Francis Bampfield

3. Bampfield, Francis. Francis Bampfield descended from a distinguished family in Devonshire, England. He was born in I6I5, the third son of James (or John) Bampfield. His brother Thomas was at one time Speaker of Parliament under Cromwell. In his I6th year he became a student in Wadham College, Oxford. He finished his course in College in 1638, with the degree of M.A. His reputation was that of a "scholarly man, and one of the most celebrated preachers in the West of England." He prepared for the ministry of the Established Church, and was ordained deacon by Bishop Hall. and elder by Bishop Skinner. His first settlement was in the parish of Rampisham, Dorsetshire, about 1640. About 1653 he removed to the parish of Sherborne, and remained here until ejected by the Act of Conformity in I662. He could not conscientiously take the oath of allegiance, not because of any disloyalty, but because he believed all oaths to be in violation of the teachings of Jesus. After his ejection, he preached in his own hired house at Sherborne for about one month, When and twenty-six others who were holding a meeting were arrested and imprisoned in one room with a single bed; they were soon released on bail. Not long after this he was again arrested and put in Dorchester jail, where he spent nearly nine years (from I662 to I671). Here he preached almost daily; and Armitage says, "he not only preached but formed a church within the prison walls." This was a Seventh-day Baptist Church, for soon after entering that prison he embraced the Sabbath doctrine and that of believer's baptism. After a short release; he was imprisoned in Salisbury (Wiltshire) for about eighteen months, which, he says, "filled up my ten days of tribulation in the letter of it - Rev. 2: I0." On his release from Salisbury prison he came to London and labored in the vicinity of Bethnal Green in the East of London.

A few Sabbath-keepers met with him in his own house for about a year, and on March 5, I676, he organized a church, which, after the choice by lot of a place of worship, was known as Pinner's Hall Seventh-day Baptist Church. The reason for this separate organization was in the fact that Mr. Bampfield differed from the Mill Yard Church on the subject of Calvinism.

From London he was sent by his church as a special messenger "to the Sabbath churches in Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorsetshire, Gloucestershire, and Berkshire, which was undertaken by him, and prospered with desired success, the report whereof, at his return, caused joy to all the brethren and sisters in fellowship." He and his church sent a letter of "Brotherly Love," etc., to all Sabbath-keeping churches, including those of Holland and New England. He also wisely advocated a "Yearly Meeting of all Seventh-day Baptist Churches."

Three times, while preaching in Pinner's Hall, he was arrested. The first was Dec. 17, I682. On his second arrest, he was sent to Newgate from Dec. 24, 1682, to August 12, 1683. The last time, as he was led thru the streets, one said, "See how he walks with his Bible in his hand like one of the old martyrs." He could not long endure the cold and damp of Newgate, but died here, Feb. I6, I684, at the age of sixty - eight years. His funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. John Collins, a fellow prisoner; and his remains were interred in the burying ground of the Baptist Church in Glass-house Yard, Goswell street, London.

He published something like nine or ten books, which was doing well considering his troubled life, and his constant preaching in prison and out. Two of his works are especially mentioned in Cox's "Sabbath Literature:" - In I672 he published "The Judgment of Mr. Francis Bampfield, late minister of Sherborne in Dorsetshire, for the Observation of the Jewish or seventh-day Sabbath; with his reasons and Scriptures for the same: Sent in a letter to Mr. Ben of Dorchester."

In I677 he sent forth a little work of I49 pages, with the title in both Greek and Latin; "The Seventh-day Sabbath the Desirable Day," etc.

The character of this eminent servant of God was remarkable for purity, generosity and devotion. At Rampisham he spent his entire income from the Church for Bibles and religious books for the poor, in providing work for those able to work, and in giving alms to those who could not labor. He was regarded as "above all things a living servant of Jesus." The frowns and smiles of men were vainly used to turn him from his Master. Worldly losses and bodily suffering appeared to him as trifles compared to the supreme felicity of a conscience void of offense before God. "He was a giant in defense of truth, and a devout man full of the Holy Spirit."

Reprinted from "Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America" Vol 1 (pp. 64-66.) Published by the American Sabbath Tract Society, Plainfield, New Jersey 1910.

The Lord's Free Prisoner, by Francis Bampfield, 1683.