The modern Baptist movement began in the early 1600s; and though its leaders suffered imprisonment and death at the hands of British officials, they persevered. Among them was Benjamin Keach, born in 1640. He was converted to Christ at 18 and began pastoring ten years later. He served the Horsley Down Baptist Church in Southwark near London where he was described by associates as “earnest, self-educated, intensely evangelical, his outlook narrowed to the denomination and almost to the congregation, but wielding great influence within those limits.”

Keach loved both children and singing—and that’s what got him into trouble. Wanting to explain Baptist beliefs to the young, he wrote a primer for them. The children loved it. The king didn’t. British constables arrested him, and on October 9, 1664 he stood a prisoner in the court of Aylesbury while the Chief Justice roared: Benjamin Keach, you are convicted of writing and publishing a seditious and scandalous book; you shall go to prison for a fortnight and the next Saturday stand in a pillory for two hours from eleven o’clock until one with a paper upon your head with this inscription: “For writing and printing and publishing a schismatical book entitled, The Child Instructor or A New and Easy Primer,” and the next Thursday to stand in the same manner and for that same time in the market at Winslow, and there your book shall openly be burnt before your face by the common hangman in disgrace of you and your doctrine, and you shall forfeit to the king’s majesty the sum of twenty pounds.

Keach actually spent two months in prison and paid one hundred pounds, but he didn’t learn his lesson. Some time afterward he got into trouble again, this time for publishing a hymnal. English-speaking churches had previously sung only the psalms of David, usually to ponderous tunes. In 1691 Keach published Spiritual Melody, a book of 300 lively hymns. Such a radical innovation upset his congregation, and he watched with alarm as many members left. But Keach nevertheless spent the rest of his life in the seditious and scandalous pursuits of teaching children and singing hymns.

Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies. (Deuteronomy 6:6-8)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct.9.

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