orthodoxy when it was championed by rulers in the 330s and 340s.1 The famed Yale historian of Christianity, Kenneth S. Latourette, observed thisabout Unitarianism of the Renaissance and Reformation era: " Others, usuallyhumanists, made much of the rational approach to Christianity, emphasized the ethicalaspect of New Testament teaching, and were inclined to be anti-Trinitarian and toregard Christ as an example and a leader to be followed rather than the divine-humanredeemer. "2 There were perhaps a few ardent "unitarians" between the fourth and thesixteenth centuries, but for the most part, heresy had moved in different directions
  3. 3. 3within European Christian thought in the Middle Ages. This is to say, that other than theGnostic type heresies of the Cathari and the Paulicians, most of the non-Trinitarians wereoutside of the Christian faith altogether, i.e., unbelieving Jews and Muslims. However,merely because a stream of thought goes underground, it does not mean it is obliterated- for old heresies have often reappeared in new outlets since Reformation times. Thus,an incipient unitarianism, which stressed the impersonality of God, became a fixednotion in the minds of certain radical critics of the Church. One of these was a pupil ofJohann Reuchlin, Martin Cellarius (1499-1564), who was perhaps the first explicitexponent of Unitarian views in his De Operibus Dei published in Strassburg in 1527.Other early Unitarians included J. Valdes, Michael Servetus, and Bernardo Ochino whowere actively influential in fostering Unitarianism as a sectarian community withinEuropean Christendom. Excepting Servetus, their story finds its life setting in the smallUnitarian communities which were established for a time in Hungary, Poland,Transylvania and England.3 One form of Unitarianism known as Socinianism was a particular Reformationphenomenon, a reaction to Biblical Protestant thought as much as Roman Catholic. TwoItalians, Laelius Socinus and his nephew, Faustus, were the key figures. AlthoughLaelius outwardly conformed to the Catholic Church, he taught his nephew and others adoctrine which thoroughly contradicted basic truths which it held. Laelius had been astudent of law, but he turned to theology and from 1550-1551 he lived in Wittenberg,where he was acquainted with Philip Melancthon. During his early life, the tragedy ofMichael Servetus death in Geneva moved him to reconsider both the doctrine of the
  4. 4. 4Trinity and the Reformation view of Christs redemption, though he did not publish hisreal beliefs openly for fear of persecution. Thus, in his teaching and circle of influence,he attempted to undermine confidence in the historic teaching of the Church withoutdirectly attacking the Creeds as such. Dr. Traylor describes then the second phase of theUnitarian phenomena which began in the later part of the sixteenth century. He picks upthe story with the main player, Faustus Socinus (1539-1604), Laelus more famousnephew: . . . Faustus Paulus Socinus, 16th-century Italian antitrinarian theologian, is often regarded as the first "modern" Unitarian. He was forced to flee Italy frequently because of the charges of heresy lodged against him as a result of the expression of his position. After 1579 he spent much of his time working among the infant Unitarian societies then forming in Poland, although he encountered considerable opposition there also. Because of his influence in the development of the doctrine, Unitarians in Europe are often referred to as Socinians.4 One other bit of interesting historical lore concerns George Blandrata, aPiedmontese physician who had led a Unitarian sect in 1558 (eventually settling inPoland until 1565), spent some time in Hungary in 1563 and incited an anti-Trinitarianmovement there in which even the King himself, John Sigismund, was converted. Butthis sect of gypsy Unitarians was severely persecuted after the Kings death in 1570, andthey had no recognized religious status until 1638 when they brought forward acommon confession and were recognized as form of Protestantism.5 Closely parallelingthe Hungarian heretics were those led by Franciscus Davidus (1510-1579), who is calleda "non-adorationist" because, unlike the more reverent Blandrata, he and his followersrefused to worship Jesus Christ, Gods Son, in any meaningful sense. Davidus group
  5. 5. 5spread in a limited number of hamlets in Transylvania after 1568, and it is said thatthere are still about 170 churches there until this day.6 This early modern form of Unitarianism was also paralleled in the career of thatinfamous and tragic heretic, Michael Servetus (1511-1553). Professor Traylor continues: Michael Servetus was another prominent Unitarian proponent of the 16th cen- tury. Although he did not form a national Unitarian body as Socinus, he spread anti-trinitarian ideas throughout the Continent. A renowned Spanish medical doctor, Servetus had gained prominence as a Unitarian thinker in a 1531 article he published in which he questioned the Trinity and denied original sin. Denounced throughout Europe for his views, Servetus fled from one city to another support- ing himself through the practice of medicine. While living in Vienna in 1553 he published Christianismi resttutio, a complete denial of all Christian orthodoxy. Con- demned to death by the Roman Catholic authorities, he was burned as a heretic in Geneva later that year.7 There seems to be no doubt among Christian historians that Servetus faith wasdeep and personal, but his overall sanity seems to be debatable. Despite Servetus piety,he was not above deception, maliciousness, and outright antisocial behavior (somewhatreminiscent of the later Quakers and Spiritualists, or even modern cultist leaders in thetwentieth century). He was a radical who, on the basis of his own opinions, denied whatall other Christians, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and even the Anabaptistsaffirmed. He was a rabid controversialist, and everywhere that he went, he got intotrouble with the authorities. When he fled to Calvins Geneva in 1553, he already knewthat Calvin, no more than the Romanist authorities of Vienna, would support his attackson established Christian belief. Moreover, because he allied himself with Calvinspolitical enemies in Geneva, he threatened to undo the ongoing Reformation in that city.Finally, when this heretical "foreigner" demanded that Calvin himself be arrested as a
  6. 6. 6false accuser (a trumped up charge) and his house and goods be given to him, this wassimply too much for even gentle Jean Calvin to endure. Latourette remarks sadly: Servetus was condemned by the civil authorities on the charge that he denied theTrinity and rejected baptism, offenses punishable by death under the Justinian Code. In spite of Calvins pleas for a more merciful form of ex- ecution, Servetus was burned at the stake (October 27, 1553), crying through the flames: " O Jesus, thou Son of the God, have pity on me."8 The most ironic thing here, other than the uselessness of burning heretics, is thatwhen the circumstances (or stakes, if you will) are perilous, men seem to exhibit both ahigh Christology and sense of the value of the great transaction of Calvary. Still, thetragic death of Servetus moved others in the direction of doctrinal "latitudinarism" andcivil tolerance of religious dissent. In this case, Sebastion Castellio (1515-1563), aprofessor of Greek in Basel, was so incensed at Calvin and Geneva that he wrote his nowinfluential book, On Heretics, Whether They Ought To Be Persecuted, in which hemaintained that since no one group of Christians has a monopoly on truth, punishmentof "heretics" is premature and unjustified. While this had less influence during theReformation era, its key ideas were picked up by Enlightenment rationalists like JohnLocke and Deist writers in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Liberaland modernist theologians usually bring these things up when criticizing ProtestantOrthodoxy and the Reformation. 9 Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the Reformation leaders like Luther andCalvin were righteously anxious to protect the rediscovery of the Gospel and the gloryof Christology from spurious attacks by those indulging in a humanist hermeneutic.And thus Calvin and the Geneva Reformers, much like the Lutherans, felt an urgent
  7. 7. 7need to define confessional Christian orthodoxy, both irenically in respect to otherProtestants and polemically in respect to positions they viewed as less than Biblical.Thus, the Helvetic Confessions and the Heidelberg Confessions condemnSocianism/Unitarianism as do the Lutheran Augsburg Confession ( Articles I & III), andFormula of Concord (Epitome , Article XII, "Errors of the New Arians"; Solid Declaration,Article XII, 1.2). Even though the Lutherans and Calvinists had lengthy and hot debatesover the details of the relationship of Christs two natures in His one indivisible person,especially in respect to the Lords Supper, both fully agreed that Jesus Christ was trueGod and true man in accord with ancient Ecumenical Creeds.10 The Socianian and Unitarian "sects" of the sixteenth and early seventeenthcenturies (often referred to collectively as the "Anti-Trinitarians" or the "New Arians")had a curious history. The followers of Lelio Socino (Sozzini) and his nephew Faustus(1539-1604) moved from northern Italy to Transylvania to Poland, but nowhere warmlywelcomed by the majority of devout Christians. Eventually, they settled in Racow,Poland where they formed their own church school and published their own non-Trinitarian catechism and confession of faith (The Racovian Catechism of 1605). But as thePolish Socinian movement gained attention, they became strongly opposed by themiddle the seventeenth century, and Jesuit authorities caused the Unitarian college atRacow to be suppressed and by 1658 all Socinians were expelled from Poland. All of thedisciples of Socinius were driven out of predominantly Roman Catholic Poland, itselfnervously caught between the Orthodox Russians to the East and the LutheranPrussians of the emerging Empire to the West.11
  8. 8. 8II. Unitarianism Among British & American Protestants ca. 1675-1815. Yet, the modern chapters on the history of Unitarianism do not really focus somuch on the waning impact of the movement in Continental Europe as its spread toEngland in the late 1500s and to Colonial America in the late 1700s and afterward. Afterbeing driven out Poland, bands of Socinians found refuge at times back inTransylvanian Carpathia, the Netherlands, the Rhenish Palatine, and finally in England.Actually, for about a century pure Socinians were rare, but Socinian ideas sometimesfound a home among the more radical Arminians (Remonstrants) and Mennonites. 12 Let us now return to the article by Professor Traylor. He does not discuss howthe Unitarianism began in England (where and when), but he picks up the historicalstrain in 1774 when the former Anglican priest Theophilius Lindsey organized the firstdistinctly Unitarian congregation in Essex Chapel, London. Yet, long before this, JohnBiddle (1615-1662) is actually reckoned as the "father" of English Unitarianism since hepublished numerous anti-Trinitarian/Socinian tracts from 1658-62, and had heldevangelistic conventicles in London from 1658-1662. Obviously, Unitarianian ideas andtraditions must have existed in the previous generations before 1700. Previously,scholars had been left primarily with the speculation that perhaps a few eccentricindividuals held to this doctrine due to Radical Remonstrant and Latitudinarian strainsin the English Reformation in the previous two centuries. But recent evidence in thetwentieth century (re-evaluating some 19th century sources) has shown that there was a
  9. 9. 9definite historical link between Poland and England and Scotland in matters of hereticalChristian ideas.13 During this period one may also consider the direct or indirect impactof Herbert of Cherburys "natural religion" (De Veritate, 1625); John Tillistons"Latitudinarianism" (1630-1694), John Lockes "Rational Christianity" (The Reasonablenessof Christianity, 1693); John Tolands notorious religious historiography (Christianity NotMysterious, 1696); and most certainly, the nearly full blown Deism of Matthew Tindal(Christianity As Old As Creation, 1730). From here it really is a short leap historically andphilosophically to Voltaires anti-Christian sentiments, Jean-Jacques Rousseaus Emile,and Thomas Paines vitriolic anti-Christian tract, Age of Reason (1794).14 Yet, ironically, itwas the devout scientist and cleric, Joseph Priestley, who first publicly defendedUnitarian principles in widespread debate, following his publication of Appeal to Seriousand Candid Professors of Christianity (1770). Meanwhile in the British colonies, the Puritan epoch in American historyprobably ended sometime between 1702 and 1726, or roughly between the time thatCotton Mather published his significant historical tome, the Magnalia Christi Americanaand the celebrated printing of Samuel Willards articulate summation of Puritantheology in The Compleat Body of Divinity. At this point then came the ScientificRevolution of Sir Isaac Newton (Cf. his Principia Mathematica, 1686) and the new PoliticalPhilosophy of John Locke (1632-1704) caught on (see his Essay on Human Understanding,1690 ; his Treatise on Government, etc.). But not long afterward, for a period of at least twoif not three decades, American religion experienced the traumatic effects of the GreatAwakening with the preaching of Jonathan Edwards in Connecticut, the American tour
  10. 10. 10of George Whitefield, and the rapid growth of Presbyterian and Reformed churches inthe Middle and Southern Colonies. In one sense, Edwards preaching was itself areaction to the loss or dilution of Puritanism in the "Half-Way Covenant", but it was alsoan attempt at modifying the pure stalwart predestinarian Calvinism of the originalPuritan divines. Hence, with Edwards we have the "New Divinity" and the foundationsof Princeton University and Seminary as fiery mission outpost for Congregationalismand Presbyterianism. Yet, at the same time, not all is well.15 It is sometime then, during the early to mid-eighteenth century, thatUnitarianism is formally introduced into the American Colonial scene. Most scholarswould view the life and work of Charles Chauncy, minister of the First Church in Bostonfrom 1727-1787, as the first crucial turning point. Reverend Chauncy was to become theleading figure in the liberal or "Arminian" party of Bostonian congregationalism, and hisArminianism was itself far removed from the original Reformed ideas of the DutchRemonstrant theologian, Jacob Arminius, who had lived in the first half of the previouscentury in Holland. Though his family heritage had been that of conservativePuritanism, Chauncy moved to what he viewed as a much more enlightened position onChristianity for his times. He not only was an outspoken critic of the "Great Awakening"in the early decades of the century, but he also was a most thoroughgoing opponent ofthe intellectual and spiritual thrust of Jonathan Edwards. In his person he reveals thesteady if barely perceptible transformation of New England Christianity toward"Arianism", "Universalism", and "Arminianism" ( i.e., a much more optimistic view ofhuman nature).16
  11. 11. 11 Thus in America (and the later early United States), Unitarian sentiments seemedto grow with the demise of Puritan and Reformed Biblicism, suffering the attacks ofDeism from abroad and at home. And, as Traylor correctly states, there were numerousUnitarians in late eighteenth century America. He marks as the official beginning oforganized Unitarianism with the 1785 congregational meeting at Kings Chapel,Boston.17 This a particularly interesting situation, because in 1782 the Episcopalianproprieters of the Chapel had invited the youthful James Freeman, a recent Harvardgraduate to serve as liturgical reader. But then, in deference to Freemans Unitarianscruples, they had eliminated all references to the Trinity from the liturgy and omittedthe reading of the Athanasian and Nicene creeds. Thus, the first Unitarian congregationwas formed. Traylor explains the perhaps second most important set of events in thenext decade: . . . English minister and chemist Joseph Priestly was the most prominent Uni- tarian of that period, arriving in 1794 from England where his support of the French Revolution had stirred hatred. A follower of Lindsey, he continued to pursue his two-faceted career of medical research and the preaching of Uni- tarian doctrines until his death in 1804. 18 Two of the most famous Unitarians in the early American Republic were, ofcourse, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both U.S. Presidents. Adams was the more"evangelical" (i.e., Bible and Gospel based) of the two. There was also Benjamin Franklin,statesman and philosopher, who fits in somewhere along the Unitarian to Deistspectrum. 19
  12. 12. 12III. Unitarianism Among British Baptists, ca. 1650-1815. But now we turn from the Introduction to our main topic, the growth ofUnitarianism among the Baptists in Great Britain and in America during the laterseventeenth century and through the eighteenth. The significance of thesedevelopments, of course, spill over into the early nineteenth century, which will besketched out briefly in the conclusion of this paper. According to historians favorable to Unitarianism (McLachlan, Robinson,Wilbur, etc.) the growth of anti-Trinitarianism in England was not a direct result ofDutch Anabaptist influences, but they do acknowledge that Dutch influences were notneglible in mediating Socinian (Unitarian) beliefs.20 These developments antedated theheretical work of John Bidle, previously mentioned, more than fifty years. During theearly reign of James I, Bartholomew Legate was burned at the stake in Smithfield and hisbrother Thomas perished at Newgate prison in 1607. They were reckoned by theAnglican authorities as Anabaptists of anti-Trinitarian sentiments.21 H.L. McLachlanfurthermore explains the important influence of Dutch sectarians and the more radicalEnglish Separatists on the development of Socinianism among the early Baptists: Early in 1624 a certain Elias Tookey led a small secession (seventeen in all) of people out of the first Baptist church in London, originally founded by Thomas Helwys and John Murton on their return from Amsterdam in 1613 [ or (1611? ) writers note!]. Before long this small small group meeting at Southwark, feel- ing isolated, sought to be received into communion by the Waterlander Baptist Church at Amsterdam, a liberal wing of the Mennonite Baptists which based its doctrines on the Scripture and in general was opposed to the use of creeds and formularies. Apparently, some members of Tookeys church held rather unorth- odox ideas on the deity of Christ, and felt that the Waterlanders, with their tol- erant attitude towards differences in doctrinal matters, were the group of2
  13. 13. 13 Christians most nearly kin to them in spirit. Correspondence still extant in the archives of the Amsterdam Mennonites shows that though none of none of Tookeys congregation explicitly denied the deity of Christ, never- theless on this subject there were ‘two or three who have a somewhat dif- ferent opinion than we maintain in general, though we think that after all it comes to the same end. Several letters passed between London and Am- sterdam, and the Waterlanders put the question how they were to under- stand the words of their English colleagues, viz., We do not compel one to believe of Christ what we do, but bear with each other. They wished to ed to know whether this was said only of the origin of Christs body, or whether it covers covers the article of the deity of Christ. To this pointed inquiry Elias Tookey and sincere friends 18 in number living in London, March 17, 1625 , replied. They admitted differences of opinion, but said that they could bear with each other in peace , for Christian tolerance was a better preservative against discord in the Church than minute ex- aminations, limitations, censures, and condemnations only for opinion . They claimed that they held the same belief as the Mennonites upon the deity of Christ, unless you would compel us to believe three different per- sons in the Deity which manner of speaking is not found in the Scriptures .22 McLachlan further notes that the incipient Socinianism here with its criticism ofthe doctrine of the Trinity is not that of Bidle and his followers in the mid-sixteenthcentury. While he views it as merely a rejection of the categories of Medieval scholastictheology, he yet tacitly acknowledges that the little circle in Tookeys congregation andtheir Mennonite correspondents were promoting " a kind of Modalism. "23Unfortunately, some of the early General Baptists imitated what they believed to be"Biblical" among the Dutch Anabaptists and Quakers such as not taking oaths, pacifism,civil non-involvement , etc. And along with these less harmful sectarian tendencies alsoabsorbed some of other weaknesses of the more radical Anabaptists in theology. A.C.Underwood offers both a caution and a clarification here : . . . On the other hand, that weakness on the question of the Incarnation, which afflicted the General Baptists, and the way in which Matthew Caffyn absorbed certain points of the Hoffmannite Christology, seem to be due to persistent Mennonite influences . . . . Where there are so many probabilities to be weighed, it is not wise to be
  14. 14. 14 too dogmatic. One point which must never be forgotten is that " there were were two kinds of Anabaptists, the sober and the fanatical. Failure to make this distinction has done mischief and caused modern Baptists to deny their connection to the Reformation, whereas they are the lineal descendents of the sober kind and have no reason to be ashamed of their predecessors. " This distinction was evidently in the mind of Troletsch when he suggested that the counterpart in England of more extreme continental Anabaptists is the confused medley of radical sects, which sprang to life during the Com- monwealth and caused Cromwell so much trouble. The General Baptist re- presented the the more moderate form of the Anabaptist Movement, with characteristic differences due to a different milieu. In England the sober va- riety appeared before the more extreme, because the common man had to wait a hundred years before got a real chance of taking his share in the Re- formation Movement. . . .24 Again, McLachlan observes that throughout both of the reigns of the first twoStuarts (James I and Charles I), many English students resorted to Dutch Universitieswhere they picked up both Arminian and Socinian ideas, especially at Leiden. Thissteady influx of new and often heretical views soon moved Archbishop Laud (not afriend to either Separatists or Baptists) to pass censures on émigré religious literatureand by 1640 to begin to pass his Canons against the Socinian heresy. Thisunderstandable but desperate measure was frustrated by the widespread general dissentagainst the Established Church, however.25 About the same time (in 1639) a certain Dr.Samuel Johnson, chaplain to the Queen of Bohemia at the Hague was accused ofcommending and propagating the writings of known Socinians. This Dr. Johnson (notthe later famous English literary critic) complained that he had been misrepresented, butMcLachlans research indicates he was quite sympathetic to the new heresy.26 The story of the development and growth of the Socinian/Unitarian heresyamong the Anglicans, Presbyterians, and the Independents is an interesting one, but the
  15. 15. 15focus here is on those English and later American Baptists who were already influencedby the trends which have been discussed.27 It is said that during the Commonwealth era(ca. 1638-1660) that Baptists like Paul Hobson became acquainted with Socinianliterature, and sympathized with its insistence on a purely Scriptural basis for theology,and liberal rationalism.28 Later, the writer shall raise serious doubts about the firstrationale, and shall show that the second one is the abandonment of Gods revealedauthority and truth. During the period of John Bidles arrest and trial for making a public denial ofthe deity of Jesus Christ in 1648, some Baptists who had suffered for their particularChristian beliefs, began to perceive that the official suppression of Socinianism wasanother example of persecution of those desiring religious liberty. But the controversy ofWilliam Kiffin with the Anglican authorities over Infant Baptism was really aninternicene controversy among Christians over a less absolutely vital doctrine of theGospel. John Bidles Socinian propaganda which denied Christs deity and theIncarnation, was undercutting the foundation of Christian society and believing cultureitself. Yet, the harshness and frequent hypocrisy of the English State and Church inpersecuting and punishing Bidle in Newgate prison (already infamous for being theresidence of many Non-conformists and Baptists), moved some previously orthodoxBaptists to identify Trinitarian belief with oppression and to strongly protest against theState forcing people to believe or confess against their will.29 Yet, many Baptists (andother genuine Christians) in the twentieth century might be more sympathetic to thetheologically seasoned wisdom of Oliver Cromwell whose ears were burned by the
  16. 16. 16petition and who sternly lectured the protestors about rightful restraint of unbelievers.30And three years exile and restriction of liberties (which was merciful for the time), Bidlewas granted a writ of habeas corpus by the Kings Bench at Westminster and he was set atliberty in 1658. But in 1662, after preaching and teaching his Socinianism in London, andwinning the support of philanthropists like Thomas Firmin and barristers such as JohnFarrington, Restoration authorities (undoubtably pressed by Presbyterians in theParliament) brought about his last arrest at small meeting in London. Bidle later diedfrom stark and unsanitary conditions in the notorious Newgate in September, 1662. Tohis Socinian disciples, and probably to some Baptists, he appeared to be a Christianmartyr.31 And the influence of his circle and his religious publications affected manyEnglish sects and would some be the immediate catalyst of the cancer of Socinianismwithin the General Baptists. Early Baptists (like early Quakers) with their aversions to creeds, early ChurchCouncils, and especially to eccesiastical powers wedded to the State, may have beensetting themselves a treacherous loophole for unorthodox beliefs. 32 According toMcLachan, there were Baptists in Bath and Bristol in 1644 who held unorthodoxChristology. This claim is based on a letter reprinted in Thomas Edwards Gangraena: ora Catalogue of Many of the Errours, Heresies, and Pernicous Practices of the Secretaries of thisTime (London, 1646), who was an Anglican critic of the Baptists, who may have lackedobjectivity here (as he reckoned Anabaptists and Baptists virtually the same).Supposedly, however, a minister in the Army had reported the rise of "two newOpinions . . . . among the Anabaptists there, viz. 1. That Christs humane nature is
  17. 17. 17defiled with Original sin, as well as ours. 2. That there is but one person in the Divinenature. "33 Some even maintained that the absence of the word "Trinity" in the 1660Baptist Confession of Faith, gave standing room to anti-Trinitarianism, but this chargenineteenth century Baptist historian Adam Taylor vehemently denied. However, Taylordid admit that there were some individual Baptists in Kent and Sussex " who early beginto puzzle themselves with attempting to explain the mysteries of the incarnation." 34 Andit is here we turn to the case of Matthew Caffyn and his followers. Matthew Caffyn (1628-1714) was born and raised in Sussex, but we do not knowa great deal about his early life as a youth. Probably, as a young man he shewed promisein learning, for we find him as a student at Oxford in the 1640s (during the Interregnum).Then in 1645, after being expelled from Oxford for his doctrinal views, he joined theGeneral Baptist Church at Horsham and became, for some years, a Messenger inSouthern England. Yet, even while at Oxford this very young man employed his intellectin puzzling over imponderable and inexplicable matters about God and Christ, whichwould soon lead him into the realms of Socinian and Arian heresy. 35 Soon, according toAdam Taylor, this young Baptist preacher concluded to his own satisfaction that thedoctrine of the Trinity must not be correct.36 In the later 1640s, Caffyn became the pastorof the Baptist Church at Horsham in Sussex; there he began to preach and teach his newunderstanding of Christology. He also began to openly publish his views in the 1650sand later. He was definitely opposed to the classic Athanasian Creed, and in Taylorsestimation, he was " a rational skeptic ". McLachlan observes that he " possibly adopted
  18. 18. 18several of Melchior Hoffmans views " which had already been deemed highlyheretical.37 It seems that at first he doubted Christs deity, then later he flatly denied it. Inhis later life, he was happy to adopt the prespective of the Socinians that Christ wasmerely a very good man. Underwoods summary is apt: " [He] passed from denying thereality of Our Lords Human Nature to a denial of His Deity ".38 His views twice split theGeneral Assembly in the 17th and 18th centuries. As early as 1686 Caffyns devianttheological views were challenged by Joseph Wright, the pastor at Maidstone (who was,for a time, a close personal friend). He brought charges against him before the GeneralAssembly, accused him of the double heresy of denying both the humanity and the deityof Christ, and asked for his expulsion. Yet Caffyn made an eloquent verbal defense ofhimself and was exonerated, while brother Wright was censured for a " want of charity." This led Caffyn to proclaim his heretical views ever more broadly and openly. Then in1693, heresy charges were again brought against Caffyn, but once more the GeneralAssembly refused to deal with situation. This led to the first split of the General Baptists.The more orthodox splinter group at that time published their manifesto as " TheReasons of our Separation from the General Assembly ".39 Finally, we shall see that from1693 until 1731, the two General Baptist denominations co-existed (not alwayspeacefully!) until an effort was made to re-unite on the basis of the Six Principles ofHebrews 6:1-2 some twenty years after Caffyns death. The second "split" (or reordering)came as a result of the Salters Hall Controversy in 1719 with the two sides being knownas the Subscribers (Trinitarian) and the Nonsubscribers (Non-Trinitarians [mostly]).
  19. 19. 19 Besides Matthew Caffyn, the other important advocate of Socinianist notions wasPaul Hobson, a General Baptist, whose work flourished between 1646-1666, the year ofhis death. The writer has not been able to determine his exact birth day and informationabout his youth and education is beyond sketchy. Thomas Edwards described Hobsonas a "chirchugeon" in London, and he was associated with the establishment of a BaptistChurch at Crutched Friars in 1639 (which doubtlessly means he was born ca. 1620 orearlier). He also signed the First London (Baptist) Confession in 1644. According toMcLachlan, he had moved his way up through the ranks of the Parliamentary army andattained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and that he preached in various places in thecountryside as his regiment moved.40 Eventually, he left the army and settled down atSacristan, near Chester-le-Street as a retired gentleman. During Oliver Cromwells laterProtectorate, he was connected to the Northumberland and Durham Baptists, and held afellowship and chaplaincy at Eton from 1654-1660, though he was often absent doingevangelism. When the Restoration came, he was to suffer several arrests in connexionwith conspiracies against the government, and thus, he was eventually imprisoned inAugust, 1663, first in the London Tower and later Chepstow. Then, finally, he wasreleased in April 1665, on the condition he migrate to the Carolina Colony. Little more isheard of him, but he probably died before immigrating as his will was probated in thePrerogative Court of Cantebury on June 13, 1666.41 Paul Hobsons writings reveal both a kind of evangelical fervor and yet astrongly rationalistic strain. One of his early tracts is entitled Practical Divinity: or, a Helpethrough the blessing of God to lead men to look within themselves (1646) which reveals the
  20. 20. 20practical mysticism of Hobson. His diary and autobiography, written during the periodof his last imprisonment, was printed in 1664 and it contains many details of his life.Apparently, he had spent some time with Socinian friends in France and then withothers in Newcastle and Durham. He had also, according to his own testimony,travelled over the Sea to Holland.42 However, when he returned from Holland, he wasnot admitted to the Durham Baptist meeting for worship, because he had begun toquestion the validity of Gospel Ordinances . His views on prayer, though an asidefrom his Christology, are interesting; he believed that prayer was a duty, but that it doesnot change or alter God, but only changes the Christian so that we fit Gods will. Hesaid, " So prayer is the Language of God in us, not to alter God, but us. " 43 This writercannot accept McLachlans judgment that " Hobsons Christology is purely Scriptural, "but his gist of Hobsons Socinian views is correct as follows: . . . The relationship of Christ to God is described by him quite simply as a bond of nature in the highest degree; for he was his Son (Psalm ii.7, Heb. V.5), his only Son; they were united in Affection, see upon Gods side in Matt. iii.17 – " This is my beloved Son ". So on Christs -- " his Fathers Will was his Will . . . . " & c. Christ stood related to God as the chiefest and eminestest object of His Delight . Here we find no discussion of the two natures of Christ, no mention of the Trinity, no references to the existing schemes of theology. Christ is Gods Son and the relationship is, accordingly, natural and non-metaphysical. The Holy Holy Spirit is, accordingly, not a Person of the Trinity but Gods activity in the world.44 Hobsons Baptist contemporaries and others, unlike himself, saw his teachings asunorthodox, and his Socinian view on the Atonement was likewise disturbing. Heaccepted only Christs death as the Reconciliation of the sinful world to the Father, buthe denied there was satisfaction for sin.45 His failure to take the Scriptures
  21. 21. 21grammatically and literally led him to affirm Universal Salvation but also to posit theImmortality of the Soul as demanded by both the Bible and Natural Reason. McLachlanadmits that Hobson was entirely oblivious to the fact that his views were held bydreadful heretics, and that his own Baptist colleagues responded to him in severestcriticism. He notes that " in 1654 letters passed between Newcastle and Hexham over hisunconverted state, and the Hexham minister warning the Newcastle Baptists againsttheir fellow-communicant. "46 Hobson was an eccentric figure among the seventeenth-century Baptists, what some call a "rare bird" (rara avis) indeed, who was totallyunorthodox in his understanding of justification and redemption and who was strictlysubordinationist and non-Trinitarian in his Christology. In the eighteenth century, his ilkwas multiplied in large numbers among the General Baptists. One key link between the strongly incipient Socinianism of the seventeenthcentury and the brashly triumphant Socinianism (Unitarianism) of the eighteenthcentury runs through an elite circle of urban English Baptists and their political andphilosophical supporters. Here the reference is to John Gale (1680-1721), James Foster(1697-1753), and the polymath William Whiston (1667-1752). Although there were anumber of lesser figures in among the General Baptists in the late seventeenth century(and early eighteenth), and a number of equally significant figures among the Anglicans,Independents, and Presbyterians, these three men were a core of "evangelical" Baptistswho were deceived by the intellectual allurements of Socinianizing theology. John Gale was son of a General Baptist minister in London, born on May 26,1680. His father, Nathaniel Gale, was a propertied gentleman who had holdings in the
  22. 22. 22West Indies. This situation allowed him to receive a first-rate education, first in thebetter preparatory schools of Britain and then as young man at the University of Leidenin the winter of 1697. He was already proficient in the Greek and Latin classics and hadlearned Hebrew as a youth. By the July 3, 1699, his gifts had made it possible for him toreceive both the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, a phenomenal achievement. After graduationfrom Leiden, he spent time in Amsterdam in the company of the Arminian scientistsLimborch and Le Clerc. Returning to London in ca. 1700, he continued to pursue hisstudies in private, focusing especially on Biblical exegesis and Patristics. Hisaccomplishments were such that his alma mater in Holland offered to bestow on him thehonor of the Doctor of Divinity in 1703, but he declined because of his preference for amoderate Arminianism and his dislike for the hard Calvinism of the Synod of Dort.While at Leiden, or shortly after he had already published his four tomes of InquisitioPhilosophica Inauguralis de Lapide Solis (1699), and before age twenty-seven he had writtenhis second major work, Reflections on Mr. Walls History of Infant Baptism (1706), amanuscript which he had seen, five years before its publication (1711). Gale was aprecocious linguist and logical theologian, and his elite mental acumen drew him intothe orbits of those like William Whiston, Sir Isaac Newton, and others. Yet, he was,nevertheless, a Dissenter, and the son of a Baptist.47 Eventually, too, he was named as thechairman of Whistons " Society for Promoting Primitive Christianity ", and as we shallsee, became identified in the Salters Hall controversy, as a "non-subscriber."48 The next important link for understanding the development of the Socinianheresy among Baptists of the seventeenth and eighteenth century is Reverend James
  23. 23. 23Foster (1697-1753). His work also supplies a connection between the non-Subscribers atthe Salters’ Hall controversy, Baptist Unitarians, and the later English Deists. Foster wasborn on September 16. 1697 in Exeter, the son of minister of Kettering,Northamptonshire. He was well-educated , having attented the free school at Exeter andlater the academy there by Joseph Hallet. He began to preach at age twenty-one and hisentrance into the work of ministry coincided with the spread of Arianism among thedissenters in the western counties. This was in 1718, and only one year later, thesedissenters among the Baptists, Congegationalists, Independents, and Presbyterians,desiring to make a declaration of their biblical “orthodoxy” lead to the Salters’ Hallconference. This led to expulsion two friends of Foster, James Peirce and Joseph Hallet(d. 1722), from their Exeter congregations.49 When the latter challenge came, Fosterreadily took the side of the non-Subscribers. Foster’s congregation at Exeter (much totheir credit, we think!) found his doctrinal opinions offensive, and thus he soon accepteda call from the congregation at Milbourne Port in Somersetshire. Yet this church alsoproved to be too orthodox for him, so he moved into the house of a certain NicholasBillingsley, a sympathizer, who lived at Ashwick, under the Mendip Hills. From therehe preached for two small congregations at Colesford and Wokey, near Wells, for aminuscle salary of 15l per year. After being here at short time, he moved on toTrowbridge, Wiltshire, where he roomed in a glover’s quarters and pastored acongregation of fifteen to twenty persons. Foster did preach strongly on the Resurrectionof Christ in 1720 and he published one sermon on this topic. Later the same year hepublished an Essay on Fundamentals in which he argued that the doctrine of the Trinity
  24. 24. 24should not be regarded as essential to Christianity. In the appendix to this book, he isbelieved by most to prove his Arian leanings. Around the same time, he was baptized byJohn Gale in London and became a Baptist. For a time, because his means were solimited, he considered becoming a glover, but in about 1722, Mr. Robert Houlton, choseFoster as his domestic chaplain. Finally, in 1724, he was chosed as a colleague of JosephBurroughs to serve at the Barbican Chapel, following John Gale (mentioned previously)and Isaac Kimber (1692-1755). A.C. Underwood remarks on his pastoral and theologicalcommitments at this time: . . . He wrote against the Deists but was himself a rationalistic Socinian. He was accounted the best preacher in London. The wits, free-thinkers, clergy, and per- sons of quality went to hear him. It was a proverbial saying that “ those who had not heard Farinelli sing and Foster preach, were not qualified to appear in genteel society. ” [Later, N.B.] The Marischal College, Aberdeen, made him a Doctor of Divinity. When he had Socinianised the Barbican Church, it was said that Gale “ had labored” and Foster had “entered into his labours.” After these these remarkable doctrinal fluctuations the church was dissolved in 1768.50 Being something of a man ahead of his time (in a good sense), Foster frequentlygave Sunday evening lectures at the old Jewry, and was an eloquent preacher. But bothhis lectures and preaching were highly controversial. As already observed, he did writeagainst the Deists, for example, he made a famous reply to Matthew Tindal’s essay,Christianity as Old as the Creation in 1731. This essay, entitled The Usefulness, Truth, andExcellency of the Christian Religion defended against Matthew Tindal , however, allowedmany of the premises of Deism to be accepted as valid. Later in 1735, he wrote replies totwo “Letters” by Henry Stebbing in which he maintained that intellectual errors aboutGod are essentially “innocent”. Foster’s career and fame continued to prosper in a
  25. 25. 25worldly fashion and in 1744 he was called from the Barbican Church to the pastorate ofthe General Baptist Church at Pinners’ Hall. Foster also visited the condemned LordKilmarnock in the Tower in 1746 and administered the Lord’s Supper to him previous tohis execution. Shortly afterward he published an account of their discussion and showedhimself to be sympathetic to the rebellious noble. For this indiscretion he was severelyattacked by orthodox Baptist pastors and others who suggested that he was willing toaccept the Pretended in order to get rid of the Test Act, as some non-Conformists inearlier days had been willing to submit to James II. This attack was unfair, and made bypeople who really had other motives for disapproving of Foster’s ministerial actions.Foster was prodigious writer of sermons and essays and his sermons were published infour volumes from 1744 to 1752 (Collected Sermons) and went through five editions. Healso published two volumes of controversial theology or apologetics from his Socinian(Baptist) perspective entitled Discourses on all the Principal Branches of Natural Religion andSocial Virtue (in 1749 and 1752), which sold at least two thousand copies. Foster’s healthwas bad, and the strain of controversy brought on a stroke in April 1750 and then asecond one in July 1753. He then died from his bodily frailties on November 5, 1753.51 One more comment about Foster must be made. It is said of James Foster that hewas a man of generosity and stout moral character, and that he even refused onprinciple a generous offer of an Irish church from Bishop Rundle. Yet, as a Baptist,Foster had moved far beyond Biblical Christianity and had embraced rationalism,although he viewed it religiously. And though he debated with Tindal and the otherhard Deists, he himself accepted much of the Deist approach to religion. Sir Leslie
  26. 26. 26Stephen, as he concludes his fine article on Foster which has been amply cited remarks :“ In his sermons (volume of 1733, i. 175) occurs a characteristic phrase quoted byBolingbroke and Savage (Gentlemans Magazine, v. 213): ‘ Where mystery begins, religionends. ’ ” 52 Previous to the eighteenth century theological work of William Whiston andSamuel Clark, there were many strands which led to the Salters’ Hall Controversy. TheBaptist Socinians were only part of it, yet they were an important and dynamic part.Below is a classified list of some crucial anti-Trinitarian thinkers:Thinker Location Church Affliation Date1. Gilbert Clerke, Northampshire. Anglican, Non-conformist. Late 17th Cent. (Mathematician)2. Noval of Tydd. St. Giles near Wisbech. Independent. Late 17th Cent. (Pastor)3. Thomas Firmin, publisher. London. Sabellian, Non-conformist. Late 17th Cent.4. William Freke. London. Arian. Late 17th Cent.5. John Smith. St. Augustines, London. Socinian. Late 17th Cent. (philomath6. Henry Hedworth. London. Socinian. Late 17th Century. - disciple of John Biddle.7. William Manning. Peasenhall. Independent. (1630-1711).53 When the Toleration Act of 1689 was passed, the leavening effects of almost acentury of anti-Trinitarianism began to publicly manifest itself among the churches ofEngland, beginning with the Anglicans themselves, then with the Baptists,Independents, and Presbyterians. As early as 1690, Arthur Bury, a Latitudinarianminister, lost his rectorship at Lincoln College, Oxford for his Socinian tract, the NakedGospel. Soon this was followed by steady stream of theological pamphlets on both sides
  27. 27. 27(John Wallis, William Jones, etc.). Eventually, this development lead to the publication ofthe Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity briefly Explained by Jones. About the same time WilliamSherlock, a rationalist theologian, published his Vindication of the Holy and ever BlessedTrinity. Then the controversy led to yet another attack from Robert South with hisAnimadversions upon Dr. Sherlocks Vindication. Then another strain of controversialistsentered into the fray and the collection was published as The Faith of one God Who is onlythe Father (1691). As the controversy deepened it dissolved the fraternal bonds of good-will among the Independents (Congregationalists) and the Presbyterians and it began tomanifest itself in several places among the General Baptists, particularly with MatthewCaffyn, the pastor at Horsham, Sussex, who was accused for a second time before the"Baptist General Assembly" of denying Christs deity in 1693. As the vote was onwhether or not to expel Caffyn, a secession of many of the more orthodox andevangelically Biblical Baptists produced the " General Baptist Association. " In the sameyear a second huge anthology of anti-Trinitarian essays appeared as a Second Collectionof Tracts proving the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only True God. Then, in1694, John Howe, a Presbyterian, entered the fight with his tract, Calm and Sober Inquiryagainst the tenth (and last) tract of the collection just noted. The struggle had becometriangular and circular and, mostly, vicious and hot !54 Yet, this first phase of the Trinitarian (or more properly, Socinian) controversycame to a logical end in 1708, having received its principle deathblow in 1698 by an actof the crown which aimed to suppress blasphemy and profaness (and this legal restraintremained on the English statute books until 1813). It is possible that both John Locke and
  28. 28. 28Sir Isaac Newton contributed to the anti-Trinitarian tracts as anonymous authors.Newton together with William Whiston and others was either a Semi-Arian or full-fledged Socinian according to some scholars. Before 1710, no official representatives ofeither the Anglicans or the Non-Conformist Churches had endorsed either side of theissue. Yet, the circumstances of the era and continued agitation from "famous" preachersand learned men brought in the various denominations with the Baptists,Congregationalists, and Presbyterians right at the heart of the struggle. Theological trialswere beginning: Matthew Caffyns case divided the Baptists in 1693; in Dublin, Ireland,Thomas Emlyn was tried by the Presbyterians for Arianism. There was only an eeriepause before the storm . . . . Then in 1710, the tempest came, and the fierce winds blew. The ArianControversy proper had come to England and it would led to Salters Hall in 1719 andbeyond. It would nearly destroy the General Baptists until they were saved by theMethodist revival and Daniel Taylor and the "New Connexion" in 1770. The new phaseopened with the steady blast of William Whistons Historical Preface (1710) which wassoon prefixed to volumes on Primitive Christianity (1711, 4 Volumes). Later, ReverendSamuel Clarke would publish his bombshell, The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity in 1712.Still, before discussing these developments further, it is time to more closely look atWilliam Whiston himself, who became the third center of feverish inflammation of theBaptists infected with the Socinian disease. It would seem on the surface of things that for creating the greatest controversyover heresy among eighteenth century Baptists there never was more of an unlikely
  29. 29. 29candidate than William Whiston. Yet, Whiston brought the local controversies of Caffyn,Gale, and Foster into the consciousness of English Baptists over the land because of hisimportant connections to Cambridge University and because of his important role inEnglish science and politics in the early eighteenth century. Who was William Whiston ? Whiston was a brilliant Englishman whose datesspan the latter half of the seventeenth century and the better half of the eighteenth(1667-1752). He was born at Norton near Twycross, Leicestershire. He was the son of anAnglican minister and was home-schooled by his father (a competent teacher,apparently) until he was nearly seventeen. Then he spent a short time at TamworthGrammar School. Then in 1686, he was admitted to Clare Hall, Cambridge where hequalified for the B.A. in 1690 and earned his M.A. by 1693, after being elected as a Fellowin 1691. About this same time he was encouraged by a friend, David Gregory, to studyIsaac Newtons Principia and to pursue mathematics. He intended to return toCambridge as a don and to accept mathematics pupils, but frail health made him giveup teaching at this time. William Lloyd ordained Whiston at Lichfield in 1695, and thenin 1699 he married Ruth Antrobus. During this same period he was active both as achaplain to the bishop of Norwich from 1694-1698 and he worked as an astronomer andnatural scientist. In 1696 he published his first major work, A New Theory of the Earth.Although a fairly devout Bible believer, he nevertheless maintained that the Biblicalaccounts of Creation, the Flood, and so on could be scientifically explained inNewtonian terms with scientific descriptions of events with historical bases (mostChristians at this time would not have necessarily objected to this per se). His theory
  30. 30. 30about the Flood was a little quirky, as he claimed that a comet smashed into the Earth ina catastrophic way. In 1698 Whiston obtained his first vicarage at Lowenstoft-with-Kissingland in Suffolk. But his scientific genius was recognized, and his earlypublications and essays were read by Sir Isaac Newton with keen interest. Later,however, he and Newton would have a falling out over their differing interpretations ofBiblical chronology. Also, Whistons cosmology left more room than Newtons for direct(and miraculous) intervention by God. But, in 1701, Whiston resigned his vicarage andtook up his appointment as Newtons assistant professor at Cambridge. There hepublished on mathematics and physics, producing a usable edition of Euclid for hisstudents. He also continued to publish on cosmology and Bible interpretation. In 1703, following Newtons graceful resignation from Cambridge, he succeededhis illustrious mentor as the Lucasian professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.Together with Roger Cotes, who was the Plumian professor from 1706, Whistonconducted important joint research along Newtonian lines and created some brilliantscientific hypotheses of his own. Yet more and more, his searching mind was drawnback to questions of God and the Holy Scripture. His reason was puzzled with thedoctrine of the Trinity, and like Caffyn, Gale, and Foster, he begin to follow an Arianand a Socinian path of thought. When it became known to the Cambridge authoritiesthat he publicly questioned the Trinity, he was deprived of his professorial chair in 1710.In the next few years he was in London where a court was being set up and his trial bythe Lord Chancellor was expected. But foreign wars and the death of Queen Anne in1714 brought the end of the legal proceedings against him. Not one to remain mentally
  31. 31. 31or physically inactive, Whiston became instrumental in establishing the Board ofLongitude in England and for the next forty years he spent considerable time in study ofthis problem while giving occasional public lectures and courses on astronomy, physics,and , as has been noted, engaging in many theological controversies. Chiefly important, as previously observed, was his Historical Preface and hisPrimitive Christianity Revived (4 Vols., 1711). Ironically, while Whiston was quite aclassical scholar as well as a scientist, his whole basis for his major theological was morehis own anti-Trinitarian prejudice than rigorous historical research. His PrimitiveChristianity was based on the Apostolical Constitutions, an ancient writing which Whistonbelieved to have been published in the late first century, but was actually a latecompilation of various Eastern Church fathers in ca. 340-380. But , heretic or no, Whistonwas a man of integrity, and he believed that he had rediscovered a "primitive" UnitarianChristianity predating the Council of Nicea in 325 and the "corruption" of RomanCatholic Christianity. From 1710 until the 1740s he remained virtually poor and lived offa small income from a little farm near Newmarket together with his lecture fees. Helectured mostly in the coffee-houses of London and sometimes conducted scientificexperiments which astounding his audience, much as Joseph Priestley and MichaelFaraday would do later. While he never solved the problem of longitude, he didcomplete a famous translation of Josephus used until the late twentieth century. While William Whiston remained a believer in supernaturalism and theinspiration of the Bible, he was definitely heretical about the Trinity and remained eithera Semi-Arian or Socinian until his death. However, in 1747, after much deliberation, he
  32. 32. 32left the Anglican Church and was baptized by James Foster into the Baptist fold. Itremains a lively historical question whether the Baptists gained or lost with hisendorsement of "believers baptism" since neither Whiston nor Foster represented theTrinitarian commitments of the early Baptist confessions in the seventeenth century.55 The larger background of the Salters Hall controversy involves matters whichcannot be entered into here like the struggle of the Anglican High Church officials andthe Tory party against the various Non-Conformists and the Whigs. Controversies wereat once economic, political, social and theological and it would be difficult to do justiceto all the significant developments in the historical background of the era of Tolerationafter 1689 until the time of the Hanoverian dynasty of George II in 1727. 56 Selbie,discussing the decline and compromising lethargy of the Non-Conformists in the earlyeighteenth century, asserts that coming of a new wave of Socinianism and Unitarianismcontributed to low spiritual ebb of the time. His account leaves out much that wascovered above, but he does explore the immediate factors leading into Salters Hall andprovides the essential details about it. He writes as follows: But there was yet another cause which contributed to the same result. In 1712 one Thomas Emlyn, a minister in Dublin, wrote a book confessing a very mild type of Unitarianism. He was prosecuted, fined a thousand pounds, and impris- oned till the fine should be paid. The case excited some attention and was the be- ginning of the renewal of the Unitarian controversy. The trouble began in Exeter, where one James Pierce, a man of great ability and influence, with two or three other Presbyterian ministers, was suspected of Arianism. After discussions in the Assembly of Devon and Cornwall, the matter was referred to seven ministers, who, on the advice of some of their brethren in London, drew up a kind of ultima- tum for the direction of the managers of the Exeter churches. Meanwhile the ques- tion was being discussed in London. A meeting of the general body of Dissenters was held in Salters Hall, at which it appeared that there were many London mini- sters who were in sympathy with the Exeter heretics. When at a further meeting, an attempt was made to obtain the assent of those present to a declaration of belief belief in Doctrines of the Trinity and Divinity of our Lord, the company at once
  33. 33. 33 divided into subscribers and non-subscribers. Each then constituted their own assembly, the large majority of the nonsubscribers being Presbyterians, while the subscribing assembly consisted mainly of Congregationalists and Baptists under the leadership of Thomas Bradbury. This division marked a real doctrin- al rupture between Congregationalists and Presbyterians. The non-subscribers repudiated Arianism, but many of them later became Unitarians and were the founders of the Unitarian denomination, while eighteen or twenty of them, un- der some curious process of reaction, signed the Thirty-Nine Articles and joined the Church of England.57 It is not really an exaggeration to state that the Salters Hall controversy severelyaffected Baptists and other dissenting (evangelical) groups for the next seventy-fiveyears. Indeed, in the larger context of modern British and American Unitarianism, itwas one the historic milestones of the last three centuries. From the writers view, thetotal effect has been negative and devastating in many quarters of the Christian world, apreview of the disastrous things to come such as French and British Deism, DarwinianEvolution, the Higher Criticism of the Bible, and modern Skeptical Atheism. But for theBaptists (as with other evangelical Christians such as the Congregationalists andPresbyterians), the remainder of the eighteenth century and even much of the laternineteenth century proved to be a theological challenge, and the passion for the historicGospel and evangelical missions would require several mighty revivals of God andselfless defense and propagation of Christianity by many faithful soldiers of Christ. Butit was a fight both within and without the institutional churches thereafter and even inthe contemporary times we are still struggling against the same forces of humanisticrationalism and unbelief disguised as "religious philosophy". Immediately after the Subscription controversy, the General Baptists wereinternally divided and many Baptists were eventually lost to Unitarianism. James Foster,
  34. 34. 34for example, became a Congregationalist with growing Unitarian sentiments. In 1735-7he had previously noted controversy with a Rev. Henry Stebbing, in which he assertedessentially that differing opinions on the Trinity and Christology were "innocent".Finally, Foster found life too hot among the few believing General Baptists and wentover to the Independents (Congregationalists), becoming in 1744 the pastor of theIndependent Church at Pinners Hall. And while Foster denounced Deism and"infidelity", he had left Biblical and Baptist confession far behind. The same was true ofWilliam Whiston. The "Happy Union" of the Baptists, Congregationalists, andPresbyterians which had seemed so promising in 1690 and the beginning of theeighteenth century was a thing of the past and these churches were divided bothexternally from each other and internally among themselves on the issues of the Trinity,subscription, and the growing Calvinism-Arminianism debate.58 What some saw as anissue of Christian liberty was at its heart an issue about Biblical revelation and theTriune God. Yet, the two issues of required subscription to creeds and the matter oforthodox belief were awkwardly entangled and the distinctions did not become clear tomany people until the formal emergence of the Unitarian denomination toward the endof the century. But at Salters Hall, the results were prophetic: out of about 150 ministersand other Christian leaders, there were 73 non-Subscribers of which 47 werePresbyterians, 14 were General Baptists, 2 were Particular Baptists and 10 wereCongregationalists. By contrast, there were 78 Subscribers of which 29 werePresbyterians, 15 Baptists, 28 Congregationalists, and 6 who could either be Independent(Congregationalist) or Presbyterian. About these, Professor John Y. Briggs of Regents
  35. 35. 35Park College, Oxford, comments : " The orthodoxy of the 78 is clear, but not all of the 73were necessarily heterodox. "59 And, Professor Briggs adds some additional provocativewords: . . . General Baptists suffered a division between the General Association who roughly corresponded to those General Baptists who had a Lollard origin, who liv- ed in the inland counties of Buckinghamshire, Northhamsphire, and Cambridge- shire, who remained orthodox, and those churches in Kent and Sussex particularly, most influenced by the Dutch Mennonites, who, under the leadership of one Mat- thew Caffyn, adopted the heterodox Christology of Melchoir Hoffman which de facto denied the reality of the Incarnation. These were the churches that first adopt- ed Arianism and then full-blooded Unitarianism, thus to be lost to the Baptist cause. Indeed when Methodism came to offer a more attractive Evangelical Arminianism, many ministers and members transferred their affections, and many General Baptist congregations simply died out. The record is of preachers traveling to appointments to find zero congregations with the consequence that General Baptist congregations began to issue prohibitions to their members attending Methodist meetings. 60 W.B. Selbie furthermore observes that already in the early eighteenth century theskeptical, rationalistic spirit of Deism had been felt in Non-Conformist pulpits and hadcontributed to the spiritual barrenness of many of Englands churches. He terselycomments: " The older Independent theologians had written and spoken more asprophets than as philosophers. They were entrusted with a word from the Lord andthey gave utterance to it in no uncertain grounds. But in the period we have nowreached preachers attempted to argue for its acceptance on philosophical grounds. "61Even those among the fervent believers were to a degree affected by this rationalism.Noteworthy examples here were Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) and Isaac Watts(1674-1748), theological writers and composers of hymnody. Doddridge, a ministeramong the Congationalists, was the author of many famous evangelical hymns and theauthor of The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, was also a noted tutor and lecturer
  36. 36. 36on theological subjects. Many of his comprehensive essays and theological lectures werepublished after his death and reveal a true Christian piety but at the same time scatteredelements of Arminianism and Socinianism.62 Unlike Doddridge, Isaac Watts, is reckonedto be "the father of English hymnody" and together with Charles Wesley (1707-1788)supplied many of the powerful evangelical hymns of the English Evangelical Revivalfrom 1730-1756. Yet, like Doddridge, Watts suffered from a rationalistic element in hisdissent and was suspicious of the new "enthusiastic" revivalism and the newly emergingMethodism of the Wesleys. Unlike Doddridge, Watts was a more thorough-goingCalvinist, but while not in any respect an Arian, he was theologically aberrant in some ofhis Christological speculations and infected with the rationalism of his age.63 And, in thetwo generations after Salters Hall, the General Baptists were affected both by theintellectual theological speculation and even popular hymnody in subtle ways. Thus,despite the fact that between 1720 and 1740 there was a deadness on the surface of thechurch life of English Non-Conformists and a lethargic spirit of "indifferentism" toChristian doctrine, the hidden viral infection of anti-Trinitarianism was incessantly atwork, and this stage was merely a dormant period between the controversial Arianismof 1720 and the later full-blown Unitarianism.64 The writer of this article cannot agree with W.B. Selbie and others (e.g., H.J.MacLachlan, Roger Thomas, Roland N. Stromberg, et al.) that the decline of creedalism,subscription to theological confessions, was such a good thing. For if one looks at thecontroversy just among the Baptists going back to its roots with the doctrinal conflictbetween Matthew Caffyn and those like the rustically educated Thomas Monk of Bierton
  37. 37. 37(and Aylesbury) and Messenger Joseph Wright of Maidstone, it is clear that theessentials of Christianity were on the line. The son of Thomas Monk (Thomas Monk,Jr. ?) prophetically commented on an encyclical letter issued by the General BaptistAssociation in 1699: " In vain it is for you to separate from such as err about the subjectsand manner of baptism; if at the same time, you maintain communion with heretics andidolaters; as those must needs be who deny the Deity of the Son of God, and theimmensity and omnipresence of the Divine Essence. "65 But as stated the previousparagraph, this indifferentism affected the mass of Non-conformists and in light of laterdevelopments can be seen to have undermined the foundations of the General Baptistchurches in southern and southeastern England as well as their fledgling Christianeducational efforts in their academies.66 Professor Leon McBeth soberly observed thatthe General Baptists chose denominational unity at the expense of doctrinal agreementand that in time liberalism gained the ascendancy in that body in the later eighteenthcentury.67 He further bitterly laments: . . . Not many General Baptists were left who remember the old doctrines of the full humanity and the full deity of Christ and the vicarious atonement of the cross. Thus was laid the basis for the New Connection schism a generation later. According to W.T. Whitley, this debilitating controversy "destroyed the chance of General Baptists exerting any influence, and when in 1731 the two rival As- semblies did unite, . . . their attention was drawn too much to the past in which they forgot its finest ideals, which to the new needs of the new age, they proved blind. "68 Then has been strongly emphasized by this writers instructor (Dr. McMullen) formost of the remaining eighteenth century General Baptists focused on minor issues andmoralistic trivialities rather than core issues of the Gospel. Thus, as it has been
  38. 38. 38satyrically noted: " They debated whether Christians could sing as part of worship, andif so whether standing or sitting; they condemned fox hunting, a sport of the wealthywhich few if any of their members could participate; they repeatedly condemnedmarriage outside the faith; and published weighty tomes on whether to eat blood. " 69Meanwhile, their pastors grew old, preaching and theology languished, andcongregations losing a purpose for evangelism grew more worldly and more and morespiritually attune with the Enlightenment Age and less and less with ancient NewTestament message. Two outstanding Baptists preachers and theologians must be acknowledged inthis period of the latter eighteenth century and in the opening decades of the nineteenthcentury. For they represent on the one hand what became of the genuinely evangelicalGeneral Baptist movement, and on the other hand, what a catastrophic spiritualmetamorphosis - indeed a fall from Divine grace and truth - occurred with Socinian andliberal majority of the English General Baptists. In the first case, the writer is referring toDaniel Taylor (1738-1816) and the "New Connection" movement which he initiatedamong the more Arminian Baptists. This subject will complete this rather lengthy thirdsection of this study. For the last part of the paper, William Vidler (1758-1816) and hiswork will be examined. For it was primarily Vidlers leadership after the deaths ofWilliam Whiston and James Foster which shepherded such a large part of the GeneralBaptist fold into unabashed and full-bodied Unitarianism in the nineteenth century,contributed to the "Downgrade Controversy" in the latter part of it, and issued in thecontemporary modernistic Unitarian-Universalism. Also in the last and concluding part
  39. 39. 39of our paper we shall briefly survey the heretical theological additive of British andAmerican "universalism" with provided nineteenth century Unitarianism (i.e.,Liberalism) with its ultimate lure and weapon to damn human souls. So, enters the life and work of Daniel Taylor. Baptists (and other Bible Christianstoo !) believe that God works in wonderful and ironic ways in history. One of thosewonderful "coincidences" was the spiritual awakening in Great Britain brought on bythe preaching of the Methodists John and Charles Wesley and, perhaps even more fromthe Calvinistic perspective, the preaching of George Whitefield. It was indeed fromcontact with the Wesleyan-Methodist revival in England that young Dan Taylor came toknow his Lord about 1753. A few years later, ca. 1761, Taylor began to preach among theLeicester Evangelicals; then in 1762, after reading the elder Dr. Robert Halls History ofInfant Baptism, he was led to embrace for himself "believers baptism". Then, in 1763, heand a pastor friend, John Slater, after a long and strenuous search, met with ReverendGilbert Boyce, a Lincolnshire General Baptist, and received baptism by immersion in ariver near Gamston, Nottinghamshire. It should also be recalled that Daniel Taylor hadbeen born in Northowwram, near Halifax and as a youth had worked with his father inthe mines. Then, as a teenager he had walked miles through the moors at Haworth tohear the preaching of the Wesleys, George Whitefield, and the lesser known WilliamGrimshaw. He had also been largely self-educated, teaching himself Greek, Hebrew, andLatin, while working in the mines. He was an extraordinary young man with an intensedevotion to Jesus Christ and to the propagation of the Gospel of salvation for sinners.70
  40. 40. 40 Taylor, with the help of friends and the Gamston Baptists formed a littlecongregation and built a little Baptist Chapel called Birchcliff where Reverend Taylorhimself was ordained on July 30, 1763. Soon, Taylor and his church sought affiliationwith the Lincolnshire Evangelicals, but their lack of fervent worship and interest indynamic evangelism left him cold (the influence of Socinianism and, perhaps, hyper-Calvinism as well ?). For a time he longed for his fellows among the LeicestershireEvangelicals, but then when that group refused to join with the LincolnshireAssociation, Dan Taylor met with a handful of like-minded ministers in Whitechapel,London to form what was then called " The New Connection of General Baptists. "Strangely enough, even after forming this group, he continued to attend the annualsessions of the "old" General Baptists, even chairing some of their committees until 1803when Socinian Universalist William Vidler was brought into their fellowship. At thispoint, Taylor could endure the compromise and heresy no longer. Baptists scholarsspeculate about why he did this, but A.C. Underwood has suggested that it was due tohis wanting to use his influence to bring back erring churches into the Assembly, andultimately, to the New Connection.71 Under the Scriptural and fervent leadership ofTaylor, the New Connection grew steadily in disciples and mightily in spiritualinfluence in the turn of the new century. Leon McBeth and A.C. Underwood bothindicate that the New Connection began in 1770 with 7/8 churches and less than 1,000members. Yet, from the official Minutes of the Association of General Baptists atLeicester, 1786 we already hear of at least 31 churches and 2,357 members.72 Then,
  41. 41. 41according to A.C. Underwood, by 1817 (the year after Daniel Taylors death), the NewConnexion could claim 6,846 members in more than 70 churches. 73 Taylor was no conformist to tradition, but he was wholeheartedly loyal to theDivine inspiration of Scripture and the Divinity and Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is notsurprising either, that opposition to his New Connection emphases came fromLincolnshire leaders and others (especially in London) which lacked his vision and zeal,but more importantly, were seriously infected with Arianism and Socinianism. Neitheris it a coincidence that those who minimized the centrality of Christs vicariousatonement for sinners would find it difficult to tolerate a fiery evangelical such as aTaylor or his followers. McBeth underscores that he came into greater and greaterconflict with older General Baptists as he not only embraced a fully orthodoxChristology but also abandoned many "traditions": the laying on of hands on newbelievers ready for membership, the lack of congregational singing (especially women)in worship, and a non-interest in evangelism. Thus the stage was set for theconfrontations with the "Unitarian" baptists of the early nineteenth century, and for thelater nineteenth developments which would provide opportunity for John Clifford(1816-1923) and his ecumenical efforts leading to the 1891 merger of the NewConnection into the Baptist Union which Charles H. Spurgeon would oppose. But that isanother story . . . .74
  42. 42. 42 IV. Unitarianism & Universalism Among British Baptists, ca. 1725--1820. In this final section the writer wishes to briefly summarize the highlights of theUnitarianism which grew out of the Socinian advances at Salters Hall in 1719 andafterwards with the coming of William Vidler in 1803 to the General Assembly with aeven briefer sketch of the overall consequences for the English General Baptists until ca.1820. This kind of conclusion is tentative as ones mind naturally then interpolates from1818/1820 until the "Downgrade Controversy" of the latter nineteenth century andbeyond. Yet, in an effort to limit the size of this paper (already too large!), the writershall only focus on the key historical and theological milestones of the subject until 1820and add some lose final remarks as to how Socinianism/Unitarianism affected theGeneral Baptists of England thereafter in the century. Universalism was the new component in William Vidlers theological teaching inthe early 1800s, but it was not originally a part of even the Socinian General Baptistsbefore the late eighteenth century. Roughly speaking, it appears to have its roots in inWales and in Colonial America previous to its formal arrival among the General BaptistAssembly in 1803. James Relly (1722-1788) was converted as a young man under the preaching ofJohn Wesley and George Whitefield, caught up in the revival sweeping over wide areasof Great Britain in the mid-eighteenth century. Together with his greater (and muchmore orthodox) mentor, Wesley, Relly was early on inclined to Arminianism. Later, hewould move beyond evangelical Arminianism to the Universalist heresy. His influencethen would convert the reluctant John Murray (1741-1815) and effectually influence the
  43. 43. 43teaching of the Americans, Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797) and Hosea Ballou(1771-1852) who would strongly affect the path of Unitarian-Universalism in America inthe nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Relly was born in Saunderfoot, an English-speaking area of Pembrokeshire insouthwest Wales, educated at the local grammar school and as a young man employedas " a cow-farrier. " About 1740 he was converted under the preaching of GeorgeWhitefield (for whom he would have a life-long admiration) and became an ardentCalvinist Methodist preacher in the areas of Rhyddlangwraig, Narbeth, andPembrokeshire in the early 1740s. Then, after 1746, he made evangelistic tours throughthe West and Midlands of England (including Bristol, Portsmouth, Exeter, Bath,Bromsgrove, Birmingham, and Tewkesbury). Like many other evangelists Relly facedsignificant persecution and hostile opposition, but what made Relly receive rebuke fromeven the Methodists was his new doctrine of "universal salvation." Responding to thisnew heresy, Whitefields lieutenant (supervisor) in charge, Howel Harris, dismissedRelly at the peak of his career in 1746 while he was evangelizing at the LondonTabernacle in Moorfields. Then, in 1751, Relly returned to Wales where he created aneven more serious disruption " respecting Freeness, and the extent of Grace. " AlthoughRelly himself avowed that as an evangelist he was not promoting a universalist message,few others doubted it. The logic was simple and beautiful (if one is not bothered bythorny Biblical details here or there): " . . . if all had sinned in Adam, then all were savedin Christ. "75 Then, throughout the later 1750s and 1760s, Relly preached his new Gospelalso in Ireland.
  44. 44. 44 Rellys most important theological treatise (which would mold Vidlers thinking)was his book Union: or a treatise of consanguinity and affinity between Christ and his Church(London, 1759). He also wrote a universalist hymnal and several lesser popular tracts onthe nature of salvation, the nature of "Spirits", the anti-Christ, the life of Christ, Christianbaptism, Sadduceeism (legalism), Christian liberty, and angels (1753-1780). One of hismost famous writings was a poem which was dedicated to Whitefield, an elegy, writtenin 1770, following the great evangelists death. Relly himself died in 1778 and was buriedin the Maze Pond Baptist Burial Ground in Southwark, London, but the tinycongregation he established at Windmill Street survived until the 1820s. Then, for a fewdecades there some small and highly eccentric Rellyean Universalist societies in Dorsetand Wiltshire as well as Plymouth.76 Perhaps Rellys greatest impact on both Baptists and on the Unitarians inAmerica came as a result of his preaching to the congregation at Coachmakers Hall(Addle Street) in London from 1757-1764. There, according to the words of JohnMurrays autobiography, Relly was was drawing the wrath of his former Wesleyean andMethodist colleagues, because he was, according to the citation of James Hill, " a manblack with crimes; an atrocious offender, both in principle and practice. " 77 It was whenRelly was preaching here, that young John Murray was captured by the appealingpresentation of a pretty young woman who was one of Rellys disciples, who accordingto Unitarian legend, confounded him with her theological insight and logical acumen. 78In reading the actual account, however, one is more inclined to think of a lonely collegestudent or seminarian confronted by the seductive inticements of a gorgeous Jehovahs
  45. 45. 45Witness or a Unitarian wench in a secluded chapel. The logic consists purely in theequivocation of terms about faith and failure to observe the forensic character of theBiblical presentation of Christs death on behalf of sinful man. But now let the reader turn his attention briefly to John Murray himself, whowould soon leave the sorrows of old England and go to new circumstances in Americain 1770. The encyclopedias and handbooks provide little in the way of Murrays earlybiography, but that he was born somewhere near London in 1741 is certain. We do knowthat he was converted in his youth by the preaching of the Methodists and that he wastrained in Anglican Calvinism. We also know from his autobiography that as a brashyoung preacher he was taken in by the witness of a female universalist ca. 1760. Fromhis on account we also know that in 1769-1770 as he turned toward America, he hadfaced a series of personal tragedies, including an arrest for debt and the loss of his wifeand son. This made his voyage desirable, but his coming to America was not itselfwithout tribulation. An Alantic storm forced his boat to make an unplanned landing atGood-Luck Point on the coast of New Jersey. While there he happened upon a group ofcongregational people and also a sympathetic audience of baptist Quakers, especiallyThomas Potter, who already had Universalist sympathies from contact with someextreme dissenting Baptist sects in Rhode Island.79 The events of their meeting andMurrays first sermon at the Potter meeting-house has all the ear-marks of a "just so"story or sectarian hagiography, but it is historically certain that John Murray preachedthere on September 30, 1770 and this event marks perhaps the earliest conscious effortsto promote Universalism in America.80
  46. 46. 46 From this time onward until his death in 1815, Murray became one of the leadingitinerant evangelists of Universalism in New England as well as New Jersey and NewYork, becoming for several years the pastor of the first universalist church in America atGloucester, Massachusetts (The Independent Church of Christ, 1779). His work wassignificant enough that General George Washington appointed him as chaplain for theContinential troops of Rhode Island. Eventually, he was called to the pastorate of theUniversalist Society of Boston in 1793. Toward the end of his life, Murrays journals andsermons were collected by his wife, Mrs. Judith Sargent Murray and published by theUniversalist Society.81 During his career, Murray preached to some Baptist groups inAmerica, and his ideas found a harmonious chord among many of the General Baptistscum Unitarians who followed William Vidler.82 The last link to William Vidler and the ultimate demise of the General Baptists ofBritain was the American minister Elhanan Winchester, Jr. (1751-1797). Winchester wasthe sixth generation descendent of Sir Henry Vane, the fourth Governor of theMassachusetts Bay Colony. And like his father, the elder Elhanan, the son had been amember of the Congregational Church of Christ at Brookline, a liberal Calvinist body.The father himself, however, had made a spiritual journey through many religiouscommitments, from Separatist to Baptist, and even to Shaker (in Mother Ann Leescommunity in Harvard). The father had also been affected by the enthusiasm of theGreat Awakening in the 1740s. The son was a chip off the old block and he was a childprodigy, largely self-taught, but a brilliant, inquistive serious youth. When he was aboutnineteen years old, he was converted under the ministry of a Joseph Jackson, a moderate
  47. 47. 47evangelical Calvinist. Afterwards, his denominational experience resembled his fathers,and after being for a time a Separatist (Puritan) type, he accepted the Baptist teaching,and soon began to preach. Incidentally, one should mention that though he only lived tobe forty-six years old, he was married five times and all of his unions were less thanhappy.83 Since Winchester through William Vidler had such a powerful effect on themature formation of both the American and British Unitarian-Universalists and adefinite connection to the General Baptists, his life shall be examined in some level ofdetail. Elhanan began to preach almost immediately after his conversion and about thesame time (1769-1770), he married his first wife, Alice Rogers of Rowley, Massachusetts.Together they set out for his first pastorate in Virginia, where for a few years he was asuccessful Baptist preacher, holding to a moderate Calvinistic theological viewpoint.Also, during this early period (ca. 1772-1773), Winchester embraced the convictions ofthe open communion Baptists, and was himself baptized by immersion in Canturbury,Connecticutt. Through these years, he and his wife had four children, but either personalor religious quarrels strained their marital bliss. Also sometime in this early period hereturned to Massachusetts, where he established a new Baptist church at Rehoboth andduring the same time became friends with Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale College(who came to characterize him as " a loquacious and flaming preacher "). He was also,for a short time devoted to the Particular Calvinist Baptists and an avid reader of theLondon theologian, John Gill. During this time he dismissed evangelism and appeals tothe lost as foolish and irreverent activities; this attitude, of course, prevented the New
  48. 48. 48England Baptists from ordaining Winchester as a Baptist evangelist. Then within twoyears (1774-1776) he went from Rehoboth to Bellingham, then from there to Grafton, andthen to Hull, Massachusetts.84 In late 1774, Winchester was called to be the minister at the Particular BaptistChurch in a small town on the Pec Pec River in South Carolina, where his first wife,Alice, died. He was only there for a few months before returning to Boston, where hemarried his second wife, Sarah Peck (from Rehoboth) in 1776. Then he went back for acouple of years to his former church in Carolina where he began a practice ofevangelizing the Black slaves, something which was suspect in that culture. Winchesterhimself, had strong convictions about the evils of slavery and he relentlessly attackedthe institution. His second wife, Sarah, died in 1778. Soon after, Winchester married athird time, attracting a local lady, Sarah Luke. Strangely, Sarah herself lived for less thana year (?). During this period (until 1781) Winchester was caught up in the AmericanRevolution, and was an energetic supporter of political and religious freedom, evenpublishing on behalf of the Charlestown Baptist Association a bold manifesto forreligious liberty in 1779. Then, in the same year, he returned to Boston, where hepreached under the auspices of Dr. Reverend Stillman and in his home church ofBrookline. At this time he even made a positive impression on Isaac Backus, the greatNew England Baptist evangelist and recorder who is said to have highly praised hisefforts. Eventually, the Baptist Church of Philadelphia called Winchester as theirminister in 1780. Though his work there was brief, due to his growing public