The persecution offered to the Rehoboth Baptists scattered their church, but did not destroy their principles. Facing the obloquy attached to their cause, and braving the trials imposed by the civil and ecclesiastical powers, they must wait patiently God’s time of deliverance. That their lives were free from guile, none claim. That their cause was righteous, none will deny; and while the elements of a Baptist church were thus gathering strength on this side of the Atlantic, a leader was prepared for them, by God’s providence, on the other. In the same year that Obadiah Holmes and his band established their church in Massachusetts, in opposition to the Puritan order, Charles I, the great English traitor, expiated his “high crimes and misdemeanors” on the scaffold, at the hands of a Puritan Parliament. Then followed the period of the Commonwealth under Cromwell, and then the Restoration, when “there arose up a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.” The Act of Uniformity, passed in 1662, under the sanction of Charles II, though a fatal blow at the purity and piety of the English Church, was a royal blessing to the cause of religion in America. Two thousand bravely conscientious men, who feared God more than the decrees of Pope, King, or Parliament, were driven from their livings and from the kingdom. What was England’s great loss was America’s great gain, for a grand tidal wave of emigration swept westward across the Atlantic to our shores. Godly men and women, clergy and laity, made up this exiled band, too true and earnest to yield a base compliance to the edict of conformity. For thirteen years here the Dissenters from Mr. Newman’s church waited for a spiritual guide, but not in vain.
How our Baptist brethren here conducted themselves during these years, and the difficulties they may have occasioned or encountered, we know but little. Plymouth, liberal already, has grown more lenient towards church offenders in matters of conscience. Mr. John Brown, a citizen of Rehoboth, and one of the magistrates, has presented before the Court his scruples at the expediency of coercing the people to support the ministry, and has offered to pay from his own property the taxes of all those of his townsmen who may refuse their support of the ministry. This was in 1665. Massachusetts Bay has tried to correct the errors of her sister colony on the subject of toleration, and has in turn been rebuked by her example.
Leaving the membership awhile, let us cross the sea to Wales to find their future pastor and teacher—John Myles.