Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Seventh Day Men Part 2: under Lord Protector Cromwell

By 1643, the Puritans had won the argument about Sunday: the law upheld the Christian Sabbath. Two Civil wars preceded the astounding development of the execution of Charles I in 1648. Oliver Cromwell headed a Puritan government that opposed the idea of a State Church and was prepared to allow some freedom of thought.

Up sprang a variety of independent churches. These were a long way from modern denominations. Each congregation considered itself to be a part of the one spiritual Christian Church. For example, ‘baptist’ did not become a denominational title until later.

In 1650, a pupil of Brabourne, who had adopted believer's baptism, announced that the Sabbath commandment has been ‘restored to its primitive purity’. 

James Ockford's seventy-two-page book marks the start of a spread of Sabbath keeping amongst some baptist congregations.

Thomas Tillam and Peter Chamberlen M.D.
Thomas Tillam was a prominent preacher at Hexham, in the north of England. 

His vigorous exhortations, based on graphic adaptations of the Book of Revelation, brought scores of people to baptism. Jealous rivals soon complained of his preaching methods to Hansard Knolleys. Knolleys' London congregation provided leadership for many baptists and in 1653 Tillam was called to give an account of himself. The congregation revoked its support of Tillam, who then had no money or credentials to preach.

Tillam set out to find other congregations which might share his views. This led him to Dr Peter Chamberlen, who guided the only baptist congregation which supported the Fifth Monarchy Movement.

The movement was a semi-political pressure group which drew support from ‘fundamentalist’ congregations. It expected Christ's Kingdom (the Fifth Monarchy to follow the four Kingdoms described in Daniel 2) would soon be literally established on earth. To prepare for this, they urged that England quickly pattern its government and laws on the Bible.

This friendship would prove important for the establishment of Sabbath-keeping congregations in England and later the United States. In normal times these two men would never have met. 

Chamberlen was a clean-shaven respected aristocrat and former Royal Physician. He and his father had invented forceps and undertook many good works for the community. Tillam, believed that real men had short hair and long beards, came from a very different social position. He also had an air of wild eccentricity.

Another baptist and moderate Fifth Monarchist was Henry Jessey. He was a gifted preacher with a sound knowledge of Hebrew. He believed that the King James Bible lacked an understanding of Israel's calendar and customs.

Their Discovery of the Sabbath
By 1655 Tillam moved to Colchester. His gifts as a preacher impressed the local mayor who invited him to use the parish church. Enlivened by this opportunity, Tillam baptised over one hundred people in a few months. It is also probable that Tillam came to know Brabourne who lived in the area.

Early in 1656, Tillam began holding services in the parish church on Saturday. Exactly how he arrived at the idea of the Saturday Sabbath is not clear. Through this period, he had remained in regular and close contact with Chamberlen, whose London congregation adopted the Sabbath about the same time. Chamberlen also probably knew Ockford.

Displeased with Tillam's innovation, the authorities had him imprisoned. Like many seventeenth century religious prisoners, Tillam occupied himself in writing and produced his most memorable work: The Seventh Day Sabbath Sought Out and Celebrated published in 1657. 

It brought a rush of condemning response. Tillam developed the link between the Sabbath and Biblical prophecy, first suggested by Ockford, into a detailed scenario. The Sabbath, said Tillam, ‘ in these very last days become the last great controversy between the Saints and the Man of Sin, The Changer of Times and Laws’.

Tillam was the first to call the Sunday Sabbath the ‘Mark of the Beast’. But, while Chamberlen felt that Sabbath observance negated all significance of Sunday, Tillam believed that the resurrection could be celebrated on Sunday, so as not to cause divisions between Christians.

Perhaps the strongest agreement of the pair was that their adoption of the Sabbath would aid the conversion of the Jews. It would be a sure sign that Christ's return was near. As Chamberlen wrote to Tillam, ‘The Jews of London are very much affected with our keeping the Sabbath...'

Chamberlen's Congregation
Tillam's book was written as an answer to a pamphlet against Sabbath keeping by William Aspinwall, a leading Fifth Monarchist. Aspinwall systematically ridiculed the arguments of Ockford and another Sabbath-keeper, John Spittlehouse.

Spittlehouse, the spokesman for Chamberlen's congregation, published his advocacy of the ‘unchangeable morality’ of the Sabbath in mid-1656. But Aspinwall's abuse did not quell Sabbath enthusiasm.

Almost immediately, Spittlehouse and William Sellers presented a petition to the Chief Magistrates, asking that the Saturday Sabbath be established in law. The task must have seemed easy, as English law now supported all the arguments in favour of Sabbath-keeping. All they had to do was convince the lawmakers that the supposed Sunday texts of the New Testament did not change the Sabbath to Sunday. 

Their confident appeal was unceremoniously rejected.

The Sabbath had become an issue of controversy among baptists, many of whom now observed it. Jeremiah Ives, a popular baptist controversialist, decided to meet the arguments head on. He challenged Tillam and Chamberlen to a public debate. They agreed, and for three days in 1658, the Stone Chapel in St. Paul's Cathedral was crowded with eager listeners.

Each side considered itself the winner. Soon after two able preachers added their voices to the defence of the Sabbath: Edward Stennet and John James.

Stennet had been a chaplain for the Parliament during the Civil wars and, though not a Fifth Monarchist, he did expect Christ to return in his lifetime. His defence of the Sabbath was published in 1658. In it, he argued for the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments, which he dubbed the ‘Royal Law’ after James 2:8. 

The literature produced in the relative freedom and literacy of Cromwell’s rule is a rich field of original and reflective thinking. The modern world is yet to fully mine its treasures. 

So many new ideas took seed. A few blossomed and made the English-speaking world more civilised as a result. Some began to bloom but were cut down before their full beauty and diversity were spent.

Luckily, we still have many of the seeds…

Part 3 to follow

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Seventh Day Men Part 1: The Sabbath under James I & Charles I

Dusty arguments about the nature of ‘the Sabbath’ seem of little relevance to the modern world. This feeling is heightened in the specialised world of the Christian observation of the Saturday Sabbath. After all, isn’t this a Jewish idea?

But, in the seventeenth century, for a handful of Britons, it was vital and for many, literally a matter of life and death.

These Sabbath-keepers did not form a new denomination; indeed, they were not even a unified group. They just believed they were just one step ahead of their brethren who would soon see the light.

The story is of real people many of whom displayed the same human failings as modern religionists; from naïve openness to unreflective zeal.

Today if we hear of Christians observing the Saturday Sabbath we think of Seventh-day Adventists. Before them, there were (and still are) Seventh Day Baptists. Before them in seventeenth-century England, there were individuals who had many differing opinions about other theological and political topics.

John Traske
Soon after James I came to the English throne in 1603, a Puritan manifesto asked him, as head of the Anglican Church, to settle some religious disputes in their favour. The astute King wanted a different religious settlement. He listened to prominent Puritan leaders but sided with his bishops. He dismissed the peevish legacy of old Puritanism and aimed for the ‘middle-ground’.

Soon after the publication of the famous King James Version of the Bible in 1611, John Traske, an itinerant, arrived in London. Disgusted by the obvious corruption of some clergy, he preached that God would give his Spirit to those who obey him in the way they live their lives. Not a new idea.

He began advocating fasting and went on to revive the Old Testament prohibition on unclean meats. In a short time, this gifted preacher had built a significant following of men and women. Hamlet Jackson was one such scrupulous student. His studies led him to conclude that there was no Biblical command to observe Sunday and that the Saturday-Sabbath observed by the Jews had never been abolished.

Traske agreed, indeed he may have already held this view. Certainly, they began observing and preaching for the ‘Saturday Sabbath’. Most of Traske's congregation also adopted it. 

Sunday verses Sunday
At this time, the wider society, two opposing and equally elaborate arguments were developing about the meaning of Sunday. The traditional view, upheld by King James, saw Sunday as a Christian festival. It had been established by the early church, and it was called the ‘Lord's Day’ in honour of the Lord's resurrection. It had no connection at all with the Sabbath of the Old Testament, which became redundant.

Opposing this view, Puritan opinion insisted that the Bible did not abolish the Sabbath command. However, because of the resurrection, the Sabbath had been transferred to Sunday; the ‘Christian Sabbath’. Exactly how and when this transformation took place was the subject of much argument. 

Traske's view was by contrast attractively simple: the Sabbath command remained and it had not been changed to Sunday. Anglican and Puritan both cried ‘Judaising’ against him. While the term was not well defined, all agreed it was a very undesirable thing to be.

Traske and his followers were arrested in 1616 and brought before a panel of bishops. Traske refused to be argued back to Anglican orthodoxy. Offended by his challenge that they would all one day observe Saturday, they imprisoned him and urged him to repent.

While in prison Traske studied early Church history, with material provided by the bishops. He made another surprising move. He denounced Easter as a man-made blasphemy of the same kind that Sunday was. In its place, Traske adopted the Passover and also observed the Days of Unleavened Bread as did the Jews.

Infuriated, Traske's persecutors formally charged him in 1618 with seducing the King's subjects away from the Church to Judaism. Traske was imprisoned, degraded from the ministry, whipped, branded with a ‘J’ on his forehead, and fined one thousand pounds. Defeated and dejected, Traske published a recantation three years later.

Traske was the first known Christian of modern times to observe the Sabbath. But his name became so stigmatised that the following generation of Sabbath-keepers didn’t mention him.

Brabourne: an intelligent development
Puritans and their parliamentary supporters were eventually provoked into open revolt against James successor, Charles I, who was crowned in 1626. He promoted William Laud to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury and took a hard line on religious dissent.

In 1621, the Puritan Thomas Broad published a book detailing the reasons why Sunday should be considered the Christian Sabbath. It became prescribed reading for Puritan ministers, and Theophilus Brabourne was one of the many respectable preachers who studied it.

However, Brabourne could find no evidence for the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Amazed, he published a book, Discourse on the Sabbath in 1628.

Brabourne had more surprises to come. Nobody responded to his book. So he revised it, putting the case more forcefully, and dedicated the work to King Charles I, asking him to enforce the Saturday Sabbath.

This book certainly was noticed: Charles was offended and Brabourne found himself before the Bishops. He was sent to Newgate Prison for eighteen months. After a year, he was re-examined and threatened with the loss of his ears in an effort to clarify his thinking. He quickly submitted a brief ambiguous statement, which was accepted as a recantation. Perhaps his captors were happy to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Brabourne lost his living as a minister but continued to observe and write for the Sabbath. However, not wishing to be disloyal to the Church of England, he remained a staunch supporter and refused to lead a breakaway congregation. Unlike Traske, he was generally well regarded by later Sabbath keepers who reflected familiarity with his well thought out writings.

Parts 2 and 3 to follow.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Would Governor Phillip have wanted 7 February for ‘Australia Day’?

This year there were some protests about 26 January as Australia Day. 

A chant on the streets was ‘Change the day’ and some of the commentaries suggested that ‘any other day’ would be better. 

Advocates for a date change are unlikely to be successful unless an alternative is proposed. There are a number of possibilities, each with pros and cons.

What might the first Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, have suggested?

26 of January was not a public holiday until its thirtieth anniversary in 1818, when it was as much a remembrance of Governor Phillip himself, who had died only three and a half years before.

In the evening of the 26 January 1788, the ‘British colours’ were displayed on shore at Sydney Cove. Governor Phillip, with a few officers and others, assembled round the flag, drank to the king's health, and success to the settlement. This was done ‘with all that display of form which on such occasions is esteemed propitious, because it enlivens the spirits, and fills the imagination with pleasing presages.’


None of the people there gave the event much lasting importance, except perhaps for Lieutenant Johnson who liked to remind people that he was the first person ashore. The majority of the people in the fleet weren’t there; they remained where they had been for the previous eight months: on board the 11 ships of the fleet.

Some male convicts disembarked the next day to help establish the settlement and offload supplies. The process continued for several days. Female convicts and the sick were the last to come ashore on 6 February, by which time a tent hospital had been established and an area cleared to enable the group of about 1300 to be assembled.

The first official ceremony at Sydney Cove

The first official ceremony occurred on the 7 February 1788. The whole colony assembled with some formality around the Governor. The Royal Commission was then read by Lieutenant David Collins, the Judge Advocate. Arthur Phillip was officially appointed Governor of New South Wales. The territory for the Colony covered most of what we now know as Australia, except for what became Western Australia.

This was later called a ‘memorable day which established a regular form of Government on the coast of New South Wales’.  Sounds like a better date for an official annual event than 26 January already.

There is no record that any indigenous people were present. But after a couple of weeks of noisy tree cutting, the emergence of strange domestic animals, the smell of fires and unfamiliar cooking, together with the general noise which would have occurred, they can’t have failed to notice or keep watch. One can imagine them looking on at the proclamation ceremonies with amusement. Later reports indicate that many had been concerned about what these strange beings were.

While it is true that neither 26 January or 7 February were thought of as ‘Australia Day’, 7 February probably meant more to Philip. Apart from being the day he took office, it was also the opportunity for the expression of high hopes and the worthy intentions. Something worth celebrating. 

His instructions were quite clear. Amongst them, he was to ‘endeavour by every possible means to open an intercourse with the natives and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all [the King’s] subjects to live in amity and kindness with them.’

Whatever problems occurred later (and there were many), the stated formal aim of the colony and the personal wish of Phillip was to establish the best possible relations with the local inhabitants and to punish those members of the Colony who ‘wantonly destroy them, or give them any unnecessary interruption in the exercise of their several occupations’.

Phillip himself was at the end of an adventurous career and had nothing to prove. He was apparently a man of deep faith and strong ideals; he saw the potential for the Colony to become a vibrant new nation when most others did not. 

It is a pity that Phillip has been overshadowed historically by Cook, Nelson, and Washington, perhaps because he did not exude the same sense of his own place in history. Interestingly, the original of Phillip’s formal ‘Instructions’ in founding the Colony have been lost, but fortunately, a draft survived.

It is no surprise that, unlike the initial flag raising and toast of 26 January, all records from the First Fleet mention the ceremony on 7 February 1788

This is as Phillip would have wanted. 

Arthur Phillip has a think.

Read also: Australia Day: when would you like it?

Australia Day or Rum Rebellion Remembrance Day?

Thursday, 2 February 2017

A tale of two tea planters: Claud Bald and F G Marsh

As a child, I knew that my maternal grandfather, F G ‘Fred’ Marsh, had been a tea planter in Darjeeling. I also knew more vaguely that my great-grandfather, Claud Bald, had ‘written the book on tea’.

Claud Bald: a tea pioneer
Claud Bald was born in Glasgow in 1853. He began tea planting on the Lohargur Tea Estate near Darjeeling in 1877 at the age of 24, the year following his father's death. In about 1881, he joined the Lebong Tea Company where he served as manager over the next 26 years.

David Bald, Claud's younger brother, is the first of the family to appear in Indian records. He died of cholera in Calcutta, on 3 April 1883 at the age of 24. He had been an assistant foreman at ‘Sindaria’ [which may be a misspelling of the town of Tindharia] in Darjeeling. I can't find what he did there but there was a tea plantation and a railway station there. Perhaps David had gone to India in the care of his older brother or perhaps he joined him there later. Both had training as engineers. Another younger brother Henry was in Darjeeling by 1887 and worked for the Government.

In October 1885 at the age of 32, Claud married 24-year-old Glaswegian lass Margaret Ker the elder daughter of religious parents. 

Why did Claud go to Darjeeling? He had arrived at a time of rapid growth for the tea industry. Between 1860 and 1864 the Darjeeling Tea Company established four gardens at Ging, Ambutia, Tukdah and Phoobsering and the Lebong Tea Company established tea gardens at Tukvar and Badamtam. Tea production from 1866 to 1874 had increased by 89%, from 1874-1885 to 56.8%, and from 1885 to 1895 by 22.4%. 1888 was the year India produced more tea than any other country.

In 1907, he became manager of the Tukvar Company’s estates, holding this position until his retirement in 1918 at the age of 65.

Fred Marsh arrives
Fred Marsh was born to English immigrants Henry and Mary Marsh in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1891. He arrived in India in 1912. His eldest sister Edith was already there with her husband, Percy Clark who was a Baptist missionary. Fred had also gone there to learn the local languages ahead of possibly becoming a missionary himself. Fred’s objective changed, however. He met the respectable Claud…and he also met Claud’s eldest daughter Margaret.

‘Marsh’, as Claud called the young Fred, became Claud’s assistant manager in 1913 managing Simla, a small estate. While he was there he married Margaret in December 1917. 

Claud was impressed with Fred and supported his successful bid to become manager at Phoobsering Tea Estate in April 1919. Later that year, Claud left Darjeeling to spend his retirement in Worthing. Tea had been Claud’s life and his book Indian tea: its culture and manufacture, first published in 1903, was revised three times during his life. He died in 1924.

Fred, along with most tea plantation managers, including his father-in-law, joined the Northern Bengal Mounted Rifles (NBMR). Fred joined a few days after the declaration of World War I.

Fred’s time at Phoobsering
On 15 January 1934, a severe earthquake opened up the ground under the 70-year-old Phoobsering house. Fred decided to design a new ‘earthquake proof’ house. Under the house were six concrete rollers and the house itself was a concrete block. The theory was that in an earthquake, the house could ‘shake, rattle and roll’ but not break. The house has since survived a number of strong earthquakes.

When World War II began, Fred and Margaret decided it was safest to leave their daughters with his brother Frank who lived in Melbourne. They then returned to India to ‘do their bit’ for the war effort and tea production continued to increase strongly. Fred and other NBMR members were involved in moving food supplies between Burma and India and facilitating logistics for some British and Australian troops though the details are not yet known.

In 1947, Fred decided that he was coming back to Australia. The ‘communists’ as Fred called them, had stormed many tea factories. Every window in the Phoobsering house was broken. Fred felt they had no choice but to leave the country though their original plan was to remain there even past retirement.

Fred and Margaret Marsh arrived in Melbourne from India in July 1947 where they lived for the remainder of their lives. As a widower, Fred visited Darjeeling and Bhutan in about 1967 after working for 10 years with an insurance company. He died in 1979 at the age of 88.

Claud entertains a few guests at Tukvar Tea Estate in 1914
Claud Bald (centre with beard) at Tukvar in 1914. His wife Margaret is seated in front of him. Their daughter 'Evelyn' (my grandmother) is on the left next to the cleric. 
The troops are members of the Northern Bengal Mounted Rifles which Claud had been a member of as a tea young planter.

More details and pictures are at the Koi Hai site.