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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

George Keith’s New Religion

By Gabriel Thomas (17th Century)

[From Account of the Province and Country of Pensilvania. 1698.]

THE WAY of worship the Swedes use in this country is the Lutheran; the English have four sorts of assemblies or religious meetings here: as first, the Church of England, who built a very fine church in the city of Philadelphia in the year 1695. Secondly, the Anabaptists; thirdly, the Presbyterians, and two sorts of Quakers (of all the most numerous by much), one party holding with George Keith; but whether both parties will join together again in one I cannot tell, for that gentleman hath altered his judgment since he came to England, concerning his church-orders in Pennsylvania, by telling and showing them precepts that were lawful in the time of the law, but forbidden under the gospel to pay tithes, or ministers to preach for hire, etc., as also to sprinkle infants; and he tells the Presbyterian minister, That he must go to the Pope of Rome for his call, for he had no Scripture for it, and that water-baptism and the outward Supper are not of the nature of the everlasting gospel; nor essential parts of it, as see his “Truth Advanced,” page 173. He gives likewise a strict charge concerning plain language and plain habit, and that they should not be concerned in the compelling part of the worldly government, and that they should set their negroes at liberty after some reasonable time of service: likewise, they should not take the advantage of the law against one another, as to procure them any corporeal punishment. These orders, he tells his followers, would make distinction between them and Jews and moral heathens. This was in the year 1693, in Pennsylvania. But now, the year 1697, since he came to England, his judgment is changed, for he tells his disciples that water-baptism is come in the room of circumcision; and by so doing, they would distinguish themselves from either Jews, Pagans, or moral heathens. He keeps his meeting once a week at Turners Hall in Fill-Pot-Lane, London, on Sundays in the afternoon; he begins between two and three of the clock and commonly ends between four and five.

Friendly Reader, by this thou mayest see how wavering and mutable men of great outward learning are. If the truth of this be by anybody questioned, let them look in the Creed, and the Paper against Christians being concerned in Worldly Government, and the Paper concerning Negroes, that was given forth by the appointment of the Meeting held by George Keith at Philip James’s house in the city of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania; and his Letter also in Maryland against the Presbyterian Catechism, printed at Boston in New England in 1695, with the Answer to it bound up together in one Book, and in “Truth Advanced,” page 173. And, for what relates to him since in England, let them look into the “Quakers’ Argument Refuted, Concerning Water-Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,” page 70. And now, Reader, I shall take my leave of thee, recommending thee with my own self to the directions of the Spirit of God in our conscience, and that will agree with all the Holy Scriptures in its right place; and when we find ourselves so, we have no need to take any thought or care what anybody shall say of us.