Thomas Lamb

Thomas Lamb was a native of Colchesler; and, during the reign of Charles I., a zealous and popular preacher among the baptists. At the instigation of Archbishop Laud, he was brought from Colchester to London, and prosecuted for nonconformity to the established church, and for preaching to a separate congregation. Being brought before the star-chamber, he was commanded to confess that he had administered the Lord's supper; which, if he had done, he would have been banished from his country z but, without giving a positive answer, he pleaded that a subject of England was under no obligation to bear witness against himself. He was, therefore, sent to prison, where he remained a long time. During his confinement, his wife often went to (he star-chamlwr, and, in behalf of herself and eight children, earnestly solicited the archbishop to procure the liberty of her husband, which it was in his power to do; but the relentless prelate, instead of listening to her tender supplications, called to the people about him to take away lhat " troublesome woman!" Mr. Lamb was often in bonds for his nonconformity, and was confined in almost all the jails in and about London; always returning to his delightful work of preaching as soon as he had regained his liberty. He was of so courageous a resolution as often to say, "That the man was not fit to preach who would not preach for God's sake, though he were sure to die for it as soon as he had done."* A minister of the same name was made vicar of South Benfleet in Essex, July 23, 1641; but it does not appear how long he held the befiefice, nor whether he was the same person.+ Not long after this period, Mr. Lamb was chosen pastor of a baptist church in Bell-alley, Colemanstreet, London,* but did not confine his labours wholly to his own particular charge. He visited various p;»rts of the kingdom to confirm and strengthen the brethren, and plant churches agreeably to his own sentiments. However, in the year 1645, he was brought into fresh troubles; for, upon the publication of the ordinance of parliament against unordained preachers, in that year, the lord mayor sent his officers to the baptist meeting in Coleman-street, upon an information that certain laymen preached there. On their arrival, they found two ministers engaged, Mr. Lamb the elder, and a young man, a teacher in the church, whom Edwards calls " a weaver." The congregation was so greatly provoked, by being thus disturbed in the midst of public worship, that some of them treated the officers with very rough language, calling them "persecutors," and "persecuting rogues." But Mr. Lamb treated thevn with greater civility, and having passed his word for their

* Crosby's Baptists, vol. iii. p, 75—90. + Ibid. Toi. It. p. SO?.

• Crosby's Baptists, vol. iil. |,. .VI, 55.
+ Newcourt's Reperl. Ercl. vnl. ii. p. 48.
*. Edwards's Gangrenu, pari i. p. 124—12B.

appearance before the lord mayor at six o'clock, they were suffered to proceed in their worship. Appearing at the appointed time, the lord mayor asked them by what authority they took upon themselves to preach; and (old them they had transgressed an ordinance of parliament. The young man being interrogated, gave several whimsical answers, apparently the offspring ot enthusiasm, and deserving of censure. Mr. Lamb was more rational in his replies: he said, "he was called and appointed to the office of preaching by as reformed a church as any in the world!" alluding to the words of the ordinance. He also acknowledged his rejection of the baptism of infants as invalid. After examination, the lord mayor bound them over to answer for their conduct before a committee of parliament; and, upon their appearance before the committee, they were sent to prison, where they continued a short time, and then, by the intercession of friends, they were released.*

Mr. Lamb was no sooner delivered out of prison than he went on preaching as usual, and, as formerly, made his excursions to distant places in the country. On one of these journies, he had a narrow escape from the violence of his enemies. Having to baptize a woman in Oldford river, a place then much frequented tor the purpose, the husband of Hit; woman, a bitter enemy (o the baptists, carried a great stone under his coat, designing, as he afterwards confessed, to have thrown it at Mr. Lamb, while he stood in the river. But lie was so much affected with the prayer at the commencement of the service, that he dropt the stone, fell into tears, and was himself the next person baptized.! Mr. Lamb was made chaplain to a regiment in Cromwell's army; and many other nersons of the same stamp being appointed to similar situations, the sectarian principles, as they were called, made rapid progress among the soldiers.

During this period, a spirit for public disputation, especially upon points of religion, very much prevailed among all parties; and the most important doctrines of the gospel were frequently risked upon the strength or weakness of the parties engaged. A dispute of this nature, in which Mr. Lamb was engaged, took place at the Spital, on the day of public thanksgiving for the taking of Dartmouth by the parliament's lbrces. It respected the immortality and

• Edwards's Gaogrsna, part i. p. 124—197. Second edit.—Crosby'* Baplisli, vol. i. p. 226, 926. t Crosby's Baptists, vol. iii. p. 55.

immateriality of the human soul. A very curious account ol this meeting is preserved by Mr. Kd wards; and as it "will serve for a specimen of the manner in which public disputes were then conducted, as well as afford some amusement to the reader, it shall be inserted. The lord mayor, it appears, had private notice of the meeting, and sent his officers to prevent it. Upon their arrival, they acquainted Mr. Lamb with their errand. He told them he would go .up and acquaint the brethren; which he did, standing in a desk above the people, at one end of the room, and one Batty, a teacher in the same church, at the other. Mr. Lamb told them that the lord mayor had sent to forbid their meeting, or rather to request them not to dispute on that day. Batty then stood up and said, " That Mr. Mayor was a limb of antichrist, and a persecutor of the brethren; and he questioned what power or authority he had to forbid them: he was sure the parliament gave him no such power, but gave them liberty to use their consciences ; and, tor his part, he durst undertake to make it good to Master Mayor, calling my Lord Mayor," says Edwards, " in a most base and scornful manner, Master Mayor.'' Overton, the moderator on Batty's side, next stood up and said, "Brother Lamb, had Paul done well, if he had desisted from preaching in the name of Jesus, when commanded by the high-priest to forbear?" To this Mr. Lamb answered in the negative. \J\mn which Overton replied, in a most scornful manner, "Nor ought we to obey Master Mayor." "And thus did these men argue the power of my Lord Mayor for an hour's space, till they came to state the question and fall to their dispute. The question was, That God made man, and every part of man, of the dust of the earth; and therefore man, and every part of man, must return to the dust again, which Batty could not prove; nor could Lamb tell well how to answer: but they both ran off from scripture to scripture, never clearing any one thing to the people. When they had rambled a long time, so that neither of them could tell what to say, then another stood up and said, ' Brother Lamb, or Brother Batty, leave this point to the consideration of the brethren, and take up some other.' After these two had spent four or five hours in this confusion, they sat down and rested; and then stood up one Mellish, a cobbler, and Lawson, a schoolmaster, both anabaptists, and to work they went. Lawson calls to Mellish, and saith to him, 'Brother Mellish, speak either categorically or hypothetically.' Mellish answered

Lawson, tlrat he spake now to him in an unknown tongue, and prayed him to explain himself. Lawson told Mellish that he was not fit (o dispute, if he knew not the meaning of these words. Mellish replied, that if he should stand up and tell the people that the moon was made of green cheese, he did not question but some would be of his mind."»

Mr. Lamb lived till after the restoration, and was one of the ministers who, on the part of the baptists, signed a renunciation of Venner's insurrection.+ It is probable that he continued preaching at his meeting-house in Bell-alley till the time of his death. He died, it is said, about the year 16724 Mr. Edwards, speaking of him and his church, says, " This man, who was a soap-boiler, and his church are very erroneous, strange doctrines being vented there continually, both in preaching and discoursing, and strange things are done by them, both in their church-meetings and out of them. Many used to resort thither, and all preach universal redemption. Lamb preaches universal grace and the armiuian tenets."<j Mr. Bailie says, that Mr. Lamb's congregation was by far the largest and most fruitful of the seven baptist congregations in London, but that it was pestered with the gangrene of arminianism; then, in the very next page, charges him with preaching the various opinions of the antinomians.|| These writers, who were equally, indignant against all who presumed to oppose the impositions of the national church, wrote under the influence of a spirit of bigotry, or they received very incorrect information.

There are, at least, three publications extant by Mr. Lamb, from which his real sentiments may be collected with much greater accuracy than from any party-historian whatever. The first is a small octavo pamphlet, entitled, "The Fountain of Free Grace opened. The second is a larger pamphlet, in quarto, entitled, " A Treatise of particular Predestination, wherein are answered three Letters; the first tending to disprove particular Predestimition: the second to show the contradiction between Christ's dying for all, and God's election of some: the third to prove, thai the soul doth not come from the parent, and consequently that there is no original sin," 1642. The title of Mr. Lamb's third piece, published in 1656, and dedicated to the lord protector, was, " Absolute Freedom from Sin, by Christ's Death for the World, as the Object of Faith, in Opposition to conditional, set forth by Mr. John Goodwin, in his book entitled, • Redemption Redeemed;' and the final Perseverance of the Saints proceeding from Election, by the Grace of God alone, maintained and sweetly reconciled with the aforesaid Doctrine. And the great Question, of God's eternal Decree of reprobating the unbelieving World, cleared from that Odium cast upon it by Mr. Goodwin."* From these publications, it is evident how grossly both Edwards and Bailie have misrepresented the fact, in stating that Mr. Lamb maintained and taught either the arminian or antinomian tenets. On the contrary, it is extremely obvious, that, upon thedisputed points, he was a strict Calvinist.

* Edwards's Gangraena, pari ii. p. 14, 15.

+ Kennet's Chron. p. 358. f Crosby's Baptists, vol. iii. p. 55.

(, Edwards's Gangrxna, part i. p. 124. Second edit.

(1 Bailie's Anabaptist!!, p. 94, 95.

During the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, one Mr. Thomas Lamb was pastor of a baptist church which met in Lothbury, London, having one Mr. William Allen to his colleague in the pastoral office. After the restoration, the two pastors conformed to the church of England, and wrote with great zeal against separation. Notwithstanding the improbability of there being two persons of the same name, both preachers among the baptists at the same time, and in the same neighbourhood, it is evident that this Mr. Lamb was a different person from the former.+ Our author had a son called Isaac, who was a zealous and useful preacher among the baptists, but, like his father, he endured the cruel persecution of his enemies.}

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