Jeremiah Marsden’s Characterizations of Dissenters in 1683

We interrupt our regular programming (of nothingness) to bring you a portion from Jeremiah Marsden, alias Zacharias Ralphson, An Apology for God’s Worship and Worshipers (London: n.p., 1683), 229-231. You can see a short description of his life, here.

Marsden’s treatise advocates freedom of worship for dissenters of all kinds. My interest is in his description of Presbyterians, Independents, and especially of the Particular Baptists. Marsden knew the Particular Baptists well, being invited to pastor at the Broadmead Bristol church, and being imprisoned with Hercules Collins and Francis Bampfield in 1683. Bampfield’s and Marsden’s deaths in prison were the impetus behind Collins’ publication of Counsel for the Living, Occasioned from the Dead. Marsden was buried in Bunhill Fields with around 5,000 in attendance at his funeral.

Marsden, An Apology, 229-1Marsden, An Apology, 229-230Marsden, An Apology, 230-231Marsden, An Apology, 231

Items of note, regarding the Particular Baptists:

  1. Marsden splits the Anabaptists between those who hold free will and those who do not. This is the standard General/Particular division.
  2. Marsden acknowledges that there is significant doctrinal overlap between the Particular Baptists, the Independents, and the Presbyterians.
  3. Marsden uses the label “partial historians” to refer to those who attach an “odium” to the Particular Baptists by connecting them to continental Anabaptists.

Marsden was prone to extremes himself, being connected with the 5th Monarchy movement. But his comments offer interesting characterizations of these groups. The Presbyterians want to be Anglicans, if only the Anglicans would let them (let the reader understand). The Independents want to be left alone. The Particular Baptists want to be known on their own terms, doctrinally and practically, rather than being viewed through the lens of a false genealogy.

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Updated Resources Page

Updated Resources Page

On this page I keep a collection of all known copies of Particular Baptist literature that are publicly available. These are few in number. Most of the Particular Baptists’ books are available through Early English Books Online, but this requires access to an institution with a paid subscription to the EEBO database. One might think that EEBO has the rights to all these books. In fact, they only have rights to the digital scans in their database. Thus, the only way to get literature like this into the hand of the public is for libraries to scan their own copies of these books and make them available. It would seem that the British Library is in the process of doing so, because I have recently found (through their online library catalog) that they have made several of their own books available to the public. Some of these copies have been rebound, and perhaps they were digitized at that time, given that photography is easier when there is less pressure to preserve the original binding.

Whatever the reason, we can all benefit from their work now. I have made an initial search of their Particular Baptist literature and added links to the page linked above, marking out the copies from the British Library, which are in color! The copies marked “Google Books” are the same books as the British Library scans, but in black and white. The British Library has many more Particular Baptist books than what they have digitized thus far, but it seems that over time more and more should be added to the corpus of public access material.

The crown jewel of these scans, in my opinion, is the 1695 Baptist Catechism, though readers may enjoy Nehemiah Coxe’s Vindiciae Veritatis or Hercules Collins’ The Temple Repair’d. Another special addition is Benjamin Keach’s The Child’s Delight which is the book he was famously put in the stocks for. This book was hard to get a hold of for a long time, partly because it was ordered to be destroyed. Now anyone can read it. Note also two works by Keach on the covenants, digitized and made available from J.I. Packer’s library. Their quality is exceptional.

If you find any more resources like these, or if you have any trouble with the links, please let me know.

Enjoy!