George Gifford, A. M This excellent divine was
educated in Hart-hall, Oxford, where he continued some years. In the year 1582, he became vicar of Maldon in Essex.S The Oxford historian denominates him " a very noted preacher, a man admirably well versed in the various branches of good literature, and a great enemy to popery.") Mr. Strype says, " he was a great and diligent preacher, and much esteemed by many
• Fuller't Hist, of Cam. p. 75.
t Wilkins on Preaching, p. 83.
J Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol. ii. p. 38.
$ Newcourt's Repert. Eccl. vol. ii. p. 398.
!| Wood's Athens Ozon. Voi. i. p. 387.
VoL. II. T
persons of rank. By his labours he brought the town to much more sobriety and knowledge of true religion."* Though he was a decided puritan, and scrupled conformity in various particulars, he wrote with great zeal against the Brownists, and in defence of the church. But all these things were mere trifles, so long as he did not admire the ceremonies, nor come up to the standard of conformity required by the prelates. Therefore, having preached the doctrine of limited obedience to the civil magistrate, complaints were brought against him, and he was immediately suspended and cast into prison. This was in the year 1584.
About the same time, this learned divine, and other ministers of Essex, to the number of twenty-seven, presented a supplication to the lords of the council, earnestly
appear with what degree of success.
The ministers who subscribed this supplication were highly celebrated for learning, piety, and usefulness, many of whom were already suspended for nonconformity. In the supplication they express themselves as follows: " We cheerfully and boldly offer this our humble suit unto your honours, being our only sanctuary upon earth, next to her majesty, to which we can repair in our present necessity: and most of all we arc encouraged, when we consider how richly God hath adorned your honours with knowledge, wisdom, and zeal for the gospel, and with godly care and tender love to those who profess the same. Most humbly, therefore, we beseech your honours, with your accustomed favour in all godly and just causes, to hear and to judge of our matters. vVc have received the charge of her majesty's loyal and faithful subjects, to instruct and teach our people in the way of life; and every one of us having this sounded from the God of heaven, Woe be unto me, if I preach not the gospel, we have all endeavoured to discharge our duties, and to approve ourselves both to God and men. Notwithstanding this, we are in great heaviness, and some of us already put to silence, and the rest living in fear; not that ♦we have been, or can be charged, we hope, with false doctrine, or slanderous life; but because we refuse to subscribe 4 that there is nothing contained in the Book of Common Prayer contrary to the word of God.' We do protest in the sight of God, who searcheth all hearts, that we do not refuse from a desire to dissent, or from any sinister affection;
soliciting a redress of their
though it does not
• Strype's Aylmer, p. 110.
bat in the fear of God, and from the necessity of conscience. The apostle teacheth, that a person who doubteth is condemned if he eat. If a man then be condemned for doing a lawful action, because he doubts whether it be lawful; how much more should we incur the displeasure of the Lord, and justly deserve his wrath, if we should subscribe, being fully persuaded that there are some things in the book contrary to his word 1 If our reasons might be so answered by the doctrine of the Bible, and we could be persuaded that we might subscribe lawfully, and in the fear of God, we would willingly consent. In these and other respects we humbly crave your honourable protection, as those who from the heart do entirely love, honour, and obey her excellent majesty ami your honours, in the Lord. Giving most hearty thanks to God for all the blessings we have received from him, by your government, constantly praying, night and day, that he will bless and preserve her majesty and your honours to eternal salvation. Your honours1 poor and humble supplicants,
" George Gifford, Samuel Cotesford,
Richard Rogers, Richard Illison,
Nicholas Colpotts, William Serdge,
Lawrance Newman, Edmund Barker,
William Dike, Richard Blackwell,
Thomas Chaplain, Thomas Howell,
Arthur Dent, Mark Wirsdale,
Thomas Redrich, Robert Edmonds,
Giles Whiting, Augustine Pigot,
Ralph Hawden, Camii.lus Rusticus,
Jeffery Jesselin, John Iiuckle,
Thomas Upcue, Thomas Carew,
Roger Carr, John Bishop."*
When Mr. Gilford was brought to trial before the high commission, his enemies utterly tailed in their evidence, and he was accordingly released. This, however, was not the end of his troubles. He did not long enjoy his liberty. Bishop Aylmer appointed spies to watch him, and fresh complaints were soon brought against him on account of bis nonconformity; when he was again suspended and cast into prison.t Upon this he made application to the lord treasurer, who endeavoured to obtain the favour of the
• MS. Register, p. 330.
•* Strype's Whitgifr, p. 158.—NcaFi Puritans, vol. i. p. 379.
archbishop; but his grace having consulted; his brother of London, told the treasurer that he was a ringleader of the nonconformists; that he himself had reccived complaints against him, and was determined to bring him before the high commission.*
Mr. Gifford had many friends, and was much beloved by his numerous hearers. The parishioners of Maldon, therefore, presented a petition to the bishop, in behalf of their minister, sisjned by fifty-two persons, two of whom were bailiffs of the town, two justices of the peace, four aldermen, fifteen head burgesses, and other respectable people. In this petition, they shewed that his former accusations had been proved to be false; that the present charges were only the slanderous accusations of wicked men, who sought to injure his reputation and usefulness; that they themselves and a great part of the town had derived the greatest benefit from his ministry; that his doctrine was always sound and good; that in all his preaching and catechising he taught obedience to magistrates; that he used no conventicles; and that his life was modest, discreet, and unreprovable. For these re;isons they earnestly entreated his grace in restore him to his ministry.t Indeed, the distresses of the people in Essex were at this time so great, that the inhabitants of Maldon and the surrounding country presented a petition to parliament for the removal of present grievances. In this petition, now before me, they complain, in most affecting language, that ncarly all their learned and useful ministers were forbidden to preach, or deprived of their livings; and that ignorant and wicked ministers were put in their places.?
These endeavours proved ineffectual. Mr. Gifford did not enjoy his liberty for several years, as appears from a supplication of several of the suspended ministers in Essex, presented to parliament, dated March 8,1587, when he was still under the episcopal censure. It will be proper to give the substance of it in their own words: " In most humble and reverent duty to this high and honourable court of parliament, sundry of the ministers and preachers of God's holy word in the county of Essex, present this our earnest supplication, and lamentable complaint, beseeching you upon our knees for the Lord's sake, and the sake of his
• Strvpe's Whitgift, p. 159.
+ Strype's Ajlmer, p. Ill, 112.
i MS. Register, p. 748.
people, whose salvation it concerneth, to bow down a gracious ear to this our most dutiful suit, and to take such order as to your godly wisdom shall be thought most convenient. Your humble suppliants haying, by the goodness of God, conducted themselves at all times, both in their doctrine and life, as becometh their vocation, they submit themselves to any trial and punishment, if it should be found otherwise. Notwithstanding this, they have been a long time, and still are, grievously troubled and molested; of which troubles this is one of the heaviest, that we are hindered from the service of God in our public ministry. To this restraint we have hitherto yielded and kept silence.
" We hoped, from the equity of our cause, the means that have been used, and the necessities of our people, that our suspension would have been taken off by those whose censure lieth upon us: but they neither restored us to our ministry, nor furnished the people with suitable persons to
suitors to them, desiring Hint we might be restored to our former service and usefulness among them; and, notwithstanding our cause hath been recommended to them by some of the chief nobility in the land, even of her majesty i honourable privy council, we have obtained no relief for ourselves, nor comfort for our distressed people. Therefore, to appear before this high and honourable court of parliament, is the only means left unto us; that if there be in us no desert of so heavy a sentence, it may please this high court to take such order for the relief of your most humble suppliants as to your godly wisdom shall be thought convenient.
" We, indeed, acknowledge that divers causes of our restraint are alleged against us; but our earnest desire is, that this high court would by some means be informed of this weighty matter. The chief of them is our refusing to subscribe to certain articles relating to the present policy of the church, that every word and ceremony appointed to be read and used in the Book of Common Prayer, is according to the word of God. We declared that wc could not, with a good conscience, subscribe to all that was required of us; and wc humbly requested to have our doubts removed, and to be satisfied in the things required; but wc have not received one word of answer to this day; and their former rigorous proceedings have not in the least been mitigated.
" Wc humbly pray this high court to be assured of our dutiful obedience to all lawful authority, unto which, as
Wc and our people have been humble the ordinance of God, and for conscience sake, with all our hearts, we promise and protest our submission. We seek unto you to obtain some relief for us. And we commit our lives and whole estate to Almighty God, to your gracious clemency, and to the care of her right excellent majesty, ceasing not, day and night, to pray that the blessings of grace and glory may rest upon you for ever."*
This supplication was signed by Messrs. George Gifford, Ralph Hawden, William Tunstall, John Huckle, Giles Whiting, and Roger Carr; but whether it proved of any advantage, is extremely doubtful. Most probably they continued much longer under suspension. Mr. Gifford subscribed the " Book of Discipline."t He lived to a good old age, and died about the year 1620.
His Works.—1. Country Divinity, containing a Discourse of certain points of Religion among the Common sort of Christians, with a plain Confutation thereof, 1581.—2. A Sermon on the Parable of the Sower, 1581.—3. A Dialogue between a Papist and a Protestant, applied to the capacity of the Unlearned, 1583.—4. Against the Priesthood and sacrifice of the Church of Rome, wherein you may perceive their Impiety in usurping that Office and Action which ever appertained to Christ only, 1584.—5. A Sermon on 2 Pet. i. 11., 1584.—6. A Catechism, giving a most excellent light to those that seek to enter the Path-way to Salvation, 1580.—7. A Sermon on Jam. ii. 14—26., 1586.—8. A Discourse of the subtile Practices of Devils by Witches and Sorcerers, 1587.—9. Sermons on the first four Chapters and part of the fifth Chapter of Ecclesiastes, 1589.— 10. A short Treatise against the Donatists of England, whom we call Brownists, wherein, by Answer unto their Writings, their Heresies are noted, 1590.—11. A Plain Declaration that our Brownists be full Donatists, by comparing them together from point to point out of the Writings of Augustin, 1591.—12. A Reply to Mr. Job. Greenwood and Hen. Barrow, touching read Prayer, wherein their gross Ignorance is detected, 1591.—13. A Sermon at Paul's Cross, on Psalm exxxiii., 1591.—14. A Dialogue concerning Witches and Witchcrafts; in which is laid open how craftily the Devil deceiveth not only the Witches, but others, 1593.—15. A Treatise of trne Fortitude, 1594.—16. A Commentary or Sermons on the whole Book of Revelations, 1596.—17. Two Sermons on 1 Pet. v. 8, 9., 1598. —18. Pour Sermons upon several parts of Scripture, 1598.—19. An Exposition on the Canticles, 1612.—20. Five Sermons on the Song of Solomon, 1620.—21. An English Translation of Dr. Fulke's Prelections on the Holy Revelations.