January 26

Britain’s “Act of Toleration,” enacted in 1689, ended a period of severe persecution against the Baptists in that country, but it did not provide all that Christ’s churches taught or deserved. While it was no longer compulsory to attend the services of the Church of England, the ministers of dissenting churches still had to sign the 39 articles of the Church of England with some exceptions such as the 27th on infant baptism. And all meeting Baptist houses had to be registered with the local government and pay a fee of sixpence.
Prior to the Act some of England’s best-known Baptists had suffered persecution and loss. Thomas Collier in Western England, and Hanserd Knollys the great writer, were persecuted. William Kiffin was personal friend of the King, but his grandsons, Benjamin and William Hewling, were martyred. Benjamin Keach was imprisoned, pilloried and fined. John Bunyan, spent twelve years in the Bedford jail. Baptist preachers and church members were beaten, fined and incarcerated. Their church and personal property was often confiscated or destroyed. Their meeting houses were damaged or leveled with no compensation. John Eccles was pastor of the congregation at Bromisgrove, Worcester. He preached the gospel there and in Coventry for 50 years. But he was arrested and placed in the dungeon at Worcester. Only when a member of Parliament paid a £1,000 bond was he released. It is the anniversary of Eccles death that marks this day in Baptist history.
It is interesting that many of God’s greatest British servants suffered persecution. History records that when that persecution was relaxed, God’s people also relaxed – spiritually. The opposition of the world is often a fertilizer for the production of our best fruit for God.