Benjamin Keach Punished for Preaching the Truth

This is the day that … Benjamin Keach was arrested for publishing a children’s book!

It was 1664, in Aylesbury, England. Keach was a 24 year-old non-conformist – that is, he refused to conform to the teachings of the state church. He was a Baptist.

In those days religious toleration was at a low ebb – non-existent might be a better word.

Such was the antagonism toward religious non-conformists that the judge tried to find a way to impose the death sentence. When the jury found Benjamin guilty only of misquoting a single verse of Scripture, Judge Hyde bullied the jurors into finding the defendant guilty of other charges.

Two years earlier 2000 ministers were ejected from their living because of their refusal – among other things – to submit to bishops and use the Prayer Book.

Parliament had passed a law (the Act of Uniformity) designed to bring all Christians under the banner of Anglicanism.

Benjamin Keach was actually preaching when the soldiers arrived … “violently laid hold of him, tied him and threw him to the ground. Then they declared their intention of killing him by riding their horses over him. As the men spurred their horses forward, an officer appeared and at the last moment saved the preacher from a horrible death” (B. Keach, by R. Dix, page 11).

He was charged with printing “a seditious and venomous book” entitled The Child’s Instructor – a book that taught doctrines contrary to the Book of Common Prayer.

Especially noted were his views on the baptism of believers (rather than infants), and that “it is the gift of God that makes a minister of the gospel and not learning from universities or human schools.”

Keach was sentenced to a fortnight in prison, two hours in the pillory, fined 20 pounds Sterling (a small fortune in those days) and his book was publicly burned.

While in the stocks in the public square he preached to the people and they looked upon him as a hero. Rather than pelt him with rotten vegetables they respected him. Keach’s preaching was so effective that the sheriff threatened to gag him. When a Church of England minister spoke out against Keach the crowd responded by scorning the minister for his godless life.

Like thousands of others, Benjamin Keach suffered – more than once – because of his faith in Jesus Christ and because he believed a man’s religion is not bound by the state – but by the Word of God (ibid, page 15). In this Keach was recognising the higher government of God over our lives than the governments imposed by men. Just as the early apostles declared that they must obey God and not man.

Sixty books came from his pen, he introduced hymn-singing into Baptist services, and for many years preached to large congregations … even up to 1000 people.

By the time of his death in 1704 (at the age of 64) he was one of the best-known Baptists in all England.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Thomas Goodwin the Famous Nonconfomist

This is the day that … Thomas Goodwin was born in Norfolk, England, in 1600.

Converted at the age of 20, when God spoke to his heart through a sermon based on Ezekiel 16:6, Thomas Goodwin went on to become a Church of England clergyman, until he clashed with the bishop!

He was told not to preach upon controversial subjects!

And a few years later – in 1633 – when he met non-conformist leader John Cotton, the die was cast.  Thomas Goodwin resigned from the Church of England and became a Congregationalist.

He pastored a London chapel, married Elizabeth Prescott, spent a year in ministry in Holland, then back to London.

During the Civil War he was a Chaplain to Oliver Cromwell (and later was at Cromwell’s deathbed);  he was the non-conformists’ leader at the Westminster assembly where he spoke 357 times during the five and a half years it was in session.  On 15 October, 1644, he was even called to order for speaking too long!

And he kept minutes of the meetings – 14 massive volumes.

His published writings cover 12 volumes (Banner of Truth) – for example, there are 36 sermons just on the first chapter of Ephesians.

During his lectures at Oxford his students called him “Dr Ninecaps”, possibly because of the “two double skull caps” he often wore (Puritan Profiles, by W. Barker, page 75).

Alexander Whyte speaks of him as “the greatest pulpit master of Pauline exegesis that has ever lived” (Thirteen Appreciations, page 158).

But some fellow Puritans – like John Owen – criticised Goodwin’s distinctive teachings on assurance.

Thomas Goodwin died on 23 February, 1680, and was buried in Bunhill Fields unconsecrated ground (since he was not allowed burial in the regular cemetery due to his non-conformist beliefs).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.