Many Americans are not aware that Britain, too, had a “Civil War,” when neighbors shed neighbors’ blood in a battle for “liberty.” During that conflict many Baptists joined and supported the Parliamentary army against the king. The forces of Oliver Cromwell were blessed to have those Baptists in positions of leadership, and they often preached to their troops on the Lord’s Day and at other times led the men in prayer meetings. During those days many Baptist churches were blessed and strengthened.
Major General Harrison, one of the army’s distinguished leaders was a Baptist. But as the conflict continued, he and others began to see that Cromwell was more interested in his own aggrandizement than he was for genuine liberty. Harrison became an object of suspicion when he criticized Cromwell and the Presbyterian doctrines of the leadership, and several times he was thrown into jail. When the parliament army came into full control of the county, it enacted several laws designed to put down any sect which preached the truth about infant baptism and other Protestant doctrines.
On this day in 1646 Parliament passed the following: “The commons, assembled in parliament, do declare, that they do dislike and will proceed against all such persons as shall take upon them to preach, or expound the Scriptures, in any church or chapel, or any other place, except they may be ordained, either here or by some other reformed church, as it is already prohibited in an order of both houses of the 26th of April 1645, and likewise against all such ministers, or others, as shall publish or maintain, by preaching, or writing or any other way, anything against, or in derogation of church government which is now established by authority of both houses of parliament.” The ordinance went on to describe how the authorities were to proceed in enforcing it and punishing the offenders who were primarily Baptists.
Thankfully, the Lord continued to bless the preaching of the true gospel, and today religious liberty can be found in England and in various places throughout the world.