Thomas Hardcastle of Broadmead, Bristol

One of the most interesting and valuable records of the 17th century is the published manuscript of Edward Terrill, who recorded the history of the Broadmead, Bristol Particular Baptist Church. Several editions have been published, including two 19th century editions (the one edited by Edward Bean Underhill is available on Google books) and a very nice 20th century edition edited by Roger Hayden. Among the pastors of the church was Thomas Hardcastle. In 2005, I was privileged to visit Bristol Baptist College and examine the manuscript copy Hardcastle’s exposition of the Westminster Assembly’s Shorter Catechism. It was great to see how a Baptist was so comfortable expounding the common Reformed doctrine of Baptists and Presbyterians, while at the same time defending his credobaptist beliefs.

Here is the excerpt on Hardcastle from The Nonconformist’s Memorial:

Mr. Thomas Hardcastle. Born at Berwick upon Holm, and trained up there under Mr. Jackson, a learned divine. He was but a young preacher when the Act of uniformity came out; after which he preached at Shadwell chapel and other places. He was a man of good abilities and a bold spirit, fearing no danger; but of great moderation and catholicism. He was several times a prisoner at York, Leeds, and Chester. He became pastor to a society of moderate Baptists at Bristol, where he was sent to the house of correction. He died in that city, in 1679. The following account of him is extracted from the Church-book of Broadmead meeting. “He was a Champion for the Lord, very courageous in his work and sufferings. His zeal provoked many before he came to Bristol, after he had thrown off conformity. He suffered about eight months imprisonment in York castle, and there because he would not give bond to preach no more, as some ministers his fellow prisoners did to get free, he was carried thence out of his county eighty miles, to Chester Castle, and there he was kept fifteen months more, close prisoner, and there by an order from the King he was released without bonds, and came to London, and there he was baptized. After that he was taken up for preaching, and by the Conventicle-act was six months prisoner in London. Then being called by this Church to be their pastor; for the defence of the gospel was twice imprisoned at Bristol, two six months, still preaching as soon as ever he came forth, and so continued till his death, having been our Pastor about seven years and a quarter. He was seven times imprisoned for Christ and a good conscience, after he left off Conformity.”

WORKS. A Treatise upon Matt. vi. 34 called Christian Geography and Arithmetic. He printed some excellent Discourses of Mr. Garbult’s, entitled, One come from the Dead to awaken Drunkards.

Since the account of him was printed, I have accidentally found the work of his there mentioned, in my possession, and can pronounce it a very practical and useful performance. It is said to be the substance of some sermons preached in Bristol. The greater part of them are upon Psalm xc. 12. From the dedication, preface, &c. I have collected the following additional anecdotes of this excellent man. Some of the first years of his ministry were spent in Yorkshire, his native county, where he mentions his having many friends at Pontefract, Hull, Beverley, York, &c. to whom his labours had been useful, and whose edification he wished in the perusal of this work, which was occasioned by the providential escape of some particular friends from imminent danger of death when on a visit at Bristol. He also mentions his having “formerly enjoyed comfortable communion with the eminent and honourable society under Mr. Henty Jesse, now under the care of Mr. James Fitten, his old friend and fellow sufferer, and Mr. Henry Forte.” Having occasion to introduce an anecdote of a worthy and religious lady, he subjoins the following note: “The lady Harwich, of Toulsten in Yorkshire, to whom I had the happiness to be chaplain for several years, and must own myself to be much obliged; and no less to the right honourable the Lord Henry Fairfax, her son-in-law, and my constant and faithful friend in my sufferings for Christ.” As a proof of the catholic spirit ascribed to him, the following extract from his preface is worth transcribing: “To conclude, this is no point of controversy, but rather an effectual means to reconcile differences. Those that cannot now join together in prayer, will in a little while, if they be true saints, sit together praising God, rejoicing in and loving one another, in a larger measure than they ever loved their most dear relations or intimate friends upon earth. The shortness of time there is to differ in, the absolute necessity and incomparable excellence and sweetness of mutual love here, and full communion hereafter, I desire may sway with me to watch over my own heart, that I stand not at a distance in spirit from any saint of God, upon the account either of apprehension or injury. As for the former, I do not know that I was ever under a temptation to love any one less for his true conscience, though not of my size.”—Crosby has nothing more concerning him than what he quotes from Calamy, and he has omitted one passage respecting his moderation, which for that reason is the rather here inserted: “When he visited his own country, upon a relation’s consulting him whom to join with, he persuaded him to hold communion with Mr. Christopher Marshall rather than with the Baptists, though he himself was of that denomination.