The Trial of Benjamin Keach (Part 3)

Though Keach was offered the opportunity of waiting, he seems to have desired to move ahead without delay. We continue where we left off, picking up the thread from our last post:

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 gaol 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.

Keach. My lord, I am content to be tried now.

Judge. Go on then, a God’s name.

Clerk. Gentlemen of the Jury, answer to your names, &c.

Then the Jury were sworn, well and truly to try the traverse between the king’s majesty and the prisoner at the bar.

Judge. Clerk, read the Indictment. [He reads it.]

Gentlemen of the Jury, the prisoner at the bar has pleaded Not Guilty, and your charge is to.inquire whether he be guilty or not-

Then the Witnesses were sworn, who were Neal and Whitehall.

Neal deposed, That justice Strafford sent for him to his house; when he came there, the justice sent him back again for his staff of authority; which being done, he went with the justice to one Moody’s stall, and asked for some Primmers which he had; he answered, that he had none. That from thence they went to Mr. Keach’s house, where first they saw his wife, who told them he was in an inward room. They asked her, if there were not some Primmers in the house? She said, there was, and about thirty were brought forth and delivered to them.

Then Justice Strafford himself was also examined: he said, That he found the Primmers now before the Court in Benj. Keach’s house, and seized them; and that the prisoner at the bar had confessed before him, that he writ and composed the said book.

Then a Copy of the prisoner’s Examination before the said justice, signed with his own hand, was produced and read; wherein was contained, That the prisoner being asked whether he was the author or writer of the said Book? answered, Yes, he was. And further declared, That he delivered a part of the copy to one Oviat a printer at London, since dead; and that the rest of the copy he sent up by another hand, but that he knew not who primed it: That about forty of them were sent down to him, of which he had dispersed about twelve, and that the price was five-pence each book. After this the Judge called for a Common-Prayer-Book, and laid it before him, and ordered one of the Primmers to be given to the gentlemen of the Jury, and bid them look on those parts where the leaves were turned down.

Judge. Clerk, read those sentences in the Indictment, which are taken out of the book, that the Jury may turn to them, and see that the said positions are contained in the book. . Clerk. ‘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.’

Judge. This is contrary to the book of Common-Prayer, for that appoints infants to be baptised, as well as men and women. [Here he read several places in the Liturgy, wherein the baptising of infants is enjoined and directed.] Clerk reads. ‘Q. How shall it then go with the saint»? A. Oh, very well! it is the day that 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 earth a thousand years, &c.’

Judge. This is contrary to the Creed in the Book of Common-Prayer, and is an old heresy,

which was cast out of the. Church a thousand years ago, and was likewise condemned by the council of Constance about 500 years ago, and hath lain dead ever since, till now this rascal Keach revived it.

Clerk reads. ‘Q. Why may not infants be received into the Church now, as they were under the law? A. Because the fleshly seed is cast out, &c. Q. What then is the state of infant? 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 by a fleshly lineal »ay, err from the 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.’

Judge. This also is contrary to the book of Common-Prayer, which appoints infants to be received into the Church, and directs the priest to say, when he hath sprinkled the child, ‘We receive this child into the congregation of Christ’s flock.’ And whereas he says that infants that die are members of the kingdom of Glory, though not of the visible Church, he speaks this of infants in general, and so the child of a Turk or Heathen is made equal with the child of a Christian: But the Church hath otherwise determined; that is, if an infant die after baptism, and before it hath actually sinned, it is saved, because original sin is washed away in baptism. Read on,

Clerk. Also in another place thou hast wickedly and maliciously composed, ‘A short Confession of faith’ in which thou hast affirmed thus, 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, and there now sitteth at 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 the judge of the quick and the dead.’

Judge. This is contrary to our Creed: for whereas he saith, ‘From thence he shall come again at the appointed time of the Father, to reign personally upon the earth, and to be judge both of the quick and the dead;’ our Creed only saith, ‘From thence he shall come to judge both the quick and the dead.’

Clerk. 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 men after the flesh, not great doctors and rabbies; Not many mighty and noble, saith Paul, are called, &c. as above.’

Judge. This also is contrary to the Book of Common-Prayer: for whereas the position in the Indictment saith, Christ hath not chosen great rabbies and doctors, but rather the poor, and despised, and tradesmen; the Book of Common-Prayer doth admit of such. [Here he read some passages concerning the qualification of Ministers, and their manner of Consecration.] Because Christ, when he was upon the earth, made choice of tradesmen to be his disciples; therefore this fellow would have ministers to be such now; taylors, and pedlars, and tinkers, and such fellows as he is: But it is otherwise now, as appears from the manner in which the Church has appointed them to be chosen, ordained, und consecrated.

The Judge having thus gone through the Indictment, the prisoner began to speak in his defence.