Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Seventh Day Men Part 3: under King Charles II

Persecution Renewed

In 1658 Oliver Cromwell died. Soon the experimental Commonwealth lacked stable government and by 1661 the exiled son of Charles I was asked to return as King Charles II. 

Eager to avenge his father’s execution and with a taste for the high-life, he willingly accepted, promising religious toleration. In fact, persecution was renewed. All who would not support the Church of England, as previously constituted, were to be imprisoned or otherwise punished under the Act of Uniformity - made law in 1662. 

The Fifth Monarchy Movement was banned, and those who supported it were regarded as rebels.

John James was at this time preaching to a ‘seventh day’ baptist church in Bullstake Alley, London. Like Edward Stennet, James was not a Fifth Monarchist, but he did expect Christ to literally return to earth displacing all earthly government to establish the Millennium.

On Saturday 19 October 1661, after a vigorous sermon on this subject, James was arrested with thirty of his congregation. The charges were plotting treason, and being a Fifth Monarchist. The authorities apparently decided to make an example of James and ordered him executed: his head was placed on a stake outside the Bullstake Alley meeting house.

Sabbath-keeping Spreads West

No wonder that in such times many sought the relative freedom of America. One member of Stennet's congregation, Stephen Mumford, decided to escape and arrived in Rhode Island in 1664. There he found initial fellowship with the local Sunday keeping congregation. With Mumford, the Sabbath idea came to America, and in a few years, with the help and encouragement of Stennet and Dr Peter Chamberlen, he established America's first Sabbath-keeping church.

Back in London, the dozen or so Sabbath-keeping congregations faced new times with tenacity and resourcefulness. Talented men would yet add their voices to the Sabbath chorus; with each a new harmony.

The aristocrat Francis Bampfield, also fully conversant with Greek and Hebrew was but one and is worth a separate article as are a number of those mentioned. In September 1662, he was arrested at home and imprisoned for nearly nine years. There he preached almost daily and formed a Sabbath-keeping church within the prison walls.

On his release in 1675, he travelled through several counties preaching and finally settled in London. He gathered a congregation of Sabbatarian Baptists at Pinners' Hall, Broad Street. Whilst conducting service there, he was arrested and returned to prison where he died on 16 February 1683. 

Large crowds of sympathisers attended his funeral at the Anabaptists' burial-ground in Aldersgate Street.

Bampfield defended the Sabbath in 1677, in his book The Seventh Day Sabbath - The Desirable Day, 'The LORD Jesus Christ, who is Redeemer, was Creator... Jehovah Christ as Mediator did himself at Mount Sinai proclaim the law of Ten Words. 

Cover of The Seventh Day Sabbath.

His argument was simply that it was Jesus Christ Himself who wrote the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Why then would this same Christ seek to do away with one of them?

The legacy

What had been achieved by the end of the seventeenth century was not merely the rediscovery of an old idea, but the formulation of a particular way of defending it. This defence would be repeated by succeeding generations of Sabbath-keepers who, in time, would lose all knowledge of the people and times to whom they owed so much.

The same can be said of many new ideas which developed at this time. 

King Charles II. Via

This is the third and final instalment of the series. In later posts, I hope to develop mini-biographies of a number the individuals mentioned. 

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