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Ecclesiastical history of England : from the opening of the long parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell (Volume 1) online

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the world with only Heaven for their protector. Through
Christian faith they did what at the time they could not
comprehend, being utterly unconscious of the importance
of the act which they performed.

This Church in London existed before the well-known
Robert Browne appeared as the advocate of advanced
Nonconformist views. In 1571 he was cited on that
account before the commissioners at Lambeth ; and ten
years later the Bishop of Norwich, in a letter to Lord
Burleigh, referred to him as a person " to be feared, lest
if he were at liberty he would seduce the vulgar sort of
the people, who greatly depend on him."

Burleigh said in reply : — 2

" I understand that one Browne, a preacher, is
by your lordship and others of the Ecclesiastical
Commission committed to the custody of the Sheriff of
Norfolk, where he remains a prisoner, for some matters
of offence uttered by him by way of preaching ; wherein
I perceive, by sight of some letters, written by certain
godly preachers in your lordship's diocese, he hath been
dealt with, and by them dissuaded from that course he
hath taken. Forasmuch as he is my kinsman, if he
be son to him whom I take him to be, and that his error

1 Ecce Homo, 16. 2 April 21st, 1581.

350 The Church of the Civil Wars. [un.

seemeth to proceed of zeal, rather than of malice, I do
therefore wish he were charitably conferred with and
reformed; which course I pray your lordship may be
taken with him, either by your lordship, or such as your
lordship shall assign for that purpose. And in case there
shall not follow thereof such success as may be to your
liking, that then you would be content to permit him to
repair hither to London, to be further dealt with, as I
shall take order for, upon his coming ; for which purpose
I have written a letter to the sheriff, if your lordship
shall like thereof." 1

Sir Kobert Jermyn, in a letter to Burleigh (1581),
alludes to Browne as a man who " had many things that
were godly and reasonable, and, as he thought, to be
wished and prayed for, but with the same there were
other things strange and unheard." He further begged
the Lord Treasurer to advise Browne to be more careful
in his conduct, and to threaten him with sharp censure
as an example to others, since he was but a mere youth
in age and experience. The Bishop of Norwich, also,
writing to the Lord Treasurer about this troublesome
clergyman, observed " that Mr. Browne's late coming into
his diocese, and teaching strange and dangerous doctrine
in all disordered manner, had greatly troubled the whole
country, and brought many to great disobedience of all
law and magistrates — that yet, by the good aid and help
of the Lord Chief Justice, and Master Justice Anderson,
his associate, the chiefest of such factions were so
bridled, and the rest of their followers so greatly dis-
mayed, as he verily hoped of much good and quietness
to have thereof ensued, had not the said Browne returned
again contrary to his expectation, and greatly prejudiced

1 Fullers Church Hist., iii. 62.

chap, xiv] Congregationalism — Robert Broiunc. 351

those their good proceedings, and having private meetings
in such close and secret manner that he knew not
possibly how to suppress the same." 1 Browne, at
length, through the influence of his illustrious relative,
succumbed to the ecclesiastical authority which before
he had daringly resisted, and became master of St.
Olave's Grammar-school, in Southwark. His subsequent
career covered him with disgrace. He had a wife with
whom for many years he never lived, a church in which
he never preached, and the circumstances of his death,
like the scenes of his life, were stormy and turbu-
lent. 2 Whatever sympathy with some of Browne's
principles might be felt by the Independents of the next
age, they repudiated any connection with Browne's
name, and held his character and history in the utmost

Browne's influence told considerably in the Eastern
Counties, where a strong leaven of ultra-Protestantism
has existed ever since the Lollard days. Even Rett's
rebellion, often treated as a Roman Catholic outbreak,
looks more like a peasants' war in aid of the Reformation
than anything else. Bury St. Edmunds, where Brownism
flourished, witnessed the death of Copping and Thacker,
two Congregational martyrs, hanged in 1583. In Essex,
a movement which looked like Congregationalism won
some measure of sympathy from the upper classes, and
even the wife of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the
Great Seal, attended meetings held in Rochford Hall by
Mr. Wright, who had been ordained in the Netherlands.
Writing to Lord Burleigh, that lady observed, "I hear,
them in their public exercises, as a chief duty com-

1 Strype's Annals, vol. iii. part i. 22 — 30.

2 Fullers Church Hist., iii. 65.

352 The Church of the Civil Wars. dsaa.

manded by God to be done, and also I confess, as one that
hath found mercy, that I have profited more in the inward
feeling knowledge of God his holy will, though but in a
small measure, by such sincere and sound opening of the
Scriptures by an ordinary preaching within these seven
or eight year, than I did by hearing odd sermons at
Paul's well nigh twenty year together." 1

It is a curious circumstance to find Lord Bacon's
mother connected with a minister who maintained, as
Wright did, that every pastor was a bishop, and that he
should be chosen by his own congregation, opinions which
constitute the essence of modern Congregationalism.
From these opinions the ecclesiastical authorities sought
to convert him by imprisonment ; and with that forcible
argument another was associated, which is so original
that we cannot resist the temptation of quoting it. Mr.
Barwick, a conforming clergyman, commended to Wright
the Church of England as a church most admirable on
account of its being free from the two opposite extremes
of Popery and Puritanism. "God delights in mediocrity,"
says this logician, and the logic is worth being noted
for its curiosity : " Man was put in the midst of Paradise ;
a rib was taken out of the midst of man ; the Israelites
went through the midst of the Red Sea, and of Jordan ;
Samson put firebrands in the midst, between the foxes'

1 Lansdoicne M.S., 115, art. 55. days of Elizabeth, in the neighbour-
Lord Keeper Bacon had a chap- hood of Theobalds. One or more
lain of Puritan tendencies. See of the ministers suffered persecu-
Strype' s Parker, ii. 69. Lady Bacon tion and imprisonment, but I do not
shewed her learning and Protestant think it improbable that the influ-
zeal by translating Jewel's Apology, ence of Cecil, Lord Burleigh, who
— Ibid., i. 354. then resided at Theobalds, may

The Rev. Thomas Hill, late of have afforded some degree of pro-

Cheshunt, informs me : — " It is un- tection to the Nonconformists of the

deniable that there was a congrega- neighbourhood."
tion of Separatists as early as the

chap, xiv.] Congregationalism — Henry Barrowe. 353

tails ; David's men had their garments cut off by the
midst; Christ was hanged in the midst between two

Perhaps Henry Barrowe, — a lawyer of Gray's Inn, and
in his young days a courtier, — of all men in the reign of
Elizabeth, propounded the clearest views of Congrega-
tionalism. He strongly objected to forms of prayer,
especially the Common Prayer Book ; to the sacraments,
as administered in the Church of England; to the
ecclesiastical laws and canons ; to the idea that the
establishment was a true church ; to the extent of the
Queen's ecclesiastical supremacy, and to the abolition
of the judicial law of Moses. He denied that it was
lawful for any private person to intermeddle with the
prince's office, and to reform the State without his
good liking and licence ; but he virtually admitted the
right of private Christians to share in the regulation of
ecclesiastical matters : for he expressly contended that
the government of Christ's Church belongeth not to the
profane or unbelieving, neither could it, he said, with-
out manifest sacrilege, be set over parishes as they
then stood in confusion, no difference being made
between the faithful and unbelieving, all being in-
differently received into the body of the Church;
but over every particular congregation of Christ he
concluded that there ought to be an eldership, and that
every such congregation ought to aim at its establish-
ment. *

In 1592 a Church was formed in Nicholas Lane. Spies
were on the look out, and a wary doorkeeper admitted the
little congregation as they stealthily dropped in one by
one. Mr. Francis Johnson and Mr. Greenwood were of

1 Hanbury, i. 38. Harl. Miscellany, ii. 21.

354 The Church of the Civil Wars. [1593.

the number. The first of these rose and prayed for half
an hour, and, opening his Genevan Bible, discoursed to the
assembly on the constitution of primitive brotherhood.
The brethren formed themselves into such a communion,
and gave to each other the right hand of fellowship.
Mr. Johnson was chosen pastor, after which he baptized
seven persons. " But they had neither godfathers nor
godmothers ; and he took water and washed the faces of
them that were baptized." He afterwards broke the
bread, consisting of five white loaves, which, with a
cup of wine, were distributed amongst the members
by Mr. Bowman and Mr. Lee, who had been elected
deacons : after wdiich a collection was made for the
poor. 1

Not only in Nicholas Lane, but in Aldgate and Smith-
field, were gatherings of this description, and especially
in Islington, where meetings of persecuted Protestants
had been held in Mary's reign. As the dew sparkled on
the grass, as the birds twittered on the hedges, and as the
sun bathed the landscape in golden light — the memories
of the congregation in the Islington w r oods would go back
to Roger Holland and his brother confessors, w T ho on
that very greensward, and under the shadow of those
old trees, had studied their Bibles, and then been
burned for doing so.

Barrow T e and Greenwood were indicted at the Old
Bailey, in 1593, for publishing seditious books, but from
the examination preserved in the Egerton papers, 2 it
appears that the specific accusations against them related
simply to religious opinions.

By a refinement of cruelty these poor men were conveyed

1 Strypes Annals, iv. 245. Hanbury,\. 85.
8 Published by Camden Society.

hap. xiv. j Barrowe and Browne. 355

to Tyburn in the death-cart — to receive a delusive respite
under the gallows-tree — to be brought back again to
Newgate — and when they had thought that the bitterness
of death was past, to be a second time dragged to the
place of execution, to return no more. This extra-
ordinary proceeding, which at first looks like a piece of
intentional barbarity, receives its explanation from a con-
temporary letter in the State Paper Office.

" The Parliament is to end this week. * * * There
was a bill preferred against the Barrowists and Brownists,
making it felony to maintain any opinions against the
ecclesiastical government, [which by the bishops' means
did pass the Upper House, but found so captious by the
Nether House, as it was thought it would never have
passed in any sort, for that it was thought all the Puritans
would have been drawn within the compass thereof. Yet
by the earnest labouring of those that sought to satisfy
the bishops' humours,] it is passed to this effect : That
whosoever shall be an obstinate recusant, refusing to
come to any church, and do deny the Queen to have any
power or authority in ecclesiastical causes, and do, by
writing or otherwise, publish the same, and be a keeper
of conventicles also, being convicted, he shall abjure the
realm within three months, and lose all his goods and
lands ; if he return without leave it shall be felony. Thus
have they minced it, as is thought, so as it will not reach
to any man that shall deserve favour in a concurrence of
so many faults and actions. The week before, upon the
late conventicle you wrote of last, Barrowe and Good-
man, 1 with some others, were indicted, arraigned, and
condemned upon the statute of writing and publishing
seditious books, and should have been executed, but as

This is the name written hi the MS., no doubt intended for Greenwood.

A A 2

356 The Church of the Civil Wars. [i«>9.

they were ready to be trussed up were reprieved, but the
day after, the Court House had shewn their dislike of this
bill, were early in the morning hanged. It is said 'their
reprieval proceeded of [a supplication made to the Lord
Treasurer, complaining that in a land where no Papist was
touched for religion by death, their blood (concurring in
opinion touching faith with that which was professed in the
realm) should be first shed. Desiring, therefore, conference
to be removed from their errors by reason, or else for sa-
tisfaction of the world, touching their opinions, which was
communicated by him to the Archbishop of Canterbury,
who, notwithstanding, was very peremptory, so as the
Lord Treasurer gave him and the Bishop of Worcester
some round taxing words, and used some speech to the
Queen, but was not seconded by any, which hath made
him more remiss, as is thought. It is plainly said that
their execution, proceeding of malice of the bishops,
to spite the Nether House, which hath procured them
much hatred among the common people affected that
way."] 1 * * * *

John Penry, another Congregational martyr — who
uttered the following memorable words : — " If my blood
were an ocean sea, and every drop thereof were a life unto
me, I would give them all, by the help of the Lord, for
the maintenance of my confession " — perished on the
gallows for the advocacy of his opinions, as if he had
been the worst of criminals, at a place in Southwark
called St. Thomas-a- Watering. Koger Eippon, of the
same religious profession as Penry, died in prison ; and
his friends, moved by intense sympathy with the sufferer,

1 Letter from Thomas Phillips to original, the writer desiring, in a

"William Sterrell, April 7, 1593. postscript, that the passages so

State Papers, Dom. The bracketed marked, should be " disguised with

portions are underlined in the cipher."

chap, xiv.] Congregationalism — Jacob. 357

and by indignation against his unmerited fate, paraded
before the house of Justice Young (the magistrate
who had committed him) the coffin containing the
sufferer's remains, on the lid of which appeared the
following inscription: — "This is the corpse of Roger
Rippon, a servant of Christ, and her Majesty's faithful
subject ; who is the last of sixteen or seventeen, which
that great enemy of God, the Archbishop of Canter-
bury, with his High Commissioners, have murdered
in Newgate within these four years, manifestly for the
testimony of Jesus Christ. His soul is now with the
Lord, and his blood crieth for speedy vengeance against
that great enemy of the saints, and against Mr.
Richard Young, who in this and many the like points
hath abused his power, for the upholding of the Romish
Antichrist, prelacy, and priesthood." 1

Henry Jacob is a commanding figure in Congregational
annals. 2 Originally a clergyman in the county of Kent,
he had written in defence of the Church of England, but
afterwards, perhaps influenced by an answer to his book
from the pen of Francis Johnson, a zealous separatist,
he warmly espoused the cause of Nonconformity. 3 To
him has been attributed a tract, published in 1609, enti-
tled : "An Humble Supplication for Toleration and
Liberty to enjoy and observe the Ordinances of Jesus

1 Strypes Annals, iv. 186. Hun- 3 Jacob's book, printed at Middle-
bury's Mem., i. 90. The Arcbbisbop burgh, 1599, was entitled: A
referred to was Whitgift. Rippon Defence of the Churches and
died in 1592. Ministry of England. Written in

2 " He was a person most excel- two Treatises against the Reasons
lently well read in theological and Objections of Mr. Francis
authors, but withal was a most Johnson and others of the Separa-
zealous Puritan, or, as his son Hon called Brownists. Johnson re-
Henry used to say, the first Inde- plied in an Answer to Master H.
pendent in England." — Wood's A th. Jacob, his Defence, dc. 1600.
Oxon.,i. 464.

358 The Church of the Civil Wars. [!«», May.

Christ in the Administration of His Churches in lieu of
Human Constitutions." In this publication it is main-
tained, that "our Lord Jesus hath given to each
particular church or ordinary congregation this right and
privilege, namely, to elect, ordain, and deprive her own
ministers ; and to exercise all the other parts of lawful
ecclesiastical jurisdiction under Him." Toleration is
sought in order that " each particular church may put in
execution this her particular privilege ; " but, the writer
adds: " We do humbly beseech your Majesty not to think,
that by our suit, we make an overture and way for tole-
ration unto Papists, our suit being of a different nature
from theirs. The inducements thereof, such as cannot
conclude aught in favour of them, whose doctrine is
heresy, and a profession directly contrary to the lawful
state and government of free countries and kingdoms, as
your Majesty hath truly and judiciously observed." *

In other tracts which bear Henry Jacob's name, 2 he
explained his views of Independency, and in accord-
ance with them he founded a church in the year 1616.
The ceremony connected with the institution is described
as consisting of fasting and prayer, and the joining toge-
ther of the hands of the members as they solemnly cove-
nanted to walk together in all God's ways and ordinances,
according as He had already revealed them, or should
further make them known. Jacob was succeeded in the
pastorship of the Congregational Church by John
Lathrop, 3 who suffered from the tyranny of the High
Commission Court. With reference to the proceedings
carried on against him and certain members of his flock,
some fresh information may be gathered from one of the

1 Hanburys Mem., i. 226. 2 See Hanhunjs Mem., i. 227.

3 His name is spelt in different ways.

chap, xiv.j Persecution of Congregationalists. 359

Rawlinson MSS. As it illustrates both the extent to
which private meetings of the Separatists were carried,
and the interruption which they experienced, we will here
introduce a few passages from that curious document.

On the 2nd of May, 1632, certain conventiclers, as they
are called, were taken at the house of Barnett, a brewer's
clerk, residing at Blackfriars. * At first John Lathrop, who
is described as their minister, did not appear, "but kept
himself out of the way awhile ; therefore the man of the
house wherein they were taken, was first called." He
was asked when he last attended the parish church ? He
replied that he was present in the parish church at the
time when, according to the allegation, the meeting was
held at his house, but that his wife did not then attend
worship with him. The accused persons were all required
to take the ex officio oath, but they excused themselves
from doing so at least for the present, and requested time
for further consideration of that subject. Archbishop
Abbot addressed them as follows : —

" You shew yourselves most unthankful to God, to the
King, and to the Church of England, that when (God be
praised) through his Majesty's care and ours you have
preaching in every church, and men have liberty to join
in prayer and participate of the sacraments, and have
catechisings, and all to enlighten you, and which may
serve you in the way of salvation, you in an unthankful
manner cast off all this yoke, and in private unlawfully
assemble yourselves together, making rents and divisions
in the Church. If anything be amiss, let it be known ;
if anything be not agreeable to the Word of God, we

1 The church of which Lathrop the places of meeting were changed
was minister is said to have been according to circumstances. As
formed in Southwark ; if so, the fact they had no chapels, and were pro-
of its now assembling in Blackfriars scribed by law, they met where they
shews how, in times of persecution, could.

360 The Church of the Civil Wars. [i632,Ma y .

shall be as ready to redress it as you ; but whereas it is
nothing but your own imaginations, and you are unlearned
men that seek to make up a religion of your own heads,
I doubt no persuasion will serve the turn, we must take
this course; you are called here, let them stand upon
their bonds, and let us see what they will answer; it
may be they will answer what may please us." Laud,
then Bishop of London, proceeded to observe, in a very
characteristic manner — "It is time to take notice of
these ; nay this is not the fourth part of them about this
City. You see these came of set purpose ; they met not
by chance ; they are desperately heretical ; they are all
of different places, out of Essex, St. Austin's, St. Martin's
le Grand, Buttolph's, Aldgate, Thisleworth, (Isleworth)
St. Saviour's ; let these be imprisoned. Let me make a
motion. There be four of the ablest men of them ; let
these four answer and be proceeded against, and the
while if the rest come in, they shall be received, but if
they will not, I know no reason why four or five men
should not answer for all."

When Lathrop was present before the Commissioners,
the Bishop, after having asked some very insulting questions,
demanded, " Where are your orders ? " to which Lathrop
replied — "I am a minister of the Gospel of Christ, and
the Lord hath qualified me." " Will you lay your hand
on the book, and take your oath ? " enquired the Court ;
to which question the minister returned a distinct nega-
tive. The following curious conversation between the Com-
missioners and certain accused parties is worth being trans-
cribed. Eaton, together with " two women and a maid,"
appeared, and were asked by the Court why they were
assembled in a conventicle, when others were at church ?

Eaton. " We were not assembled in contempt of the

chap, xiv.] Persecution of Congregationalists. 361

London. " No ! it was in contempt of the Church of

Eaton. " It was in conscience to God (may it please this
Honourable Court) ; and we were kept from church, for
we were confined in the house together by those that
beset the house, else divers would have gone to church,
and many came in after the sermons were done."

London. " These were first discovered at Lambeth,
and then at other places, and now taken here ; they
have in their meetings books printed against the Church
of England."

Archbishop of Canterbury. " Where were you in the
mornings before you came hither to this house ?"

[Eaton.] " We were in our own families."

Canterbury. " What did you ?"

Eaton. "We read the Scriptures, and catechised our
families ; and may it please this honourable Court to
hear us speak the truth, we will shew you what was done,
and (free us of the contempt of authority) we did nothing
but what you will allow us to do."

London. " Who can free you ? These are dangerous
men ; they are a scattered company sown in all the City,
and about St. Michael of the Querne, St. Austin's, Old
Jury, Redriffe, and other remoter places. Hold them
the book."

Eaton. "I dare not swear, nor take this oath, though
I will not refuse it ; I will consider of it."

Sir Henry Marten. 1 " Hear, hear! You shall swear
but to answer what you know, and as far as you are
bound by law. You shall have time to consider of it,
and have it read over and over till you can say it without

1 His name was ordinarily spelt MS. He was Judge of the Prerogative
" ten," although it stands " tin" in the Court, and father of Henry Marten.

362 The Church of the Civil Wars. v.m, May.

book if you will ; when you have first taken your oath
that you will make a true answer."

Eaton. " I dare not ; I know not what T shall swear

King's Advocate. 1 " It is to give a true answer to arti-
cles put into the Court against you, or that shall be put
in touching this conventicle of yours, and divers your
heretical tenets, and what words and exercises you used,
and things of this nature."

Eaton. " I dare not."

Archbishop of Canterbury. " What say you, woman ?"

Sara Jones. " I dare not worship God in vain."

Bishop of London. " Will you not swear and take an
oath when you are called to it by the magistrate ?"

S. Jones. " Yes ! I will answer upon my oath to end
a controversy before a lawful magistrate."

Earl of Dorset. " What dost thou think, woman, of
these grave Fathers of the Church, that these here be

Online LibraryJohn StoughtonEcclesiastical history of England : from the opening of the long parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 43)