As a leap year, February in 2020 had 29 days. So did 1640, and on 29 February 1640, in the remote Buckinghamshire parish of Stoke Hammond, Benjamin Keach was born to John and Joyce Keach.
He became a prominent preacher in London after 1668. He was the most prolific writer among the Particular Baptists in the last quarter of the 17th century, and one of the men who convened the 1689 National Assembly of Particular Baptist churches, signing the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.
At his trial before the Aylesbury Assizes in 1664, he endured rough justice, being subsequently fined and pilloried. The rector of Stoke Hammond had brought Keach to the attention of the authorities, belittling him as an uneducated tailor, ‘and one that is a teacher in a new-fangled way’.
In the indictment read out at his trial, he was charged with saying (among many other things) that ‘Christ has not chosen the wise and prudent men after the flesh, nor great doctors and rabbis: not many mighty and noble, saith Paul, are called: but rather the poor and despised, even tradesmen and suchlike’.
Twelve years earlier, on 28 November 1628, in the parish of Elstow in neighbouring Bedfordshire in a cottage near the hamlet of Harrowden, John Bunyan was born. His fame is greater than that of Benjamin Keach. He too was an ordinary man, a tinker by trade. He also suffered for his Christian faith.
Over a hundred years later, on 16 August 1761 in the village of Paulerspury in neighbouring Northamptonshire, William Carey was born. By trade he was a cobbler. He became famous as the man who took the gospel to the Indian sub-continent.
A tailor, a tinker, and a cobbler: ordinary men who became decided and influential Christians. The grace and power of God equipped them to be preachers of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Keach was right. ‘God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence,’ 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.
NB: If you would like to read more about Keach then get hold of The Excellent Benjamin Keach, Joshua Press, 2015. Be sure you obtain the second edition.
By Austin Walker is a former pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley