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The Creed of Eliza’s Babes (1652): Nakedness, Adam, and Divinity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2017

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The theological position of the anonymous female author of Eliza’s Babes: Or The Virgin’s Offering (1652) is yet to be established with any certainty. This essay intends to go some way towards clarifying this point by analysis of her text in relation to various doctrinal options available to her in the contemporary religious climate. A brief introduction to this little-studied book precedes a preliminary sketch of the author’s beliefs drawn from internal evidence. The sketch will serve as a starting point from which to proceed to analysis of three particularly interesting passages in Eliza’s Babes: the poem, “To a Friend for her Naked Breasts” (p. 56); the prose meditation, “On ECCLES. 9.7. Goe eat thy bread with joy, &c” (pp. 80-84); and the poem, “My Descent” (pp.45-46).

Research Article
Copyright © North American Conference on British Studies 2001

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1 See Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth Century Women’s Verse, ed. Germaine Greer, Susan Hastings, Jeslyn Medoff and Melinda Sansone (1988; reprint New York, 1989), pp. 141-47; Hobby, Elaine, Virtue of Necessity: English Women’s Writing 1649-88 (London, 1988), pp. 5459Google Scholar. I refer throughout by page number to the British Library copy of Eliza’s Babes: Or, The Virgins-Offering Being Divine Poems, and Meditations (London: M.S. for Laurence Blaiklock, 1652). I thank here Albion’s anonymous reader of an earlier draft of this paper whose detailed critique opened this author’s eyes to the need for a thorough rewrite.

2 The Short Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and British America…1641-1700, 3 vols. comp. Donald Wing, rev. John J. Morrison, Carolyn W. Nelson and Matthew Seccombe (New York, 1994), 1: 835, erroneously suggests a third copy is held by the Folger Shakespeare Library.

3 Sibbes, Richard, The Spouse: Her Earnest Desire After Christ (1638), Bowels Opened (1639) and The Marriage Feast Between Christ and his Church (1650), in Grosart, Alexander B., The Works of Richard Sibbes, D.D., 7 vols. (1862; reprint, London, 1973-82)Google Scholar, 2: 197-208, 1-195, 439-518 [hereafter cited as Sibbes]; Preston, John, The Mystical Match Between Christ and his Church (1648), pp. 2124Google Scholar.

4 See, for example, Francis Quarles, Sions Sonets (1625) in Grosart, Alexander B., The Complete Works in Prose and Verse of Francis Quarles, 3 vols. (1880; reprint New York, 1967), 2: 119–32Google Scholar; Wither, George, Hymnes and Songs of the Church (1623) and The Psalmes of David (1632) (New York, 1967), pp. 3463Google Scholar (Songs 9-18); and John Robotham, An Exposition of the Whole Booke of Solomons Song (1651, 1652).

5 Hall, Joseph, Contemplations on the Historical Passages of the Old and New Testaments, 2 vols. (London, 1825), 2: 363–71Google Scholar; and Sibbes, The Spouse, 3: 193-95. The Geneva Bible marginal note to Luke 17:11 (in reference to the passage immediately preceding the account of the healed lepers) reads”Christ doeth well euen vnto such, as will be vnthankeful, but the benefits of God profit them only to saluation, which are thankefull.” I quote throughout Sheppard, Gerald T., The Geneva Bible: The Annotated New Testament, 1602 Edition (Cleveland, 1989).Google Scholar

6 See: John Rogers, Ohel or Beth-shemesh (1653); Henry Walker, Spirituall Experiences of Sundry Beleevers (1653); and Samuel Petto, The Voice of the Spirit (1654). Jane Turner’s Choice Experiences (1653) also belongs to this list as an extended, stand-alone spiritual experience.

7 There may be here an echo of an early part of the Anglican Catechism (1549, 1604): “First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world” (p. 518). I refer throughout to the Anglican Catechism (1549), The Thirty-Nine Articles (1571) and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) as reprinted in The Creeds of Christendom, With A History and Critical Notes: Volume 3, The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, With Translations, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids, 1966).

8 The endorsement of the Scriptures as God’s Word necessary and sufficient for salvation is found in the Sixth and Seventh of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Particular Baptist Confession, articles 7-8. Baptist Thomas Collier, in his A Looking-Glasse for the Quakers (London: Thomas Brewster, 1657), writes: “the letter of the Scripture is the rule of Saints, and the Spirit the guide to that rule: I know that the Gospel is the ministration of the Spirit; yet not without the letter but in and according to it” (p.15).

9 Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 2.3.

10 Underwood, T.L., Primitivism, Radicalism and the Lamb’s War: The Baptist-Quaker Conflict in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford and New York, 1997), pp. 4546Google Scholar.

11 Article 2. The General Baptists also affirm the una substantia, tres personae formula without recourse to technical terms in their confession titled, The Faith and Practise of Thirty Congregations, Gathered According to the Primitive Pattern (1651), article 20. My source for these texts is Baptist Confessions of Faith, ed. Lumpkin, William L. (1969; reprint New York, 1980).Google Scholar

12 Underwood, Primitivism, pp. 4-5, 20-33, 44-50. See Collier’s critique in A Looking-Glasse, pp. 16-17 (Nayler’s entry into Bristol); 5, 9, 19 (spiritualization and internalization of Christ and his life); 3-4, 8 (Christ as God within); 19 (failure to distinguish divine persons).

13 Fourth of the Thirty-Nine Articles; Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 8.4. Underwood says it is difficult to determine (because of their references to Christ’s body in many senses) if Quakers believed Christ now exists in heaven with an eternal, glorified earthly body, but it is “likely they did not” (Primitivism, p.48).

14 Second of the Thirty-Nine Articles; Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 8.2-3; Particular Baptist Confession, articles 2, 11, 18; Underwood, Primitivism, pp. 40-46.

15 This difference of opinion between Baptists and Quakers is explained in Underwood, , Primitivism, pp. 4045Google Scholar. See: the Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 8.2-1, 7; Particular Baptist Confession, article 18; and, for further information on communicatio idiomatum, Hodge, A. A., Outlines of Theology for Student and Laymen (1879; reprint Grand Rapids, 1972), pp. 382–85.Google Scholar

16 Underwood, , Primitivism, pp. 4044Google Scholar.

17 Fifth Article; Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 2.3; Particular Baptist Confession, article 2. On the Nicene Creed and the dates of the inclusion of the “filioque clause” see, Documents of the Christian Church ed. Bettenson, Henry (1963; reprint Oxford, 1967), pp. 2526.Google Scholar

18 Ninth Article; Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 6.1-6; Particular Baptist Confession, articles 4-5.

19 Hodge, , Outlines, pp.401–06.Google Scholar

20 Article Seventeen; Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 11.4; Particular Baptist Confession, article 3.

21 General Baptist Confession (1651), articles 17, 45.

22 The doctrines of justification by faith alone and of works as fruits of faith following justification are found in The Thirty-Nine Articles, Eleven to Thirteen; Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 11.1-6, 16.1-7; Particular Baptist Confession, articles 5, 28-29.

23 On Quakers’ resistance to “imputation” and their emphasis on the role of works in justification, see Underwood, , Primitivism, pp. 5760Google Scholar.

24 Simpson, John, The Perfection of Justification maintained against the Pharise[e]…in Severall Sermons (London: M. Simmons, 1648), sermon 4, “Faith is not from our selves,” pp. 192–93Google Scholar.

25 For ongoing sanctification, see: Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 13.2-3; Particular Baptist Confession, articles 31-32.

26 Perfection of Justification, introduction, “Truth breaking forth through a mist and cloud of slanders,” p. 43.

27 Westminster Confession 32-33; Savoy Declaration 31-32; Particular Baptist Confession, article 20; Underwood, , Primitivism, pp. 6267Google Scholar.

28 Savoy Declaration 22.8.

29 I refer throughout to the Directory for the Publick Worship of God reprinted in The Westminster Confession of Faith (1976; reprint Glasgow, 1985), pp. 369-94.

30 30The Catechism in Schaff, p. 522; Articles 25, 28-30 of the Thirty-Nine Articles. The Particular Baptist Confession omits reference to the Lord’s Supper. On the Quakers’ emphasis on inward observance of the sacrament, see: Adamsor, William, An Answer to a Book, Titled, Quakers Principles Quaking (London: Giles Calvert, 1656), p.7; and Underwood, , Primitivism, pp.7781Google Scholar.

31 Quoted in Carroll, Kenneth L., “Early Quakers and Going Naked as a Sign,’” Quaker History 67 (1978): 6987Google Scholar, at 76. Fox refers again to the phenomenon in 1666. See, The Journal of George Fox, ed. Nickalls, John L. (Cambridge, 1952), p.503.Google Scholar

32 Fox, , Journal, pp. 113-14, 126–29.Google Scholar

33 Bauman, Richard, Let Your Words Be Few: Symbolism of Speaking and Silence Among Seventeenth-Century Quakers (Cambridge, 1983), p. 88.Google Scholar

34 Henderson, Katherine Usher and McManus, Barbara F. in, Half Humankind: Contexts and Texts of the Controversy about Women in England 1540-1640 (Urbana, 1985)Google Scholar, claim probably too narrowly “the practice of bared breasts was confined to gentlewomen” (p. 61).

35 Quoted in Religion and Society in Early Modern England: A Sourcebook, ed. Cressy, David and Ferrell, y (London, 1996), p. 194Google Scholar. On the Baptists’ rejection of public nakedness see, Underwood, , Primitivism, pp. 8990Google Scholar.

36 Fox, Journal, p. 200. Elsewhere, Eliza refers to her earthly husband as her “friend” (“The choice of my Friend,” p. 43).

37 Downame, George, The Christian’s Freedom Wherein is fully expressed the Doctrine of Christian Liberty (Pittsburgh, 1994), p. 9Google Scholar.

38 The Westminster Confession (20.1-3) and Savoy Declaration (21.1-3) devote a chapter to Christian liberty. Eliza would agree with everything it says.

39 Edwards, Thomas, Gangraena (1646 facsimile; University of Exeter, 1977), part 1, p. 16Google Scholar; Featley, Daniel, The Dippers Dipt. or, The Anabaptists Duck’d and Plung’d (1645), p. 30Google Scholar.

40 For contrasting views on the Ranters see, Friedman, Jerome, Blasphemy, Immorality and Anarchy: The Ranters and the English Revolution (Athens, Ohio, 1987)Google Scholar, and Davis, J. C., Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and the Historians (Cambridge, 1986)Google Scholar. See also: Davis, , “Fear, Myth and Furor: Reappraising the Ranters,’Past and Present 129 (1990): 79103Google Scholar; and the debate in Past and Present 140 (1993): 155-210.

41 Friedman, , Blasphemy, pp. 9798, 105Google Scholar.

42 Betteridge, Alan, “Early Baptists in Leicestershire and Rutland,” Baptist Quarterly 25 (1974): 204–11Google Scholar; Ivemy, Joseph, A History of the English Baptists, 2 vols. (London, 1811), 1: 197Google Scholar.

43 Gangraena, part 1, p. 67; part 2, pp. 146-18; part 3, p.189.

44 Compare Friedman’s accounts of Clarkson and Coppe (pp.75-121) with Davis’ sceptical, revisionary approach to the evidence, pp. 48-75.

45 See Bailey, Richard, New Light on George Fox and Early Quakerism: The Making and Unmaking of a God (San Francisco, 1992), pp. 6668Google Scholar.

46 Carroll, “Early Quakers,” pp.76-77.

47 Quoted in ibid., pp. 78-79.

48 Fox’s sermon is found in Early Quaker Writings ¡650-1700, ed. Barbour, Hugh and Roberts, Arthur O. (Grand Rapids, 1973), pp. 501–12Google Scholar.

49 Sarah Jones, This is Lights appearance in the Truth to all the precious dear Lambs of the Life, Dark vanished, Light shines forth (1650), in Hidden in Plain Sight: Quaker Women’s Writings 1650-1700, ed. Garman, Mary,Applegate, Judith, Margaret Benefiel and Dortha Meredith (Wallingford, Pennsylvania, 1996), pp. 3537Google Scholar.

50 I have quoted Travers from Damrosch, Leo, The Sorrows of the Quaker Jesus: James Nayler and the Puritan Crackdown on the Free Spirit (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1996), pp. 7475CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

51 Barbour, , Early Quaker Writings, p. 511.Google Scholar

52 Wither, George writes: “The Lamb of God:… / Our Fears he doth prevent; our loss restore, / And (to the true Believers) tendreth more / Than Adam lost Divine Poems [London: T.S., 1688], p. 91)Google Scholar. See also: Baxter, Richard, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650), ed. Morison, John (London, 1866), pp. 17, 70Google Scholar; Hall, Joseph, Contemplations, 2: 530–31Google Scholar; and Sibbes, 3: 383, 419, 425, 5: 98, 7: 191.

53 The “pleaders for sin and imperfection” tag is used identically by Fox, (Journal, pp. 18, 32, 56, 70),Fell, Margaret (A Testimonie of the Touch-Stone [London: Thomas Simmons, 1656], pp. 9, 17)Google Scholar, and Nayler, (Barbour, Early Quaker Writings, pp. 285–87)Google Scholar.

54 Barbour, , Early Quaker Writings, p. 310. Compare Army Officer Nicholas Cowling’s similar view in, The Saints Perfect in this Life or Never (London: Giles Calvert, 1647), pp. 23, 11Google Scholar.

55 Baptist Thomas Collier is utterly at odds with Fox and Nayler over this issue (A Looking-Glasse, pp. 6, 10, 15).

56 Perfection of Justification, sermon 6, “The Heaven-born man sinneth not,” p. 257.

57 Fell, , A Testimonie, pp. 8-13, 2022Google Scholar.

58 An Collins, Divine Songs and Meditacions, ed. Gottlieb, Sidney (Tempe, Arizona, 1996), pp. 2628Google Scholar.

59 Fox, Journal, pp. 51-52. Nayler, Howgill, and William Dewsbury were also charged and imprisoned. See Bailey, , New Light, pp. 98113Google Scholar.

60 Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration 11.5, 13.2-3; Particular Baptist Confession, article 31; Collier, , A Looking-Glasse, pp. 10, 15, 1920; and idem, , The Exaltation of Christ in the Days of the Gospel as the alone High Priest, Prophet and King of Saints (London: Giles Calvert, 1651), p. 30Google Scholar. For the reformed protestant rejection of perfection in this life, see: Calvin, Institutes, 3.17.15, 4.1.16, 4.3.11-13; Downame, The Christian’s Freedom, pp. 64–67, 75-76; Baxter, Saints’ Everlasting Rest, pp. 17, 108-09; Sedgwick, Obadiah, The Anatomy of Secret Sins, Presumptuous Sins, Sin in Dominion and Uprightness (1659; reprint Morgan, PA, 1995), pp. 234, 242, 266; and Sibbes, 5: 101Google Scholar

61 Examples from these works may be found in Barbour, Early Quaker Writings, pp. 167-79, 228-30, 255, 301.

62 I refer to this text as reprinted in Davis, Fear, Myth and History, pp. 138-55.

63 Perfection of Justification, sermon 6, “The Heaven-born man sinneth not,” p. 236.

64 Sedgwick, , Anatomy of Secret Sins, p. 308.Google Scholar

65 A Confession of Faith, Of the several Congregations or Churches of Christ in London, which are commonly (though unjustly) called Anabaptists…. Unto which is added, Heart Bleedings for Professors abhominations (London: M.S., 1652), pp. 8, 16; and Collier, , Exaltation of Christ, p. 30Google Scholar.

66 Hobson, Paul, Practicall Divinity: Or A Helpe Through the blessing of God to lead men more to look within themselves, and to unite experienced Christians in the bond and fellowship of the Spirit (1646), pp. 1516Google Scholar.

67 Richardson, Samuel, The Saints Desire; Or A Cordiali for a fainting soule (London: M. Simmons, 1647), pp. 11-14, 23, 134–42Google Scholar.

68 A Treatise Containing Three Things (London: M.S. for Thomas Brewster, 1653). On the Familists’ “perfection” see Marsh, Christopher W., The Family of Love in English Society, 1550-1630 (Cambridge, 1994), esp. pp. 1727; and Moss, Jean Dietz, “Godded with God’: Hendrik Niclaes and His Family of Love,” Transactions of the American Philological Society 71, 8 (1981): 189.Google Scholar

69 “George Fox was not one with God but his recreated, resurrected, and transformed inner body was none other than the exact celestial flesh of Christ and that body was one with God” (Bailey, New Light, p. 103).

70 Ibid., pp. 126-36. See also the antagonistic reports of Nayler’s trial: Deacon, John, The Grand Imposter Examined: Or, The Life, Tryal, and Examination of James Nayler (London: Henry Brome, 1656)Google Scholar; Farmer, Ralph, Sathan Inthron’d in his Chair of Pestilence. or Quakerism in its Exaltation (London: Edward Thomas, 1657)Google Scholar.

71 Eliza’s Babes, title page and pp. 11, 22, 32, 35, 51.

72 Simpson, , Perfection of Justification, sermon 6, “The Heaven-born man sinneth not,” p.237Google Scholar.

73 Jones, Sarah, To Sions Lovers, Being a Golden egge, to avoide Infection (1644), sig. B2r.Google Scholar

74 The same idea recurs in Baxter, Richard, The Reformed Pastor, ed. Brown, William (1656; reprint Edinburgh, 1974), pp. 7273.Google Scholar