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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Thomas Armitage, D.D.
From History of the Baptists, 1886
Few men amongst the Baptists ranked higher at this than Benjamin Keach. He was born in 1640, was in the first on his faith in Christ at the age of 15, and began to preach at 18; then, in 1668 at the age of 28 he became pastor of the Baptist Church in Horsleydown, London.
For the high crime of publishing a small work on fundamental Baptist principles he was indicted in 1664, and brought down before Chief Justice Hyde. This judge descended to the meanness of browbeating his prisoner.
The indictment being long, Keach asked for a copy that he might confer with counsel. This right of every Englishman was refused; and the judge, in a towering passion, demanded that he should first plead, or he would take his silence as confession, and so pronounce judgment. He pleaded "not guilty" when the judge gave him a copy and an hour’s time to consider objections. This he declined as insufficient.
When he proceeded to his defense the court said, "You shall not speak anything here, except to say whether you wrote this book or not." The jury found a technical error in the indictment, but that the court forced a verdict of guilty, despite the law. The judge then sentenced him to prison for two weeks, and to stand in the pillory in the marketplace at Aylesbury, with a paper upon his head inscribed, "for writing, printing and publishing a schismatical book, entitled "The Child's Instructor; or, A New and Easy Primmer." At the same time, he was to pay a fine of £20, to give securities for his appearance at the next assize, to recant his doctrines, and his book was to be burned before his eyes in the pillory by the hangman.
When in the pillory the crowd treated him with great respect and, instead of hooting and pelting him with eggs, as was common, listened eagerly to his exhortations. The Sheriff, in a great range, threatened to gag him, but he exhorted the people out of the Bible. On the following Saturday he stood in the pillory at Winslow and his book was burnt.
He was often imprisoned for preaching the gospel, and had great contests with Baxter, Burkitt and Flavel on Baptist peculiarities. For many years his church was compelled to meet in private houses, but under the Declaration of Indulgence, 1672, they built their first house of worship, which was frequently enlarged until it held a thousand hearers.