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Henry Smith

Henry Smith, A. M.—This zealous and eloquent divine was born at Withcock in Leicestershire, in the year 1550, and educated in Lincoln college, Oxford; where he became well furnished with useful learning. He was descended from a wealthy and honourable family, was possessed of a plentiful estate, and was heir to a large patrimony. But he resolved to employ his talents to the utmost of his power, by labouring for the glory of God and the conversion of souls, in the work of the ministry; and therefore he left the rich patrimony to a younger brother. + Upon his removal from Oxford, he pursued his studies under the care of Mr. Greenham, whose principles and piety he appeared afterwards to have imbibed. When the Lord Treasurer Burleigh applied to Mr. Greenham for a testimonial of Mr. Smith's character, this excellent divine observed, " that he

• Ambrose's Work?, p. 800. Edit. 1701.

+ This younger brother was Sir Roger Smith of Edmondtborp in Leicestershire, who died about the restoration.

was well versed in the holy scriptures, religions and devout in his character, moderate and sober in his opinions, discreet and temperate in his behaviour, industrious in his studies and pur>uits, and of a humble spirit and upright heart, joined with a fervent zeal for the glory of God and the welfare of souls."*

Though Mr. Smith was eminently qualified for the sacred function, he was dissatisfied with the subscription imposed upon ministers, and the lawfulness of certain ceremonies. He was loath to make a rent, either in the church or in his own conscience. But, during this perplexity, he resolved not to undertake any pastoral charge, but to content himself with a lecturer's situation. Accordingly, in the year 1587, he became lecturer at St. Clement Danes, near Temple-bar, London. He was chosen to this public situation by the parishioners, and by the favour of the Lord Treasurer, who lived in the parish, and assisted in raising the contribution for his support. Here he set himself to do the work of the Lord faithfully. He was greatly beloved, and his ministry highly admired by his numerous hearers. But the year following, complaint being made to Bishop Aylmer, that he had spoken in his sermon sonic words derogatory to the Common Prayer, mid that he had not suljscribed to Whifgifl's three articles, his grace suspended him from preaching. The reasons alleged by the bishop, with Mr. Smith's answers, were the following:

1. " That he was chosen by a popular election ; that is, by the minister and congregation, without his lordship's license."

" I was recommended to the parish by certain godly ministers," says Mr. Smith, " who had heard me preach in other places in this city, and thereupon accepted by the parish, and entertained with a stipend raised by voluntary contribution. In which sort they had heretofore entertained others, without any such question or exception. And his lordship calling me to preach at Paul's cross, never moved any such question to me. Nevertheless, if any error have been committed by me or the parish, through ignorance, our joint desire is to have his lordship's good allowance and approbation, for the said exercise of my function in his lordship's diocese."

2. " That he hath preached against the Book of Common Prayer."

" However his lordship may have been informed against me," observes Mr. Smith, " I never used a speech in any of my sermons, against the Book of Common Prayer; whereof the parish doth bear me witness in this my supplication to your lordship."

3. " That he hath not yielded his subscription to certain articles which his lordship required at his hands."

" Concerning the third," says he, " I refuse not to subscribe to any articles, which the law of the realm doth require of men in my calling; acknowledging, with all humbleness and loyalty, her majesty's sovereignty in all causes, and over all persons, within her highness's dominions; and yielding my full consent to all articles of faith and doctrine, taught and ratified in this church, according to a statute in that behalf provided, the 13th year of her majesty's reign. And therefore I beseech his lordship, not to urge upon me any other subscription than the law of God and the laws positive of this realm do require."*

The above charges, with the answers subjoined, Mr. Smith presented to the treasurer, accompanied with a supplication to his lordship, humbly requesting his favour and influence at this painful juncture. This great statesman had the highest respect for him; and, as Mr. Smith was not long deprived of his lecture, he most probably espoused his cause, applied to the bishop, and procured his restoration. It is, indeed, observed, " that the lord treasurer looked very favourably upon Mr. Smith ; and that he was often the screen to save him from scorching, by interposing his greatness betwixt him and the anger of certain episcopal officers."+

In the year 1589, upon the death of Mr. Harewood, the incumbent of Clement Danes, the churchwardens and parishioners petitioned the treasurer to bestow the living upon our pious divine. In their petition, they observe, " that by nis excellent preaching, his exemplary life, and his sound doctrine, more good had been done among them, than by any other who had gone before, or, as they feared, would follow him."t But Mr. Smith, for the reasons already mentioned, was most probably unwilling to accept the benefit, if it was offered him. He does not appear ever to have enjoyed any greater preferment than that of his lectureship.

* Slrype's Aylmer, p. 155, 156.

t Fuller's Life of Mr. Smith prefixed to his sermoos.

t Strype's Ajimcr, p. 157.

Mr. Smith was a preacher uncommonly followed by persons of piety, especially those of the puritanical party. He was generally esteemed the first preacher in the nation; and, on account of his prodigious memory, and bis fluent, eloquent, and practical way of preaching, he was looked upon as the very miracle and wonder of the age.* It may be truly said of him, that he'was a man peaceable in Israel. For though he scrupled conformity himself, and utterly disapproved the imposition of it on others; still he could live on terms of intimacy with those from whom he dissented. His fame was so great, that he was usually called the silver-tongued preacher, as if he wa3 second even to Chrysostom. His church was so crowded with hearers, that persons of quality, as well as others, were frequently obliged to stand in the aisles; and his wonderful dexterity in preaching was such, that, by his solid reasons, he fastened conviction upon the judgments of his auditory; by his apt similitudes, upon their fancies; by his orderly method, upon their memories; and by his close applications, upon their consciences.t He died apparently of a consumption, about the year 1600, aged fifty years. Mr. Smith was author of many Sermons and Treatises, published at various times. They passed through many editions, and some of them were carried abroad and translated into Latin. His sermons were so universally admired, that they were for many years used as a family book in all parts of the kingdom. They are so solid, says Fuller, that the learned may partly admire them; yet so plain, that the unlearned may perfectly understand them.J His " Sermons, with other his learned Treatises," and his Life by Fuller, were collected and published in one volume quarto, in 1675.