December 18, 2017

A Ministry of Necessary Controversy (3)

Mark Minnick

This is Part Three of four parts • OneTwo Four

In Part One, Dr. Minnick introduces Benjamin Keach and some of the features of his life and times which produced Benjamin Keach, the controversialist.

In Part Two, Dr. Minnick covers Keach’s early ministry as he faced imprisonment and persecution for preaching the gospel.

Perseverance Under Pressure

Almost immediately upon his family’s arrival in the capital in 1668, Keach was ordained the elder of a small Baptist assembly. The new pastor soon discovered that conditions in London were little better than they had been in the countryside. His assembly held services but their locations had to be changed weekly. Even then they were sometimes discovered.

Once when meeting in a private house down an alley, six of their number were seized and tried. Another time, gathered in a widow’s home, they made the mistake of singing too loudly. The sound betrayed their presence to the authorities, and it was only by escaping through a back door that they avoided capture.

The church was forced to divide into even smaller groups. Keach would hurry from one meeting place to another, thus having to preach numerous times on the same day. It was an additional fright when even his own landlord turned out to be a noted informer. It was during these trials that Jane, his faithful wife for ten years, died at the age of just 31. It was a sore blow to the hard-pressed preacher; one which he overcame, in part, by writing a poem which he titled “A Pillar Set Up” after Jacob’s example of erecting a pillar to commemorate Rachel at her death. “She was of an heavenly conversation,” he wrote, “her discourse was savoury, and for the most part about divine things.” The grieving husband also paid special tribute to the comforting help his wife had been to him during his suffering in prison for Christ’s sake.

Two years later Keach remarried, this time to a widow named Susanna Partridge. By God’s grace theirs was to be a marriage of 32 years and blessed with five daughters. Even more significant, in the same year as Keach’s marriage (1672) Charles II granted an indulgence to dissenters. The relieved pastor and a few like-minded believers seized the opportunity to begin a Particular Baptist work on the lower side of the Thames in a squalid section of the city called Southwark. Its quaint address reminds us not to despise the day of small beginnings: Goat’s Yard Passage, Fair Street, in Horselie- down. It would be from this base that Keach, now a well-tested 32, would take on issues affecting generations of Baptists right down to the present time.

To be continued…


Dr. Mark Minnick is the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and serves as adjunct professor of preaching and exposition at Bob Jones Seminary.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2001. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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