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UNNING’s-Alley is a large paved thoroughfare, in Bishopsgate-street Without, and leading into Moorfields. Here stood formerly a meeting-house, appropriated in the reign of Charles the Second to the use of the General Baptist; but even the existence of it is scarcely known in the present day. In the year 1698, Captain Pierce Johns left a considerable estate, to be divided between six churches of that denomination in London. In this property, five churches were to share an equal interest; the sixth to possess only a moiety. The smallest share fell to the church in Dunning’sAlley; which, most probably, was much less considerable than either of the others. By the will of the deceased, half the sum was to go to the minister, and half to the people. At the time of the bequest, and inany years prior to it, the pastor of this society was Dr. John Griffith. As he was an old man, it is possible he might have first formed the church; but of this we are not certain. His successor was Mr. Robert Jemmett, who dying about 1718, the society continued without a pastor till 1729, when the trustees of Pierce Johns' estate, declared that the church in Dunning's-Alley was become extinct. After this, the money fell to the other five churches, which are still in existence, but most of them in a very low state ; so that it is probable they would long ere this have ceased to exist, also, had it not been for the endowe ment, which is now very considerable.
The history of this church, which is extremely short, is as follows:
JOHN GRIFFITH, a worthy minister of the General Baptist persuasion, who suffered much persecution for being steadfast to his principles, was sometimes called Dr. Gritfith ; but whether he took his degree in divinity or medicine, seems uncertain : most probably the latter. Concerning his early life we know scarcely a single particular. It appears from his funeral sermon, that “ he lived to be near fourscore years
age; more than threescore of which were solemnly and sincerely devoted to the Lord in his church. He was about fifty-four years a pastor ; fourteen of which he spent in sufferings, bonds, and imprisonments for his Lord, and the testimony of a good conscience.”
Not long after the Restoration, a sudden storm arising upon the Nonconformists, their meetings were every where broken up, and such as were found present committed to prison. Among this number was Dr. Griffith, who being apprehended, was sent prisoner to Newgate, where he continued seventeen months, for no other crime (says Crosby *) but preaching to a congregation of Protestants. In the same year, 1661, he published a small piece, entitled, “ A Complaint of the Oppressed against Oppressors : or, the unjust and arbitrary Proceedings of some Soldiers and Jugtices, against some sober, godly Persons in and near London, who now lie in stinkling Goals for the Testimony of a good Conscience; with some Reason why they cannot swear Allcgiance to obtain their Liberty.” Crosby mentions the publication of this piece prior to his imprisonment.*
History of the English Baptists, vol. ii. p. 149.
+ Iliid. p. 146.
DUNNING'S-ALLEY, BISHOPSGATE-STREET.-General Baptist, Estinct.
Dr. Griffith was again under coutinement in 1683, as appears from the narrative of his case, published in that year! The title of it is as follows : “ The Case of Mr. John Griffith, Minister of the Gospel, and now Prisoner in Newgate. Being a true and impartial Account of what he spake at the Sessions-House, in the Old Bailey, on the 18th Day of this Instant, April, 1689; before the Lord Chief Justice Saunders, and three Judges more, the Lord-Mayor, Recorder, and several Aldermen of the City of London."
On the day and year before-mentioned, he was brought into court, together with Mr. Bampfield, another prisoner, and being put to the bar, Mr. Bampfield was first required to take the oath of allegiance, according to the statute of the third of King James. After some discourse between the judges, Mr. Bampfield persisting in his refusal to take the oath, was desired to withdraw. It was then tendered to Dr. Griffith, who gave the following reasons for his refusal of the oath. 1. Because he was bound by scripture, with which the Church of England also agreed, to swear in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness : but by this oath, he bound himself to the performance of things concerning which he must be entirely ignorant, because not in existence. 2. Because he was bound by the oath, to obey not only the then king, but his heirs and successors, be they whom tliey might : but he could not bind himself to obey laws not then in being ; nor princes, who, for ought he knew, might be Papists. 3. By this oath he bound himself to a strict conformity to the Church of England: but as he was of a different judgment, he could not take it with a good conscience. Having then appealed to the judges as to the correctness of his inferences, he added, “ I am well satisfied and settled in niy religion, and the more confirmed by what you said ; and if it be so, do with me what you please: Come life, come death, the Lord assisting me, I will never take the oath of allegiance.” He was then remanded back to the Press-yurd, Vol. II.
DUNNING'S-ALLEY, BISHOPSGATE-STREET.-General Baptist, Extinct.
“Where (says he) I remain the Lord's prisoner; I am ready further to bear my testimony for him against Antichrist, the Pope, and See of Rome; and for his holy word, the purity of the gospel, and the ordinances thereof, against popish darkness, &c. as one made willing, through the free mercy and rich grace of God, my heavenly Father, to forsake all for Christ, who hath loved me, and given himself for me; not counting my life dear to myself, so I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."*
How long Dr. Griffith continued in prison we find no where mentioned; but he enjoyed the company of several of his brethren, who were confined there at the same time, and for the like cause. Among these were, Mr. Lawrence Wise, Mr. Hercules Collins, and Mr. Francis Bampfield, above-mentioned, who died in Newgate. These were Baptists; and the churches of that denomination made liberal collections for their support. After his release, Dr. Griffith returned to his people, and continued preaching to them as the times would permit, till the Revolution gave him liberty and rest.
He died on the 16th of May, A. D. 1700, in the 79th year of his age. Dr. Griffith is said to have been somewhat too strait and narrow in his notions concerning the terms of church-communion : “ But this (says Mr. Allen) we have reason to think proceeded from his sincere zeal, and tender respect to the laws of Jesus Christ. I know of no dishonour, or blemish, he brought upon our holy religion, in his so long profession of it, but he was in general an ornament and reputation to it. He bore his long sickness and pains, with much patience and submission to the divine will, and to the last rejoiced in full assurance of hope : he being conscious that Christ was his life, thereupon comfortably concluded, that death would be his gain.”+ His
Crosby's English Baptists, vol. ii. p. 361-5.
DUNNING'S-ALLEY, BISHOPSGATE-STREET.-General Baptist, Extinct.
funeral sermon was preached and published by Mr. Richard Allen. It is entitled, “ A gainful Death the End of a truly Christian Life," from Phil. i. 21. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Robert JemmiTT.--Dr. Griffith was succeeded by a Mr. Robert Jemmitt, concerning whom we can record but few particulars. From a manuscript before us, it appears that, in 1696, he was pastor of a congregation in Goodman’s-fields; but in what part, or how it was disposed of when he removed to Dunning's-alley, we find no mention. He continued pastor of the society at the latter place, till his death in 1718; at which time the church dissolved. Several members, however, wishing to keep up their church, state, hired a meeting-house in Katherine-wheel-Alley, Whitechapel, where they assembled some years for public worship, and claimed the appellation of the old church. The emolument arising from Pierce John's bequest was, also, continued to them. At a meeting of the trustees, held Feb. 19, 1727, it was resolved that the church in Dunning's-alley had misapplied the money, which was left both to the minister, and the poor. It was, however, continued to them till 1729, when the trustees passed a resolution, that the said church was become extinct. We find no traces of the meeting-house in Dunning's-alley, after the death of Mr. Jemmitt; but it, most probably, did not continue standing any great while after that event.*
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