[Transcriber’s note – I have numbered certain clear doctrinal statements and other points and listed them at the bottom of the page so that the reader may use these places to illuminate the statements made throughout.]

The year is 1643 and Daniel Featley tells us (in his ‘Dippers Dipt‘ pamphlet) Anabaptist preachers were baptising 100s of men and women around England and specifically in East London.
The following sermon is printed in this year. It is being preached right before a baptism exactly how we practice today. It is primary evidence (first hand from an anabaptist preacher). It reads as follows..


An Anabaptists sermon, which was preached at the re-baptizing of a brother at the new or holy Jordan, as they call it neare Bow, or Hackny River (1); together with the manner how they use to perform their Anabaptisticall ceremonies.

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Beloved I am filled with much zealous joy to behold such great an assembly gathered together in this chamber to hear me deliver unto you new doctrine upon the receiving of a new member or brother into our assembly; who before had only the bare rags of Adam, and baptized by the ceremony of Antichrist whose idolatrous customs which have been used hath drawn God’s heavy judgements upon us, for want of knowledge being blinded with natural corruptions: but I will cease my discourse at this time concerning that point, and will handle it in its proper places and come to the text. The words which I will present unto your observation shall be few in number but weighty in substance namely these, ‘Wash and be cleane‘ (2).

The first of my text, that is water for the word ‘wash’ doth naturally imply water since we cannot wash without water: but we may have water and yet be so slovenly that we seldom wash at all. But this word wash in my text doth signify our rebaptising of our children wherein the action is to wash and not to sprinkle them with a little idolatrous water out of a font or basin; but to pour water on their heads,  nay! to dip them in water over head and ears (3) for such dipping will fetch the faultness of sin out of their natures (4) and then follows the consequences of this action. Wash and be clean!
But first I will describe to you the several sorts of washers,  then speak particularly of washing and after washing I may very well conclude with, ‘be clean’.
There are as many sorts of washers as there are contaminated people; heartless people and foolish people.
Contaminated people are all the wicked and reprobates whose estates and lands are ours by propriety and right, being God’s children and that it properly belongs to us,  who because they are not so pure as we are,  so holy as we be, they wash themselves to no purpose,  and are like the sign of the Labour in Vain for it is unprofitable to wash them white or clean,  but we that are brethren of the elect, we may wash ourselves in a river,  from the spots of our carnality in every river, (4) as Bow river and Hackney river (1) and other rivers are to us a clean Jordan wherein we may baptize one another as we mean to do today to our dear lost brother. Now your careless sort of washers are such as care not for washing. They think it enough to be washed or rather watered with a little superfluous water at their christening…

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.. as they call it and by the priest and three gossips to be Tom-named John-named and Dick-named! Or rather nicknamed for we hold it utterly unlawful to baptize any until they come to full years of understanding, that they may answer for themselves and conform themselves to live according to that name and baptism which they have received; (5) for Little John(ny) as long as he is in his infancy is not worthy to be named anything but Jack and so Richard may be called Dick as a blackbird that is kept in a cage and so all children that are christened before they come to right years of understanding may all be called Nick for their names are no names, but very Nick names and by-pass, til the baptised can answer the baptizer and speak his own name as the Spirit doth approve of his name, for how many in their younger days were baptised, and now grown men and ashamed of their anti-Christian names and run after their names like new begotten and regenerated Christians. We may read of whole households that were baptised and indeed it was a great policy in those times not to Baptised By Any Name until they come to full years.
And therefore though in former times christenings and gossiping did cost a great deal of money to make a William or a Robert which afterward proved a wicked Will and a plundering Robert, like prince Robert, let us increase and multiply as fast as we can, (6) but christen or baptise none of our children until they are ready to be married themselves (5) then let us call our daughters Hanna, Dora, Mary, Lydia, Ruth and Priscilla and our son’s Nathaniel, Moses, Benjamin, Ananias, Obadiah and other such like scripture names: Let us be wiser than our forefathers and walk out unto rivers roundabout London all which shall become spiritual Jordan’s onto the faithful: I myself will lead you the way and show you the manner of it, you need not fear drowning, for if you should tread amiss and fall into a whirl-pit (for there are many Whirl-pits in Hackney and Bow Rivers) (1); yet I can recover you again and I will bring you out. ‘The righteous you know many times’ but suppose you should fall over head and ears, yet you should come out again a good Christian, in the regenerating water of either of these rivers.
Now for the last part of my division, which was concerning foolish people and washers, I account that all women are foolish washers, two penny-worth of soap is a great charge to them, and doth much trouble their consciences because they wash nothing but linen clothes and filthy rags, but let us not stick for any charge that may conjuce to the cleaning of our souls, but as we are sanctified creatures, so let us be pure and holy in our conversation, and wash our hands clean of all sin. There are other foolish washers or flutish washers, so that the best linen put into their hands shall escape a scouring or a washing, and the old dirt shall be apparent in them; but we though remain as sinful as ever, we must under the veil of religion have a few failings..

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.. and yet conditioned for holiness and surely we have it, at least in the opinion of the world we must be close in our actions and study onely the mysterious arts of seeing. For opinion in matters of religion cannot err. We are held to be religious men, and therefore such we are indeed, but yet we must not join hands, heads, or hearts with the wicked for they are reprobate people ordained onely to destruction and Tophet is prepared for such, and such are those Cavaliers, whose inhuman cruelty the like were never heard of, but we are a holy and religious people, and the severest eye of Justice cannot discern a wrinkle, much less a spot in our actions. So we poor people, ignorant and wicked, reprobates scoff at us as if we were not half so holy as we would be believed to be, they have with narrow eyes observed our actions, and finding them counterfeit they call us ’round heads’. We are round indeed and sound. Those sacred garments, religion, which showed nothing but decency, (I mean surplises) are not to be esteemed so much as my wife’s apron and woe be unto the woman’s hands (for sin they would rot from her wrists) that should wash a superstitious surplis. The drunkard may be placed in the list of foolish washers swallowing all the gains of his trade by washing his throat with good liquor, but let our draughts though few be costly, and all of the best liquor we can get, and as in other matters let us at our holy feast make conjunction amongst ourselves, and in the unity of the spirit join our money for the relief of our poor brethren and for some wine which is best for the season, so we may wash our throats at a fair cheaper rate than the reprobates do, and besides such washing of our throats after a good dinner or great feast, will make us strong in the Spirit, for the wine will fill our brains with diverse good motions, and quicken us in the daily exercises of religion, so that when our stomachs are well warmed there with we shall find ourselves exceedingly comforted to proceed in the ways of godliness, but walk not out of your Chambers least the wind take you, and you stumble into errors as the wicked do.
My masters, some of you (I believe) when you sit down at the table come with unwashed hands for tradesmen eat our meet often with dirty fingers and foul hands, our hands must be clean washed to show the purity of our profession; let therefore the cook when he comes into a holy assembly wash or lick his fingers: I wash my hands this morning because I would handle the text the better, cleanliness does become the gospel, and clean fingers turning over the gospel do not pollute the cleaness or leaves of it. Besides, when a feast is made what do all the best sort of guests? They are very careful to wash their hands before their coming thither and after the Feast is done be it dinner or supper what does custom place next upon the table? Verily a fair basin and Ewer and what to do?

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Why the reason is, to make all the guests wash their hands; and the words of my text are ‘Wash and be Clean’. This word clean is taken in differences, for first if a man owe me money upon a Bill or Bond and afterward absent himself and run away it may be very well said he is gone clean out of sight and clean away. If a man cannot relish his meat he is clean out of taste. Some say our religion is clean contrary to the protestant profession, but such are clean out of the way, but if we should be persecuted again by Bishops as formerly we have been we would run clean out of England onto Amsterdam; but we are all clean people full of the purity of the Spirit, our sins are but motes in God’s eyes but our brother’s sins are beams that have put out the sight of His Divine Justice that he cannot or will not see our small iniquities. But some will say “How know we that we are clean?” The Spirit doth inwardly testify onto us our goodness, our prayers are so full of divine charms that they can at God’s hands command audience; We are better than others whom we despise, and will not mingle ourselves with the reprobate, but keep clean out of their company. I must confess unto you I am glad to see the fruits of our preaching in the general reformation which it has wrought. Our servants go clean and handsome in there apparel and their Roundheads (as the wicked call them) wear their round clean bands: I am glad to see your servants being off dirty moyling trades, so neat and clean in there apparel.

It does make them most certainly appear very pure in this congregation, and therefore it seems that they have washed and washed to purpose (7) and so I have made the text good “wash and be cleaned”. Nay, our bands are clean and neat making us look with religious faces, whereby we are accounted clean godly men. I will no more look back and say what I have delivered for the spirit does give us plenty of matters and cursed is he that put his hand to The Plough and looks back, therefore I will not look back anymore upon my text, sufficient has our handling thereof been; and I see plainly that all or most of you have washed yourselves and therefore are clean and so I have done with my text and fall to the action and occasion of this our assembly even the rebaptising of a brother whose eyes have been blinded and his mind and will have been darkened and being come to this holy place. I desire all of you here present to take notice that this our brother is received to the river Jordan called the old Ford near bow (9) and how the new jordan or place of happiness for unless all be thus rebaptising stark naked and dipped as well head and tail as you are, none can be saved (8) and so I pray you good brethren excite as many as you can (6), to know thou are baptized, to come out of their popish opinion thinking to be saved by their former baptising and so, God bless you. Go thrive and grow rich in the world.


The following can be deduced from this Anabaptist sermon.

1. The title tells us the location of the baptism, Bow, or Hackny River.
2. The title point of the sermon ‘Wash and be cleane’ is focussed in on baptism.
3. They practiced full immersion baptism.
4. The believed that sin was washed away at baptism.
5. Candidates for baptism had to be able to show repentance and clear commitment to the cost. They likened this level of maturity to being able to choose a spouse.
6. They taught the multiplication of disciples.
7. Baptism had to be performed and observed for the right reason.
8. Baptism is a salvation issue.
9. The preacher give away the exact location of the baptism being the Old Ford side of Bow River.


We can thus understand now, that not only did Daniel Featley meet disciples such as us in London in the 1640s. These disciples   has similar practices to us 21st century disciples. They preached at their baptism. They instructed candidates before baptism. Candidates made the highest promise of commitment before baptism. They traced their spiritual heritage to before the English civil war. They preached against their persecutors without fear. They used plenty of humour in their sermons. There was an East London sector in the 17th century congregation. They taught repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

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