We continue with more of the account of Benjamin Keach’s trial. The Clarendon Code was in full force, and one senses the bitterness directed toward the current clergy of that church in Keach’s remarks. The drama moves forward:
The next day, the Court being set, the Grand Jury found the bill, and brought it in indorsed Billa vera.
Clerk. Benjamin Keach, come to the bar.
Mr. Keach Comes to the bar.
Clerk. Hear your Charge. ‘Thou art here indicted by the name of Benjamin Keach, of the parish of Winslow, in the county of Bucks: For that thou being a seditious, heretical, and schismatical person, evilly and maliciously disposed, and disaffected to his majesty’s government, and the government of the Church of England, didst maliciously and wickedly, on the 1st day of May, in the 16th year of the reign of our sovereign lord the king, write, print, and publish, or cause to be written, printed, and published, one seditious and venomous book, entitled, “The Child’s Instructor; or, A New and Easy Primmer;” wherein are contained by way of Question and Answer, these damnable positions, contrary to the book of Common Prayer, and the Liturgy of the Church of England: That is to say, in one place you have thus written ; ‘Q. Who are the right subjects of baptism ? A. Believers, or godly men and women only, who can make confession of their faith and repentance.’ And in another place you have maliciously and wickedly written these words; ‘Q. How shall it then go with the Saints? A. O, vегу well. It is the day they have longed for: Then they shall hear that sentence, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you; and so shall they reign with Christ on the earth a thousand years, even on Mount Sion, in New Jerusalem; for there will Christ’s throne be, on which they must sit down with him.’ Then follows this Question, with the Answer thereto, in these plain English words: ‘Q. When shall the wicked and the fallen angels, which be the Devils, be judged? A. When the thousand years shall be expired, then shall the rest of the devils be raised, and then shall be the general and last judgment, then shall all the rest of the dead and devils be judged by Christ and his glorified saints; and they being arraigned and judged, the wicked shall be condemned, and cast by angels into the lake of fire, there to be burned for ever and ever.’
‘In another place thou hast wickedly and maliciously written these plain English words:
Q. Why may not infants be received into the Church now, as they were under the law? A. Because the fleshy seed is cast out: Though God under that dispensation did receive infants in a lineal way by generation, yet he that hath the key of David, that openeth and no man shutteth, that shutteth and no man openeth, hath shut up that way into the Church; and hath opened the door of regeneration, receiving in none but believers. Q. What then is the state of infants? A. Infants that die are members of the kingdom of Glory, though they be not members of the visible Church. Q. Do they then that bring in infants in a fleshly and lineal way, err from the way of truth? A. Yea, they do; for they make not God’s holy word their rule, but do presume to open a door that Christ hath shut, and none ought to open,’ And also in another place thou hast wickedly and maliciously composed “A short Confession of the Christian Faith;” wherein thou hast affirmed this concerning the second person in the blessed Trinity, in these plain English words: I also believe that he rose again the third day from the dead, and ascended into Heaven above, and there now sitteth on the right hand of God the Father; and from thence he shall come again at the appointed time of the Father to reign personally upon the earth, and to be judge of the quick and dead.’ And in another place thou hast wickedly and maliciously affirmed these things concerning true Gospel-Ministers, in these plain English words following: ‘Christ hath not chosen the wise and prudent man after the flesh, not great doctors and rabbies; Not many mighty and noble, saith Paul, are called: but rather the poor and despised, even tradesmen, and such-like, as was Matthew, Peter, Andrew, Paul, and others. And Christ’s true ministers have not their learning and wisdom from men, or from universities, or human schools for human learning. Arts and sciences are not essential to making of a true minister, but the gifts of God, which cannot be bought with silver and gold; and also as they have freely received the gift, so they do freely administer: They do not preach for hire, for gain and filthy lucre: They are not like the false teachers, who look for gain from their quarter; who eat the fat, and clothe themselves with the wool, and kill them that are fed; those that put not into their mouths, they prepare war against: Also they are not Lords over God’s heritage, they rule them not by force and cruelty, neither have they power to force and compel men to believe and obey their doctrines, but are only to persuade and intreat; for this is the way of the Gospel, as Christ taught them:’
And many other things hast thou seditiously, wickedly, and maliciously written in the said book, to the great displeasure of Almighty God, the scandal of the liturgy of the church of England, the disaffection oft the king’s people to his majesty’s government, the danger of the peace of this kingdom, to the evil example of others, and contrary to the statute in that case made and provided. How say you, Benjamin Keach; are you Guilty, or Not Guilty?
Keach. The indictment is so very long, that I cannot remember half of it, nor have I been accustomed to plead to Indictments: therefore I desire a copy of it, and liberty to confer will counsel about it, in order to put in my exceptions, and then I shall plead to it.
Judge. It is your intention, I perceive, to delay your trial to the next assize.
Keach. No, my lord, I have no design by this to delay my trial.
Judge. I will not deny you what is your right, but you must first, plead to your Indictment, and afterwards you shall have a copy of it.
Keach. I desire I may have a copy of it before Í plead, in order to put in my Exceptions against it.
Judge. You shall not have it, before you plead Guilty or Not Guilty.
Keach. It is what has been granted to others.
Judge. You shall not have it first; and if you refuse to plead Guilty or Not Guilty, I shall take it pro confesse, and give judgment against you accordingly.
Keach. Not Guilty, my lord.
Judge. Now you may have a copy of your Indictment, and I will give you an hour’s time to consider of it.
Keach. If I may have no longer time, I don’t desire any.
Judge. I have something else to do than wait upon you; you are not a person fit to go abroad till next Assize, and you will think it hard if I should commit you to [jail] till then: but because you shall not say but that you were offered fair, if you will find sufficient sureties for your appearance at the next assize, and for your good behaviour till then, you shall not be tried till then.