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BAPTIST MEETING-HOUSE, BELLALLEY, COLEMAN STREET.
were hanged in different parts of the city, and then beheaded.*
BAPTIST CONGREGATION, IN BELL-ALLEY,
DURING the reign of Charles the First, the Baptists had a meeting-house in Bell-alley, Coleman-street; but respecting the church that assembled there our information is estremely slender. It appears to have been among the earliest of that denomination, and was one of the seven churches that put forth a confession of faith, in 1644. Edwards, in his “Gangræna,” gives the following curious account of this people: “ There is one Lam, who was a soap-boiler, and a church that meets in Bell-alley, in Coleman-street, called Lam's church. This man and his church are very erroneous, strange doctrines being vented there continually, both in preaching, and in way of discoursing and reasoning, and strange things also done by them, both in the time of their church meetings, and out of them. Many use to resort to this church and meeting, the house, yards full, especially young youths, and wenches flock thither, and all of them preach universal redemption. In their church meetings and exercises there is such a confusion and noise as if it were at a play; and some will be speaking here, some there : young youths and boys come thither, and make a noise while they are at their exercises, and them of the church will go to make them quiet, and then they fight one with another. Lam preaches sometimes (when he can get into pulpiis) in our churches. On the 5th of November, 1644, he preached at Gracechurch, in London, where he had a mighty great audience, and preached universal grace, the Arminian tenets. This Lam, with one Oats, and others of that church, use
• Kennett's Chronicle, p. 361-363.
BAPTIST MEETING HOUSE, BELL-ALLEY, COLEMAN-STREET
to travel up and down the country, to preach their corrupt doctrines, and to dip. An Essex minister told me that Lam, and one Tomlins, with others, were travelling in Essex to do the devil's work, and that these men were sent down from the church as a church act, into the county of Essex, to make disciples, and propagate their way; and indeed into most counties of England, where these men can go with safety, some emissaries out of the sectaries' churches are sent to infect and poison the counties.- In their church meetings, they have many exercises, in one meeting two or three ; when one hath done, there is sometimes difference in the church who shall exercise next : 'tis put to the vote, some for one, some for another, some for brother Tench, some for brother Bat, some for brother Oats. In this church 'tis usual and lawful, not only for the company to stand up and object against the doctrine delivered, when the exerciser of his gifts hath made an end, but in the midst of it, so that sometimes upon some standing up and objecting, there's pro and con for almost an hour, and falling out among themselves before the man can have finished his discourse. The members of this church are generally loose, many of them turn seekers, and slight the scriptures much. In the latter end of the Lord's-day, many persons, some of other separate churches, and some of our churches will go to this Lam's church for novelty, because of the disputes and wranglings that will be there upon questions, all kinds of things started and vented almost, and several companies in the same room, some speaking in one part, some in another. On a Lord’s-day lately, in Lam's church in the evening, there were three or four companies wrangling together, and putting questions ; some maintaining that the regenerate part in a child of God was perfect; as also one Mr. P. a member of Mr. John Goodwin's church, reasoned for a possibility of men to be saved who are not elected."* The
* Gangræna, part i. p. 35.
BAPTIST MEETING-HOUSE, BELL-ALLEY, COLEMAN-STREET.
above account will be perused by the candid reader with considerable allowance. Of Mr. Lamb, and Mr. Oates, we can present him with a few particulars from a less corrupt source.
Thomas LAMB was a native of Colchester, and during the reign of Charles I. a zealous and popular preacher among the Baptists. At the instigation of Archbishop Laud he was brought from Colchester to London, and prosecuted for not conforming to the established church, and for preaching to a separate congregation. Being brought before the Star-chamber, he was called upon to confess that he had administered the sacrament of the Lord's-Supper, wbich if he had done, he would have been banished. But without giving a positive answer, he pleaded that a subject of Eng. land was under no obligation to bear witness against himself. During his confinement, his wife often went to the Starchamber, and in behalf of herself and eight children, earnestly solicited the Archbishop to procure the liberty of her husband, which it was in his power to do. But he called to the people about him to take away that “ troublesome woman.” Mr. Lamb was in almost all the jails in and about London ; always returning to his work of preaching as soon as he regained his liberty. He was of such a courageous resolution as often to say, “ That the man was not fit to preach, who would nie preach for God's sake, though he were sure to die for it as soon as he had done."
Upon the publication of the ordinance of parliament against unordained preachers, in 1645, the Lord Mayor of London sent his officers to the Baptist meeting in Colemanstreet, upon an information that certain laymeu preached there. At their arrival they found two ministers engaged; Mr. Lamb the elder, and a young man, a teacher in the
Crosby's English Baptists, vol. iii. p. 54, 55.
BAPTIST MEETING.HOUSE, BELL-ALLEY, COLEMAN-STREET.
church, whom Edwards calls “ a weaver.” The congregation being greatly provoked that they should be thus disturbed in the midst of public worship, some of them used very rough language to the officers, calling them “ persecutors,” and “persecuting rogues.” But Mr. Lamb treated them with greater civility, and having passed his word for their appearance before the Lord Mayor at six o'clock, they were suffered to proceed in their worship. Having appeared at the appointed time, the Lord Mayor asked them by what authority they took upon themselves to preach ? and told them they had transgressed an ordinance of parliament. The young man appears to have given some whimsical answers, which were the offspring of enthusiasm, and merit severe
Mr. Lamb was more rational in his replies : he said, “ he was called and appointed to the office of preaching by as reformed a church as any in the world;" alluding to the words of the ordinance. He also acknowledged his rejection of the baptism of infants as invalid. After examination, the Lord Mayor bound them over to answer for their conduct before a committee of parliament, who ordered them to prison for a short while, when they were released at the intercession of some friends.+
After his release, Mr. Lamb went on preaching as usual, and visited various parts of the kingdom to confirm and strengthen the brethren, and plant churches agreeably to his sentiments and order. Crosby relates a narrow escape which he had from the violence of his enemies, upon one of these journies. Being upon one occasion to baptize a woman in Oldford river, which place was much frequented at that time for the purpose, the husband of the woman, who was a bitter enemy to the Baptists, brought a great stone under his coat, desiguing, as he afterwards confessed, to have thrown it at Mr. Lamb, while he stood in the river.
+ Crosby, vol. i. p. 225.-Gangræna, part I. p. 37. Vol. II.
BAPTIST MEETING.HOUSE, BELL-ALLEY, COLEMAN-STREET.
But he was so much affected with the prayer at the commencement of the service, that he dropt the stone, fell into tears, and was himself the next person baptized.* Mr. Lamb was made chaplain to a regiment in Oliver's army; and many other persons of the same stamp being appointed to similar situations, what were called sectarian principles made a rapid progress among the soldiers.
During the age of which we are speaking, there existed a strange spirit of chivalry, which was introduced into the coucerns of religion, and the most important doctrines of the gospel were frequently staked upon the strength or weakness of the parties engaged. A dispute of this nature, in which Mr. Lamb was concerned, took place at the Spital, upon the day of public thanksgiving for the taking of Dartmouth by the Parliament's forces. It respected the immortality and immateriahty of the human soul. A very curious account of this meeting is preserved by Edwards; and as it will serve for a specimen of the manner in which public disputes were conducted at that time, as well as afford some amusement to the reader, it shall be inserted. The Lord Mayor, it appears, had private notice of the meeting, and sent some officers to prevent it. Upon their arrival they acquainted Lamb with their errand. He told them he would go up and acquaint the brethren, which he did, standing in a desk above the people, at one end of the room; and Batty, a teacher in the same church, at the other. Lamb told them that the Lord Mayor had sent to forbid their meeting, or rather to desire them not to dispute as on this day. Afterwards, Batty stood up and said, that “ Mr. Mayor was a limb of antichrist, and a persecutor of the brethren, and he questioned what power, or authority, he had to forbid them: he was sure the parliament gave him no such power, but gave them liberty to use their consciences; and for his part he durst undertake to make it good to master mayor,