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Richard Gawton

.' Richard Gawton.—This zealous puritan was minister of Snoring in Norfolk, and afterwards in the city of Norwich. Mr. Strype stigmatizes him with having formerly been a man of trade, and then becoming a curate in the church. This may be true, and yet he might be a learned, faithful, and pious minister of Christ, and not enter the church merely for a piece of bread, as was foo much the custom of those times. Upon his entrance into the sacred office, he met with barbarous usage from the hands of Archbishop Parker. Having obtained a presentation to the benefice of Snoring, the archbishop peremptorily required him to sign a bond of a hundred marks, to pay Dr. Willoughhy, the former incumbent, fourteen pounds a year; though Willoughby, through mere carelessness, had lost the living. If he had refused to pay it, he must have gone to prison. Afterwards, the poor man finding so much difficulty in paying this annuity, was glad to quit the place, and resign the living into the hands of his patron.*

Upon the resignation of his benefice, he became a preacher in the city of Norwich, but, in the year 1576, was cited before Dr. Freke, his diocesan, for nonconformity.t Appearing before the bishop, he was charged with refusing to wear the surplice, and with declining from the exact order of the Book of Common Prayer. He confessed the former, and acknowledged that he did not keep exactly to the rubric, but said, that, in other things, he was conformable. Several other charges were alleged against him, as will appear from the following examination before the bishop and others, dated August 20, 1576:

Bishop. You have taken upon you in your pulpit to confute my chaplain's sermon, and have admonished your parishioners to beware of false doctrine.

Gawton. Was it not meet for nic so to do, seeing he preached that man Ins power sufficient to draw himself unto God ?

B. You did this the Sunday after he had preached, though he gave you all reasonable satisfaction.

G. In attempting to do this, he made his case worse than it was at first.

B. Wherein hath he made it worse ?

* Parte of a Register, p. 394.—Slrype's Parker, p. 373.

t Bishop Freke was so outrageously violeot in the persecution of the pnritans, that, in the year 1584, the ministers of Suffolk and Norfolk, unitedly presented their complaints against him to the privy council.— MS. Chronology, vol. ii. p. 439. (10.)

G. In his last sermon,.he said, that hearing was calling; and Paul saith, faith cometh by hearing; but hearing is a natural gift; therefore we have faith, and, consequently, are saved by the exercise of our natural powers.

B. I will call him to dispute with you.

G. I am ready at any time to confute his false doctrine.

B. That is not the cause why I sent for you. I have other matters against you. How many benefices have you ?

G. I have too many by one; holding one merely by name, and against my will. B. Vou have two benefices more. G. I am sure I have not. B. Have you not one benefice in Wales ? G. I have not.

B. We shall sequester the first-fruits of Snoring benefice, because you have not compounded for the fruits of a benefice in Wales.

G. Sequester, and spare not; for I have no benefice in Wales.

B. That is not the thing for which I sent for you. But because you do not wear the surplice, nor observe the order of the queen's book, either in public prayers or the administration of the sacraments; but are altogether out of order.

G. I confess that I wear not the surplice; but I am unjustly charged with not observing the order of the book. I was lately told at court, thnt you did not much like tlto surplice; and, therefore, I fear that worldly dignity hath led you to act against your own conscience.

B. There is no reason why any persons should think thus of me, seeing I wear the surplice, or that apparel which is the same; and if I were to say the service or administer the sacraments, I would wear the surplice.

G. I am the more sorry for it.

B. Have you served in any cure in Norwich, or in the diocese of Norwich ?

G. I have served a cure at Beast-street Gate, in the city.

B. Have j'ou then acknowledged yourself subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop?

G. I do not acknowledge myself subject to that jurisdiction which is claimed and exercised by the bishop.

B. Beware how you deny authority.

G. I am not afraid to deny the unlawful authority of bishops, archdeacons, chancellors, commissaries, and such like; though to deny their authority, it is said, approaches near to treason.

Dean. They are your fellows who have so reported it.

G. Nay; they are your fellows, who would fain have it so.

D. Their saying was, that whosoever denies that the queen has ecclesiastical jurisdiction, is in danger of treason.

G. Whosoever hath said so, is worthy to be so accounted.

13. Do you allow that the queen hath ecclesiastical jurisdiction ?

G. I do.

D. The queen hath ecclesiastical jurisdiction, which jurisdiction she hath committed to me; therefore I have ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

G. Though the queen have ecclesiastical jurisdiction, it is not absolute, or to do what she pleases. But with all humble submission, I acknowledge all the jurisdiction she claimeth. For her own words declare, that she claimeth no further jurisdiction than the word of God doth allow.

B. I perceive what you mean, and know where that explanation is given.

G. Did the queen then give that explanation merely as a woman, or as queen ? If she gave it as queen, it must needs be a declaration of the authority which she claimeth.

B. What do you dislike in the jurisdiction which 1 claim ?

G. What authority have you from the word of God to claim the title of lord-bishop, and to exercise government over your fe/fow-ministers ?

B. What part of the word of God is against it ?

G. Matthew xx.; where Christ forbids his disciples claiming superior titles, and exercising superior authority over one another.

B. You have read no good expositor who so interprets it .

G. Yes, Calvin, Bcza, and Musculus. And Beza upon Acts xiii. declares, that in all the New Testament there are no dignified titles given to the apostles.

B. Doth not Christ say, " re call me Master, and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am ?" Why then should you so much dislike the name ?

G. Though the name be due to Christ, it is not due to any mere man.

B. What not domine? Is that so much ?

G. The word domine signifies sir, as well as lord.

B. The queen in her letters patent, directed to the various states, willed them to receive me de domino vistro, which, if you render sir, will be absurd.

G. The queen accounteth none of you as lords ; only by custom from your predecessors, the popish bishops, you are called lords.

B. In the acts of parliament we are called lords spiritual, as the others are called lords temporal.

G. That is merely through custom, as before.

D. Bullinger, Gaulter, and other learned men abroad, in their late letter to the Bishop of Norwich, called him lordbishop.

G. The bishop shewed me their letters, and they called him not by the name of lord.

B. But you observe not the order prescribed in the queen's book.

G. I do not think myself bound by law, to observe precisely every part of the queen's book.

B. You do not read the service as appointed by the book.

G. I say the service as appointed, except, for the sake of preaching, I omit some parts; as I may by law. I observe the rest, except the cross and vows in baptism, which I did not consider myself as bound precisely to observe.

B. But you wear not the surplice.

G. I wear it not; and seeing it was established in the church not according to the word of God, I dare not wear it.

B. There are many godly, zealous, and learned men who wear it. Do you then condemn them all ?

G. I utterly dislike their wearing it. And you, Mr. Dean, did publicly preach against it, and condemned those who wore it, calling it a superstitious and popish garment.

B. You have preached without renewing your license, since the day appointed in the canons.

G. I was minister of the word of God, and, therefore, had sufficient authority to preach the word in my parish without any further license. Vet I despised not your licenses, so far as they tend to shut out those who would teach popery and false doctrine.

B. You deny our authority, and wear not the surplice. You shall, therefore, be put from the ministry, and return to your occupation.

G. 1 thank God that I have an occupation to go to, and am not ashamed of it. Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul had an occupation.

D. That Jesus Christ had an occupation cannot be gathered out of the text. It was only the opinion of the people of Nazareth, who said he was a carpenter.

G. And who could tell better than the people of Nazareth, among whom he lived ? I think they could best tell what was his occupation.

Here the bishop pronounced the sentence of suspension upon Mr. Gawton, and the register enlered it upon record.

G. I now perceive, that if one had the eloquence of Chrysostom, the learning of Austin, and the divinity of St. Paul, if he did not wear the surplice, you would put him out of the ministry.

B. So we would. And if St. Paul were here, he would wear a fool's coat, rather than be put to silence.

G. He would then act contrary to his own doctrine. For he saith, he would cat no flesh while the world standeth, rather than offend a weak brother; and, surely, he would be equally scrupulous in offending his brethren by wearing superstitious and popish garments. Your dealing thus with us in corners, will not further your cause, but hinder it, and further ours; for all men will see you fear the light. You have now authority on your side; but we arc not above half a dozen unconformable ministers in this city; and if you will confer with us by learning, wc will yield up our lives, if we arc not able to prove the doctrines wc hold to be consonant to the word of God.

13. Thut is uncharitably spoken; for no man sought your lives.

G. The dean here says, that he who seeks our livings, seeks our lives.

D. You arc like the apothecaries, setting papers on empty boxes,

G. You, indeed, may very properly l>c so denominated. For if you were otherwise than as empty boxes, you would not be afraid to have the cause tried.*

The examination thus closed, and the good man, being suspended, was dismissed from his lordship's presence. Upon his suspension, Mr. Neal, by mistake, says, that ho sent a bold letter to the bishop. This letter was evidently written by another person.t We find, however, that nfter receiving the episcopal censure, Mr. Gawton and several of his brethren, wrote an excellent letter to Mr. Thomas Cartwright, wherein they express, with considerable freedom.

• Parle of a RrgUer, p. 393—400.

t See Art. R. Harvey Neat's Paritani, vol. i. p. 306.

(heir firmness in the cause of nonconformity. This letter, dated from London, May 25, 1577, was as follows:

" We stand resolved that what we have done con" cerning the ceremonies, the cross in baptism, &c. is most " agreeable to the word of God and the testimony of a " good conscience. By the help of God, we will labour " even in all things, to the utmost of our power, to be " found faithful and approved before God and men; and, " therefore, we will not betray that truth which it hath " pleased God, in his great goodness, to make known unto u us. You will know wc do nothing contetitiously: therein M wc nrc clear before God and men. But we wish you to " understand, that the iniquitous times in which we live, "and the great trials which we, as well as you, have to " endure in the cause of God, and a thousand such nfllic" tions, shall not, the Lord helping us, make us shrink from " the maintenance of his truth. The same good opinion we " have conceived of j'ou, not doubting that he who hath " hitherto made you a glorious witness of truth, will still " enable you to go forwards in the same course. And yet " we think it meet, both on account of our own dulness, " and the evil days come upon us, that wc should quicken " one another in so good a cause. Wc deal thus with you, " whom, both for learning and godliness, wc very much " love and reverence in the Lord; and we commit you to " God, and the word of his grace, which is able, and no tt doubt will, in due time, further build up both you and us, £4 to the priory of his name, and our endless comfort in " Christ.

" Richard Gawton, Gyles Seyntcler,
" Thomas Penny, Nicholas Standon,

" Nathaniel Baxter, John Field,
" George Gyldred, Thomas Wilcocks."*
" Nicholas Crane,

It does not appear how long Mr. Gawton continued in a state of suspension; only in the year 1581, he was preacher at Bury St. Edmunds; but I am apt to think, says our learned historian, seeing his opinions and practice were still the same, this was owing to the want of proper discipline, and to the countenance he there met with, notwithstanding his suspension.t Admitting this account to be correct, his suspension must have continued at least five

years. In the year 1602, a minister of the same name, and most probably the same person, became vicar of Red burn in Hertfordshire, where he continued till June, 1616, when he died.*