No Armor for the Back: Baptist Prison Writings, 1600s-1700s (Keith E. Durso)

$39 Hardback
$23 Paperback

Order the paperback or the hardback from Mercer University Press.


Written by Keith E. Durso and published in conjunction with Mercer University Press, No Armor for the Back: Baptist Prison Writings, 1600s-1700s focuses on writings of English and American Baptists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and details the persecution early Baptists suffered as a result of their unwillingness to violate their consciences.


“English and American Baptists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries lived in two worlds. In one world, established churches were the norm and persecution was the means by which such churches and the civil governments dealt with religious dissenters. Yet these Baptists also lived in another world in which God’s kingdom ruled and the sword of the Spirit (the Bible), not the sword of Caesar, settled religious disputes. When their two worlds collided, and they often did, many Baptists chose to go to prison rather than to violate their consciences by worshipping in churches that they abhorred, by listening to ministers whom they did not choose, and by submitting their spiritual lives to earthly magistrates. Early Baptists knew that they could avoid prison and other hardships if they yielded to the pressures of political and ecclesiastical authorities to conform. Many Baptists considered such yielding as a retreat from their cause and their God, believing that retreat would have been spiritually fatal. They chose instead to move forward in their faith, although it might cost them dearly. Thus, rather than retreat, these courageous Baptists advanced, some to prison and then back to freedom, others to jail and then to the grave. All, however, did so because, like Thomas Hardcastle, they knew that “There is no armor for the back.” Baptists who graced numerous prisons and jails in England and in the American colonies did not remain silent, however, for they continued to preach and to write letters, poems, and books. These Baptists stated their cases without any self-pity and interpreted their persecutions as the natural consequences of professing their faith in Christ.” – Mercer University Press

It was with great delight that I recently saw in my friend Tim Harrelson’s office a new book on a topic very near and dear to my heart. It was Keith Durso’s No Armor for the Back: Baptist Prison Writings, 1600s-1700s. The title “No Armor for the Back” is itself a challenging word to call Christians to courage in difficult days. It comes from a sermon/letter sent from prison by Thomas Hardcastle to his congregation. The book is an excellent overview of the writings produced by Baptists while imprisoned for their convictions during the long 17th century. The most famous Baptist prisoner of this era is John Bunyan. But other lesser known Baptist heroes that deserve our attention are also featured. Men such as Francis Bampfield, Hercules Collins, Thomas Delaune, Thomas Grantham, Thomas Hardcastle, Abraham Cheare, Vavasor Powell, and John Murton receive a well deserved introduction to the reader. Durso surveys the historical background of each imprisonment and then provides a helpful introduction to the prisoner and a summary of his writings. These writings include letters, tracts, books, and poems. Durso has provided both an informative and encouraging work for both students of Baptist history as well as contemporary pastors seeking to develop a Baptist theology of persecution. This latter task will become increasing important practically, I fear, in the days to come. – Rev. Steve Weaver, Frankfort, KY

“England was not a hospitable place for Baptists and many other Christians in the 1600s and 1700s. This book helps the reader appreciate the conditions that led them to defend their understanding of Christ’s teachings even when they were imprisoned for their faith and practices. Carefully researched and still very readable.” – Amazon.Com