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Baptizing Wyclif: a medieval ancestor in the Baptist history of Thomas Crosby.

Baptists long have been concerned with demonstrating their claim to authentic Christianity, defying criticisms of novelty, and formulating group identities through the employment of history--primarily through the identification of a common, unimpeachable theological origin. (1)

The oft-maligned successionist's task of formulating a convincing historical "trail" sufficient to establish legitimacy has not been foreign to historians of other denominations for as Geoffrey Nuttal concluded, "Probably all Christians who give thought to the matter find satisfaction in some kind of spiritual continuity between Christ's first followers and themselves." (2)

Over the centuries the search for Baptist origins has yielded diverse accounts, each lionizing different perceived predecessors. Modern historians, trying to avoid categorical labels, have moved to identifying the "DNA" of Baptist movements or constructing "genetic histories," both of which have looked backwards for precedent and ideals that might be recovered to validate both the continuity and diversity of contemporary Baptist beliefs. (3) Each "history," however, must be analyzed in its own historical situation of composition. This brief study explores the relevance of the context of the first published history of Baptists.

One of the most surprising and intriguing "ancestors" who appeared in successionist Baptist histories of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the late-medieval Oxford theologian, John Wyclif (d. 1384). For example, in the early nineteenth century, G. H. Orchard commended Wyclif for his contributions to "Christian liberty," his theological influence on Jan Hus, and his endorsement of the right of the common people to read the Bible. (4) More explicitly, J. Jackson Goadby's Bye-Paths in Baptist History (1871) credited Wyclif with "half-truths" that, along with the reading of vernacular scriptures, were so revolutionary that "his followers openly avowed distinct Baptist opinions." (5) Yet, the most definitive connection between Wyclif and Baptist origins came in the prototype for these Baptist narratives, The History of the English Baptists (1738-1740), which was composed by the mathematician and deacon Thomas Crosby (d. 1752). In The History of the English Baptists (henceforth, HEB), Crosby explicitly and intriguingly laid claim to the medieval theologian identifying Wyclif as "a Baptist." (6)

Recent studies of successionist traditions have noted Crosby's inclusion of Wyclif, but none have provided a convincing argument for why Crosby started his Baptist story with the fourteenth-century priest. (7) Most commentators have explained Crosby's appropriation of Wyclif by noting that Crosby found the Lollards to have shared with later Baptists an opposition to elements of the traditional religion of the Late Middle Ages and a high regard for scripture. For example, W. Morgan Patterson contended that Crosby made Wyclif and the Lollards "the starting point apparently because of their opposition to Rome and because Crosby felt they were the first in England to be thoroughly imbued with the evangelical spirit." (8) Yet, Patterson sidestepped Crosby's claim that Wyclif was a Baptist by asserting that "Crosby's view of succession may most accurately be designated a 'spiritual succession,"' and as such Crosby really found the earliest English Baptists between 1611 and the beginning of the 1630s. (9) J. A. Patterson asserted that Crosby "began his account of English Baptists" with Wyclif, but failed to acknowledge that Crosby named Wyclif "a Baptist." (10)

This brief essay argues that to make sense of Crosby's inclusion of Wyclif, one must take seriously both the historical context of the composition of HEB, the source material utilized by Crosby, and finally the popular Dissenting narratives of the day that competed with HEB. In short, the article contends that Crosby had to make Wyclif a Baptist!

The Historical Context

Crosby published The History of the English Baptists in the era following the Act of Toleration (1689) during which the Dissenting traditions--the Presbyterians, Independents/Congregationalists, and Baptists--vied for full enfranchisement in debates with Anglican apologists, as well as in internecine theological battles between Nonconformists. Ravaged by dissension, Dissenters' post-Toleration attempts at union were short-lived. (11) The London union that Matthew Mead (1628/9-1699) happily described to his fellow Independent Thomas Jollie (1629-1703) as causing "great joy in this city among such as fear God. & I hope it is a token for good," had promptly fallen apart over doctrinal squabbles. (12) Marginalized by the pedobaptist strains of Dissent and by the Church of England, Baptists endured criticisms for the novelty of their adult baptism in pieces such as Joseph Stokes's A Survey of Infant Baptism (1715), which Benjamin Stinton (1676-1719), Thomas Crosby's minister and brother-in-law, noted had offered no new arguments and had not received easy endorsement from Presbyterians in London for fear of creating additional divisions. (13)

Underlying the arguments of Presbyterians and Baptists were competing claims of authenticity and authority in the "original." (14) Thus Stinton noted in his journal that Thomas Lowery (noted by Stinton as a one-time Presbyterian from the Church of Scotland but now a Baptist minister) defended adult baptism by immersion by appealing to the original model of baptism that was administered by John the Baptist who performed it "according to the nature of his Commission to Baptize" and the precedent that immersion was the method "of the primitive Institution, our Saviour's Baptism and the Baptism of all the primitive Christians in the first Centuries of the Church." (15) Yet the move to rational religion and early textual criticism fueled opposing arguments: Stinton recorded epistolary exchanges in the mid-1710s about a Baptist minister in Worcestershire whose dispute with two Presbyterian ministers "about the Ordinance of Baptism" had supposedly reached the point that a Presbyterian minister had contended that Matthew 3:16 was not in the original text and thus not authoritative. (16)

The focus on the past for validity must have spurred on denominational historians. (17) Yet, for Baptists the task of writing histories was complicated by their internal theological diversity and their opponents' arguments that the essential practice of believers' baptism had been absent since antiquity. The challenge of the present age was clear: provide convincing arguments from the fonts of scripture, antiquity, and reason. (18)

The Purpose of The History of the English Baptists: (1738-1740)

An unabashedly apologetical work, The History of the English Baptists was explicitly constructed in reaction to the popular The History of the Puritans (1732-1738) written by the Independent minister Daniel Neal (1678-1743). In the preface to the first volume of HEB, Crosby accused Neal of "malicious slander," as the Independent--along with other historians--was guilty of disseminating "falsehoods" about Baptists. To correct the error of these Anglican and Dissenting writers, the Baptist deacon offered his own history constructed from the papers of the late Stinton, extensive references and quotations from popular histories, and even excerpts from little-known documents. (19) In this task of communicating "the truth," Crosby expanded upon Stinton's "account of the English Baptists only," offered "some account of the origin of their opinion," and stretched the tale back "till ... the beginning of Christianity." (20) Yet, as for defining the origins of Baptists, Crosby inherited a problem. In his manuscript "A Journall of the Affairs of the Antipaedo-baptists," Stinton had divided English Baptists into two parties:

   HERE I must observe yt there has been two parties Among ye
   Antipaedo-"baptists in England every since yc Reformation;
   vz, Those yt have follow'd the Calvinisticall Scheem of
   Doctrines, & From ye Principal Point therein (Personal
   Election) have been Term'd Particular Baptists. And those yt
   have Professed [y.sup.e] Arminian or Remonstrants Tenets, & have
   also from ye Chief of those Doctrines (Universal Redemption)
   been call'd General Baptists. (21)

By acknowledging the division among Baptists, Crosby was challenged to prove that the Baptists were not historical upstarts emerging at the Reformation or the seventeenth century but had a common heritage stretching to earliest Christianity! Thus he concluded that the division of "Generals and Particulars" was "the only point, I know of, wherein they [i.e., English Baptists] differ from the primitive churches" and his HEB depicted Baptists in a line of Christians stretching back to the "Primitive Baptists" who had defended and practiced adult baptism, denied the validity of pedobaptism as a "human tradition, and unwarrantable custom," and accordingly were persecuted more than all other Dissenting movements. (22) Thus, Crosby's history was provoked by his particular dissatisfaction with the depiction of Baptists in recent histories, by his desire to give Baptists a coherent, historical identity stretching beyond the theological definitions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and to present to the world a sympathetic and true account from the perspective of a participant, not a "stranger." (23)

What to do with Wyclif

The most significant Protestant histories of English Christianity composed during the late Stuart and early Hanoverian eras all turned to Wyclif at some point. Like his fellow Dissenters, Crosby depended upon the works of earlier historians such as Thomas Fuller (1607/8-1661) and Bishop Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715) and he was deeply indebted to the more systematic Dissenting historians who had preceded him, notably James Peirce and Daniel Neal. Although each of the histories claimed to be penned without bias, each account had a clear agenda. Crosby's was no different.

A Presbyterian Wyclif: James Peirce's A Vindication of the Dissenters (1717 and 1718)

Crosby depended on the historical and apologetical work of the Presbyterian James Peirce (1674-1726), the controversial minister in Exeter whose later heterodoxy prompted his ejection. (24) Peirce's A Vindication of the Dissenters (1717 and 1718) was based upon his previously published Vindicice Fratrum Dissentientium of 1710, and the second edition of A Vindication proved popular for a century because of the quality of Peirce's arguments. Seeking to defend the theology and practice of the Dissenters (primarily the Presbyterians and Independents) against the barbs of Anglicans such as Dr. William Nicholls, Peirce opened A Vindication with a 300-page history of English Dissent, beginning with events from the fourteenth century and extending to the reign of Anne. (25)

Peirce's history in A Vindication began with John Wyclif, who, after all, had been spotlighted by Protestant propagandists like John Bale (d. 1563) as the Stella matutina and by John Foxe (d. 1587) as the first of the persecuted in the early Acts and Monuments (1563). (26) Seventeenth-century Anglican apologists such as Thomas Fuller and Bishop Burnet had employed Wyclif as a heroic warrior against papal tyranny in their own combat with Roman Catholic foes, and Peirce's opponent, Nicholls, had done likewise. (27) Responding to Nicholls's assertion that Wyclif was an ancestor of the Church of England for his resistance to the errors of Rome and that his followers similarly were Protestants because of their commitment to a life led according to their English translations of scripture, Peirce countered in his defense that Wyclif bore a greater similarity to eighteenth-century Presbyterians than the Anglicans.

Understanding Dissent to be a movement in disagreement with those who failed to find scripture as the final authority for worship, polity, and theology, Peirce expected Nonconformists to suffer persecution until the government eliminated the establishment of the Church of England. (Peirce's commitment to a presbyterian polity and pedobaptism prohibited him from welcoming Baptists into his ideal model of scripture-based Dissent.) (28) Thus, Peirce used Wyclif only to demonstrate that if Wyclif was respected by the Anglicans, then the Dissenters should be better respected by the Churchmen because the medieval priest was a Dissenter who had disagreed with fourteenth-century conformists on relevant theological issues. With catenae from Wyclif's theology, Peirce marshaled supports for Wyclif having defended the primacy of scripture, supported a "two-fold" ministry (not episcopacy), and vindicated a doctrine of predestination and the disestablishment of the Church of England. Based on Peirce's definition of dissent, Wyclif was the first English dissenter who must be redeemed from the folds of the Anglicans. (29) Interestingly, Peirce neatly omitted that Wyclif was disciplined in May 1382, was forced to retire to Lutterworth, and that his opinions were condemned at the Council of Constance. Peirce's Wyclif, therefore, was one congruous with the heterodox minister's concerns for scripture-based and rational theology that rejected--even at the cost of persecution--an episcopal system, superstitious rites, and unbiblical holidays.

A Puritan Wyclif: Daniel Neal's The History of the Puritans (1732-1738)

Writing more than a dozen years after Peirce's A Vindication and the schism of Dissent at Salters' Hall in 1719, Daniel Neal composed his history in the face of new challenges to Dissent. In The History of the Puritans (1732-1738), Neal proposed a positive definition of Dissent in an attempt to solidify a broad Nonconformist identity under the banner of religious toleration and to assure Anglicans and the state that Dissenters--descendants of the Puritans--were trustworthy, tolerant, freedom-seeking citizens set in juxtaposition to tyrannical lords and prelates. (30)

Neal began his history with a sketch of the rise of papal power over the English church during the reigns of William the Conqueror and King John, and he introduced his first Dissenter as "the famous John Wickliffe" of the reign of Richard II and ended his work (safely) with the Glorious Revolution. For Neal, the relevant history of the church really began with the "reformation," that is, the transformation of English religion under Henry VIII. Religion prior to the sixteenth century had been in a "sad state," but Henry's reform itself was soon aborted because of the king's priority "to secure his own supremacy." (31) Neal dated the origin of Puritanism not to the reign of Elizabeth but of Edward VI, when bishops were willing to force subscription and uniformity, changing only superficial elements of religion and the ecclesiastical structure. For Neal, the essential distinction was between "old religion" and new, true religion. "Old religion" was stale, and the establishment of the Church of England under the Tudors had "put an effectual stop to the progress of the reformation throughout the whole Christian world." New religion embraced scripture, reason, and "good manners"--but did not explicitly require antiquity--thereby deviating from Peirce's dual principles of scripture and antiquity. True religion was scriptural, but it was also tolerant, peaceful, and adaptive. (32)

Neal's detailed description of Wyclif began with the assertion that Wyclif was the morning-star of this reformation. An eminently talented professor, he "maintained further most of those points by which the PURITANS were afterward distinguished," notably those drawn directly from Peirce's A Vindication. (33) Unlike Peirce, Neal acknowledged that Wyclif was condemned in 1382 for "his new doctrines (as they were called)" and was deprived of his books and his position at Oxford. For Neal, Wyclif was the venerable enemy of bad religion: "This Wickliffe was a wonderful man for the times in which he lived, which were overspread with the thickest darkness of antichristian idolatry." (34) How did Wyclif chiefly combat the darkness? First and foremost he translated the New Testament into English, which served until Tyndale's translation of 1527. (35) The result of his theology was the growth of the Lollards who were persecuted during the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V. Thus, Neal's Wyclif functioned as a model of sincere dissent--i.e., an Englishman, a Puritan, who resisted forced uniformity on the grounds of scriptural authority, who embraced peaceful religion, and who--in the face of tyrannical monarchs and bishops--offered an English translation to the English people.

A Baptist Wyclif: Thomas Crosby's The History of the English Baptists (1738-1740)

Convinced of the malevolence aimed at Baptists in the accounts of Anglicans and Dissenters alike, Thomas Crosby set out to liberate Baptists from the perceived accusations of ignorance, fanaticism, and heresy. To this end, Crosby ironically enlisted dozens of the standard Anglican histories and treatises of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the likes of Fuller, Burnett, Edward Stillingfleet, and Jeremy Thylor, along with those of Peirce and Neal ("tho' he has shewn himself no Friend to the English Baptists, by his invidious representation of them"), in the composition of his history--a melange of source material in which a transcription of "a little" might stretch five printed pages. (36)

Although Peirce and Neal had defended a broader swath of English Nonconformity in their histories, Crosby's story hailed English Baptists who had had their property seized, their "liberty of conscience taken away, and the most cruel and barbarous actions committed [against them.]" (37) Reflecting on the thesis of his first volume of HEB in his rejoinder to John Lewis's A Brief History of the Rise and Progress of Anabaptism in England (1738), Crosby was most concerned with denying the assertion that "the first Rise of the English Baptists ... [sprang] from the mad Rebellion at Munster" by demonstrating that "many Baptists" existed prior to 1534 and outlining "the Account of them even to the Beginning of Christianity it self." (38) Explaining that those who were typified as "Anabaptists" during the reign of the Thdors were indeed English people (not "chiefly Foreigners" or "Refugees,") was essential to his goal to distance English Baptists from the "frantick People of Germany, who were not all Anabaptists, but a mixed Multitude." (39) Baptists, he argued, could appeal to the standard of scripture ("in its primitive simplicity") and earliest Christian history for their practice of believers' baptism, a claim his opponents could not make. (40) In fact, Crosby was convinced in 1738 that "the first Christians in this Island were English Baptists." (41)

Thus, Wyclif became a convenient tool to demonstrate the existence of English Baptists prior to the sixteenth century and to claim Protestantism for the Baptists! Like Nicholls, Peirce, and the reprehensible Neal, Crosby began his history with Wyclif for, as he noted, Wyclif was "the first person of any note, who in England opposed the corruptions of the pope and his clergy" and successfully sowed the "first seeds" of the Reformation, and thus "the best historians of the Reformation in England, begin their account from the days of Wickliff." (42) Quoting from the works of John Foxe and Bishop Burnet, and paraphrasing Fuller's Church History and Neal's History (although without footnote), Crosby argued that Wyclif, having been "convinced by the word of God" had sought gradually to eliminate "the idolatry and superstition of the times." (43) For Crosby, Wyclif's reforming theology (which "was for carrying the reformation much further than it was in the reign of Q. Elizabeth, or since") included critiques of papal supremacy of the church, of episcopal polity, of an established church, and of prescribed "rites and ceremonies" and prayers. Indeed, Wyclif even favored a two-fold ministry supported by the "voluntary contributions of the people." (44)

In short, Crosby saw a Baptist Wyclif: "I am inclined to believe Mr. Wickliff was a Baptist, because some men of great note and learning in the church of Rome, have left it upon record, that he denied infant baptism." (45) Discounting the fact that Wyclifs Dialogas supported infant baptism and ignoring that Wyclif was not condemned for rejecting infant baptism at the Council of Constance, Crosby harbored suspicion that Wyclif could have changed his mind after writing the Dialogus, for as the number of supposed heretical opinions held by Wyclif seemed to have grown exponentially as he grew older, Crosby implied that the priest might have added anabaptism to his theology. (46) The basis of this claim was that Crosby found Roman Catholic sources that charged Wyclif with denying the validity of infant baptism, as well as other "Anabaptistical errors," including his theory of the dominion of grace and the rejection of oaths. (47) In discounting Protestant authorities for Roman Catholic ones, Crosby equivocated in alleging that surely "the Papists were the best capable of giving an account of persons who lived in those times; that though they often cast slanders upon those who opposed superstitions, it follows not, that all must be false which they said of them." (48) Crosby concluded:

   But whether he denied infant-baptism, or not, it is certain he was
   the first reformer of any note, that spread those tenets among the
   English which tend to overthrow the practice of baptizing infants.
   And if he did not pursue the consequence of his own doctrines so
   far, yet many of his followers did, and were made Baptists by it.

Convinced that Wyclif's writings prompted Jan Hus and the growth of Baptists in Prague, Crosby could claim that Baptists were "above 97 years before that insurrection at Munster, which some would make the first rise of the Baptists, and many years before Luther and Calvin." (50) Given an opportunity to retract his interpretation of Wyclif's theology and of his Baptist identity in A Brief Reply, Crosby continued to contend for his "Inclination ... that Dr. Wickliffe was a Baptist." (51) Beyond debate, however, was that Wyclif's censorious theology so affected his disciples that they "were made Baptists by it." (52)

As the Anglican and Dissenting historians had found Wyclif essential to defending their strains of Christianity, so Crosby was forced to baptize Wyclif as a Baptist, redeeming him from the erroneous folds. Thus, Crosby's Baptist Wyclif made four important contributions. First, Wyclif translated "the first English Bible that ever was," evincing his focus on the authority of scripture and providing later English men and women with access to the truth. (53) Second and third, Wyclif modeled the Baptist traits of demanding the removal of the "corruptions in doctrine and worship" (as based upon scriptural warrant) and then being persecuted for the defense of the truth. (54) As Crosby saw infant baptism as a corruption of the second and third centuries and a denial of the models explicitly presented in scripture, then Wyclif must have denied pedobaptism. Furthermore, Wyclif and his followers, who determined "that the Scripture was to be the only rule of Christians," suffered unjust persecution for their simple faith, dying as "probable" Baptists, just like "William Sawtre"--a "Proto-Martyr of the English Nation." Fourth, and most importantly, Wyclif redeemed English Baptists from the stain of Munster by leaving behind the "disciples of Wickliff" who were incontrovertible examples of Baptists in England long before the ignominious debacle on the continent! (55)

Evaluation of Crosby's History and Its Depiction of Wyclif

Crosby's History has been the target of criticisms not dissimilar to those he leveled at Neal's works. Although William H. Whitsitt regarded Crosby's account as "a work of real merit," James Edward McGoldrick considered Crosby to be less than an ideal historian, for he seemed "to have ignored facts and documents which were not congenial to his purpose." (56) Although Crosby's inaccuracies were then compounded by subsequent historians of the nineteenth century such as G. H. Orchard, David Benedict, and J. M. Cramp, Crosby's HEB was significant as it served as a repository for Baptist lore and as a starting point for Baptist history. (57) In the end, the wry observation by the Baptist Robert Robinson still functions as a caution for historians: "It is an old observation, that of all history ecclesiastical is the worst written." (58)

What became of the Baptist Wyclif? He has generally disappeared from Baptist histories. Whitsitt noted the import of the (commonly ascribed) quote from Wyclif regarding the multiplicity of appropriate manners of baptism in the fourteenth century, including immersion and affusion. (59) Recent Baptist histories have continued to include mention of Wyclif, albeit with different emphases. For some, Wyclif was included to demonstrate growing dissatisfaction with the workings of the late medieval church, emerging Englishness, and the importance of the availability of vernacular scriptures to the common folks. (60) Robert G. Torbet grouped John Wyclif with Peter Waldo and Jan Hus as "forebears of Baptists" as they were critics of "extra-biblical practices." (61) In his Baptists Through the Centuries, David Bebbington hinted at the theological and geographical preparation provided by the Lollards for later Dissenters, explicitly the General Baptists--but ascribed no further importance to the followers of Wyclif. (62) James Leo Garrett addressed Wyclif's contribution to John Calvin's theology in the vaguest way. (63) C. Douglas Weaver in his In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story and William H. Brackney in his The Baptists and in his Genetic History of Baptist Thought avoided Wyclif and the Wycliffites entirely in their discussion of the earliest Baptists. (64) Thus, from the evidence, it would appear that Wyclif no longer is a Baptist.

(1) This essay expands upon research reported in Bracy Hill's dissertation, composed under the guidance of Dr. Bill Pitts, and articles related to that study of Dissenting historians of the eighteenth century.

(2) Geoffrey F. Nuttall, Visible Saints: The Congregational Way, 1640-1660 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1957), 1.

(3) For discussions of various types of Baptist successionism, see Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists, 3rd ed. (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1973), 17-21; W. Morgan Patterson, Baptist Successionism: A Critical View (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1969); and James Edward McGoldrick, Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History ATLA Monograph Series, No. 32 (Lanham, MD: The American Theological Library Association and The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2000).

(4) G. H. Orchard, A Concise History of Foreign Baptists (London: George Wightman, 1838), 229-237.

(5) J. Jackson Goadby, Bye-Paths in Baptist History (London: Elliot Stock, 1871), 13-14.

(6) Thomas Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, From the Reformation to the Beginning of the Reign of King George I, 4 vols. (London: Printed for the Author/Editor, 1738-1740), 8.

(7) For a recent study that notes the inclusion, see James A. Patterson, James Robinson Graves: Staking the Boundaries of Baptist Identity (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 105-106.

(8) W. Morgan Patterson, Baptist Successionism: A Critical View (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1969), 19-20. Also see McGoldrick, Baptist Successionism, 145.

(9) W. Morgan Patterson, Baptist Successionism, 20.

(10) James A. Patterson, James Robinson Graves, 104.

(11) Bracy V. Hill II, "Faithful Accounts?" The Hampton Court Conference and the King James Bible in Early Eighteenth-Century Dissenting Histories," Reformation 16 (2011): 115-116. For more on the era's theological debates, see Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters from the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 292-297; Alexander Gordon, ed., Freedom After Ejection: A Review (1690-1692) of Presbyterian and Congregational Nonconformity in England and Wales (Manchester: University Press, 1917); and Roger Thomas, "Parties in Nonconformity," in The English Presbyterians: From Elizabethan Puritanism to Modern Unitarianism, ed. C. G. Bolam, et al. (London: Allen & Unwin, 1968), 99-112.

(12) Matthew Mead, "Letter from Matthew Mead to Thomas Jollie, 17 March 1690/1" in "The Jollie Papers," Dr. Williams's Library, London (DWL), MS 12.78, fol 247.

(13) Benjamin Stinton, "A Journall of the Affairs of the Antipaedobaptis" Beginning with the Reign of King George, whose Accession to [y.sup.e] Throne was on [y.sup.e] First of August, 1714. As the same was kept, by Beniamin Stinton," DWL, MS 38.17, fols 24v; Joseph Stokes, A Survey of Infant Baptism and the Mode of Baptizing: In a Letter to a Gentleman at London (London: Printed for M. Lawrence, 1715). For an introduction to Thomas Crosby and his relationship to Benjamin Stinton, see. B. R. White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century (Didcot: Baptist Historical Society, 1996), 164-166; B. R. White, "Thomas Crosby, Baptist Historian: (I) The First Forty Years, 1683-1723," The Baptist Quarterly 21, no. 4 (October 1965): 154-168; B. R. White, "Thomas Crosby, Baptist Historian: (II) Later Years," The Baptist Quarterly 21, no. 5 (January 1966): 219-234; and Stephen Wright, The Early English Baptists (Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press, 2006), 75-84.

(14) For more on the emerging theology of Dissenting rational religion, the importance of a primitivistic hermeneutic of simplicity, and one of its leading early eighteenth-century proponents, see Bracy V. Hill II, "The Language of Dissent: The Defense of Eighteenth-Century English Dissent in the Works and Sermons of James Peirce" (Ph.D. diss., Baylor University, 2010).

(15) Stinton, "A Journall of the Affairs of the Antipaedobaptists," DWL, MS 38.17, fols 29r-33v. The language and grammar of the quotations have been modernized.

(16) Ibid., fols 92v-94r.

(17) John Seed has argued that Dissenters frequently turned to constructing histories to argue for respectability and to create denominational identities in this pivotal era. See Dissenting Histories: Religious Division and the Politics of Memory in Eighteenth-Century England (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008); and, "History and Narrative Identity: Religious Dissent and the Politics of Memory in Eighteenth-Century England," Journal of British Studies 44 (January 2005): 46-63.

(18) James Peirce, Remarks on Dr. Wells His Letter to Mr. Peter Dowley, In a Letter to a Friend, 2nd ed. (London: J. Humfreys, 1706), 44.

(19) Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, 1: "To the Reader," iv-v; Bracy V. Hill II, "Suffering For Their Consciences: The Depiction of Anabaptists and Baptists in the Eighteenth-Century Histories of Daniel Neal," The Welsh Journal of Religious History 5 (2010): 88-89; Hill, "Faithful Accounts," 133-134; White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century, 164-166; White, "Thomas Crosby, Baptist Historian: (I) The First Forty Years, 1683-1723," 154-168; White, "Thomas Crosby, Baptist Historian: (II) Later Years," 219-234.

(20) Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, l:xvii-xviii; lvii.

(21) Stinton, "A Journall of the Affairs of the Antipaedobaptists DWL, MS 38.17, 16v-17r.

(22) Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, 4:407; 1:lviii, 1-2; 4:ii-iii; Hill, "Faithful Accounts," 133-134.

(23) Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, 1: ii-iii.

(24) For information about the life and theology of James Peirce, see David L. Wykes, "Peirce, James (1674-1726)," in ODNB, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 449-452; Alexander Gordon, "Peirce, James (16747-1726)" in DNB, ed. Leslie Stephen and Sidnet/ Lee (London: Oxford University Press, 1937; repr., 1981), 15:681-685; Bracy V. Hill II, "Faithful Accounts?: The Hampton Court Conference and The King James Bible in Early Eighteenth-Century Dissenting Histories," Reformation 16 (2011): 113-143; and Bracy V. Hill II, "The Language of Dissent: The Defense of Eighteenth-Century English Dissent in the Works and Sermons of James Peirce" (Ph.D. diss., Baylor University, 2010).

(25) William Nicholls, Defensio Ecclesiae Anglicanae (London: G. Sayes, 1708); William Nicholls, A Defence of the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England. In Two Parts (London: Printed for Jonas Brown and John Watts, 1715); William Nicholls, A Defence of the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England, 3rd ed. (London: Printed for J. Batley, 1730).

(26) G. R. Evans, John Wyclif: Myth & Reality (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 244-245.

(27) Thomas Fuller, The Church History of Britain (London: Printed for John Williams, 1656), Book IV: 129-142; Gilbert Burnet, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England (London: Printed for Richard Chiswell, 1679), 1:23-24, 194; Nicholls, A Defence of the Doctrine and Discipline, 3rd ed. (1730), 2-3; Nicholls, Defensio Ecclesiae Anglicanae (1708), 2.

(28) James Peirce, A Vindication of the Dissenters: In Answer to Dr. William Nichols's Defence of the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England, 2nd ed. (London: Printed for John Clark, 1718), Preface, 55-56, 66; Hill, "Faithful Accounts," 118-119; Hill, "The Language of Dissent," 385-387, 389-390, 403.

(29) James Peirce, Vindicice Fratrum Dissentientium in Anglia, Adversus V.C. Gulielmi Nicholsii, S.T.P. Defensionem Ecclesice Anglicance (London: J. Robinson, 1710), 3-5; Peirce, A Vindication of the Dissenters (1718), 4-6; Hill, "The Language of Dissent," 378; Hill, "Faithful Accounts," 124.

(30) Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans or Protestant Nonconformists from the Reformation in 1517, to the Revolution in 1688, 2nd ed., corrected, 2 vols. (London: Printed for J. Buckland, etc., 1754), 1 :xiv; 2:viii; Russell E. Richey, "The Origins of English Unitarianism" (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1970), 192; Seed, "History and Narrative Identity," 47-48, 57; Seed, Dissenting Histories, 50-53; Hill, "Suffering For Their Consciences," 92-93; Hill, "Faithful Accounts," 126-128.

(31) Neal, The History of the Puritans, 1 :v-vi.

(32) Ibid., 1 :vi, xii, 30, 57, 93, 96, 104, 646.

(33) Ibid., 1:3.

(34) Ibid., 1:4.

(35) Ibid., 2:94-97.

(36) For examples, see Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, 3:131-136, or Thomas Crosby, A Brief Reply to the Reverend Mr. John Lewis's Brief History of the Rise and Progress of Anabaptism in England; and to his Account of Dr Wickliffe (London: Printed for the Author, 1738), 7-12. White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century, 164-165.

(37) Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, 1:1-2.

(38) Crosby, A Brief Reply to the Reverend Mr. John Lewis's Brief History, 6-7; John Lewis, A Brief History of the Rise and Progress of Anabaptism in England (London: Printed for C. Rivington and W. Parker, 1738).

(39) Crosby, A Brief Reply to the Reverend Mr. John Lewis's Brief History, 5, 15-16.

(40) Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, 1:viii, lvii-lxi, 3:xii.

(41) Crosby, A Brief Reply to the Reverend Mr. John Lewis's Brief History, 42.

(42) Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, 1:2-3.

(43) Ibid., 1:3-4.

(44) Ibid., 1:8.

(45) Ibid., 1:8.

(46) Ibid., 1:9-12.

(47) Ibid., 1:8-9.

(48) Ibid., 1:10.

(49) Ibid., 1:11-12.

(50) Ibid., 1:13-15.

(51) Crosby, A Brief Reply to the Reverend Mr John Lewis's Brief History, 39-41.

(52) Ibid., 40.

(53) Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, 1:2-5, 118.

(54) Ibid., 1:3-8.

(55) Confidently, Crosby could assert, "I say, it is evident there were opposers of infant-baptism at that time [i.e., 1517], and that the rise of the Baptists is not of such late date as some would have it." Ibid., 1:30.

(56) McGoldrick, Baptist Successionism, 146.

(57) Ibid. For examples of Crosby's contributions, see Wright, The Early English Baptists, 99, 107.

(58) Robert Robinson, Ecclesiastical Researches (Cambridge: Printed by Francis Hodson, 1792), 1.

(59) William H. Whitsitt, A Question in Baptist History (New York: Amo Press, 1980), 25.

(60) For example, see Michael E. Williams, Sr. and Walter B. Shurden, Timing Points in Baptist History: A Festschrift in Honor of Harry Leon McBeth (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2008), 6, 7, 9.

(61) Robert G. Thibet, A History of the Baptists, 513.

(62) David W. Bebbington, Baptists Through the Centuries: A History of a Global People (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 13, 23.

(63) James Leo Garrett, Jr., Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2009).

(64) C. Douglas Weaver, In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2008); William H. Backney, The Baptists (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994); Brackney, A Genetic History of Baptist Thought (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2004).

Bracy V. Hill II is a lecturer in the Department of History at Baylor University.
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Title Annotation:John Wyclif
Author:Hill, Bracy V., II
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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