Samuel Oates, father to the infamous Titus Oates,+ was a popular preacher among the baptists, and a fellow-labourer with Mr. Thomas Lamb, at the meeting-house in Bell-alley, Coleman-street, London. Edwards, who is mostly angry with separatists from the established church, denominates him a weaver, and endeavours to place him in the most odious light. It appears, from this author, that he spent much time in travelling through different parts of the country, with the view of disseminating his opinions. Speaking of the county of Essex, he says, " Oates hath been sowing his tares and wild Oates in those parts these five weeks, without any controul, and hath seduced and dipped many in Bocking river; and when that is done, he hath a feast in the night, and then the Lord's supper. All these are the works of darkness." If Mr. Oates observed these things in the night, the fault, if there were any, was none of his. The intolerance of the times would not allow such exercises to be observed
• Hist, of New England, p. 161.
+ The following account is given of this mam He was restrained by no principle, human or divine: like Judas, he would have done any thing for thirty shillings, and was one of the most accomplished villains that we read of in history. He was successively an anabaptist, a conformist, and a papist; and then again a conformist. He had been chaplain on board the fleet, whence be was dismissed for an unnatural crime. He was a man of some cunning, more effrontery, and the roost consummate falsehood. Soon after the accession of James II., he was convicted of perjury, upon the evidence of above sixty reputable witnesses. He was sentenced to pay a fine of two thousand marks; to be stripped of his canonical habit) to be whipped twice in three days by the common hangman ; and to stand in the pillory at Westminster-hall gate, and at the Royal Exchange. He was, moreover, to be pilloried five times every year, and to be imprisoned during life. The hangman performed his office with uncommon rigour. The best thing James ever did was punishing Oaf ex for his perjury; and the greatest thing Oates ever did was supporting himself under the most afflictive part of his punishment with the resolution and constancy of a martyr. The a-ra of Oates's plot was the grand sera of Whig and Tory.—Granger'* Biog. Hist. vol. iv. p. 201, 808, 348.
in the light of day. Crosby, alluding to the above circumstance, observes that, in die year 1640, Mr. Oates took a journey into Essex, preached in several parts of that county, and baptized by immersion great numbers of people, especially about Hocking, Braintree, and Terling. This made the presbyUrians in those parts very uneasy; especially the ministers, who complained bitterly that such things should be permitted, and would have urged the magistrates to suppress them. "No magistrate in the country, however, dare meddle with him; for they say they have hunted such persons out of the country into their dens in London, and imprisoned some of them, but they have been released."*
If any credit may be given to Mr. Edwards, the conduct of Mr. Oates and some others, in one of their excursions, was highly censurable. He says, " 1 was informed for certain, that, not long ago, Oates, an anabaptist, and some of his fellows, went their progress into Essex to preach and dip, and among other place's they came to Billericay. On a Tuesday at a lecture kept there, Oates and liis company, with some of the town, when the minister had done preaching, went up in a body, about twenty of them, (divers of them having swords,) into the upper part of the church, and there quarrelled with the minister that preached, pretending they would be satisfied about some things he had delivered, saying to him, he had not preached free grace. Hut the minister, one Mr. Smith, replied, if they would come to a place where he dined he would satisfy them; but it was not a time now to speak. Whereupon these anabaptists turned to the people, and said to them, they were under antichrist, and in antichrist's way," and more to the same purpose. After this they committed a riot in the town.t
rlhe same author relates a circumstance in the life of Mr. Oates, that was attended with more serious consequences. "Last summer," says he, " I heard he went his progress into Surrey and Sussex, but now this year he is sent out into Essex. This Oates is a young lusty fellow, and hath traded chiefly with young women and young maids, dipping many of them, though all is fish that comes to his net. A godly minister of Essex, coming out of those parts, related, that he hath baptized a great number of women, and that they were called out of their beds to go a dipping in rivers, dipping many of them in the night, so that their husbands and masters could not keep them in their houses; and it is commonly reported, that this Oates had for his pains ten shillings a piece for dipping the richer, and two shillings and six-pence for the poorer. He came very bare and mean into Essex, but, before he had done his work, was well lined, and grown pursy. In the cold weather in March he dipped a young woman, one Ann Martin, whom he held so long in the water that she fell presently sick, and her belly swelled with the abundance of water she took in; and within a fortnight or three weeks died, and upon her death-bed expressed her dipping to be the cause of her death."* The enemies of the baptists considered this as a fair opportunity for exercising their power to oppress them. Accordingly, for this, " and other misdemeanors, he was committed to Colchester jail, made fast in irons, and bound over to the next sessions at Chelmsford. The other crimes laid to his charge were these: 'That he had preached against the assessments of the parliament and the taxes laid upon the people, teaching them that the saints were a free people, and should contribute not by compulsion, but voluntarily; but now, contrary to this, they had assessment upon assessment, and rate upon rate.' That in his prayers he made use of this petition: 'That the parliament might not meddle with making laws for the saints, which Jesus Christ was to do alone.' Since his commitment," our author adds, " there hath been great and mighty resort to him in the prison. Many have come down from London in coaches to visit him; and I have a letter by me," says he, "from a minister in Colchester, wherein he writes thus: 'Oates, the anabaptist, hath had great resort to him in the castle, both of town and country; but the committee ordered the contrary last Saturday.'"
'• Edwards'* Gangrzna, partii. p. 3,8.—Crosby's Baptists, vol. i.p.836. + Edwardi's Gangraeoa, pari i. p. 106. Third edit.
Mr. Oates was brought to trial April 7,1646, and acquitted of the charge of murder; but the judge bound him to his good behaviour that for the future he should neither preach nor dip. This, however, had very little effect upon him; for, on the following Lord's day, he returned to his work as usual. Though Mr. Oates escaped with his life, the presbyterians were determined he should not go unpunished. "The people at Wethersfield," says Edwards, " hearing that Oates and some of his companions were come to the town, seized on them (only Oates was not in the company) and pumped them soundly. And Oates coming lately to Dunmow in Essex, some of the town hearing where he was, fetched him out of
* Edwards'i Gangrtcna, part ii. p. 131. i Ibid. p. 138.
the house, and threw him into the river, thoroughly dipping him."»
Dr. Calamy gives an account of a public disputation, iu which Mr. Oates was engaged with Mr. William Sheffield, a minister afterwards ejected. He says, " Mr. Oates, an anabaptist, coming into the country, disturbed several congregations, and dispersed public challenges to dispute with any minister or mmisters upon the point of baptism. Several justices of the peace sent to Mr. Sheffield, desiring him to accept the challenge, and dispute the point with him in Leicester-castle. lie yielded to their desire, and, by agreement, Sir Thomas Beaumont was moderator. At the entrance of the dispute, Mr. Sheffield openly protested that it was truth, and not victory, he was aimmg at and pursuingj and dmt, therefore, if he could not answer the arguments that should be brought against him, or maintain the points he
Eretended to defend, against the opposition of his opponent, e would frankly acknowledge before them. He desired the same of Mr. Oates, who also agreed. The dispute continued three hours, and was managed with great fairness and temper. At length, Mr. Oates was gravelled with an argument, and yet loudly called on by the people present either to answer, or, according to# promise, to confess he could not. Whereupon he frankly confessed that he could not at present answer it. The justices, at the breaking up of the meeting, obliged Mr. Oates to give his promise that he would no more disturb the congregations in that county."+
Mr. Oates lived till after the restoration, when a place of considerable importance was offered him by the Duke of York. This temptation prevailed with him at first to conform; and he was presented to the living of Hastings in the county of Sussex. Afterwards, according to Crosby, his conscience smote him, and he left his living. Coming again among the nonconformists, he returned to Mr. Lamb's congregation, where he continued about five or six years, and died about the year 1666. The same author, who styles him "a popular preacher and a great disputant," says he was minister to a baptist church in Lincolnshire.? Edwards charges Mr. Oates with the tenets of armimavhm; and with having publicly declared in his sermon in Bell-alley, " That the doctrine of God's eternal election and predestination was a damnable doctrine."* Bailie, on the other hand, charges him with propagating antinomianismA These contradictory charges we shall not, however, attempt to reconcile. There is probably no more truth in either of them than there was in similar charges which they brought against his fellow-labourer, Mr. Lamb.;
* Edwards's Gangrcena, pari iii. p. 105,106.
+ Calamy's Account, vol. ii. p. 421, 422.—Snch disputations as that now related, and many others mentioned in this work, are to be regarded only as a sort of religious duels, which can no more decide the equity of any cause than an appeal to the sword or pistol, and ought to be as much discountenanced among all denominations of christians.
t Crosby's Baptists, vol. iii. p. 60,61.