Robert Brown.—This very singular person was born at Tolcthorp in Rutlandshire, ana descended from an ancient and honourable family. He was nearly related to the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, and his grandfather, by charter from Henry VIII., obtained the singular privilege of wearing his cap in the king's presence. He received his education in Corpus Christi college, Cambridge, and preached sometimes in Bennet church, where the vehemence of his delivery gained him considerable reputation, t Afterwards, he became a schoolmaster in Southwark, London, then a lecturer at Islington, and domestic chaplain to the Duke of Norfolk. Having embraced the principles of the puritans, he resolved to refine them, and produce a scheme more perfect of his own. He openly inveighed against the discipline and ceremonies of the church of England, which he held up to the people as antichristian.
In the year 1571, Mr. Brown was cited before Archbishop Parker and the other high commissioners at Lambeth, undoubtedly on account of his nonconformity. His noble patron warmly espoused his cause; disregarded the summons; and resolved to protect his chaplain, as exempt from their lordships' jurisdiction. The stern archbishop and his colleagues, however, shewed their resolution to proceed against him. They wrote to the duke, signifying, that if he
• Wood's Athens Ozoo. vol. i. p. 467.
t Fuller's Church Hbt. b. iz. p. 166,167.
still persisted in detaining his chaplain, they most and would make use of other means: but what other methods they used, or what ecclesiastical censure was inflicted upon Brown, we have not been able to ascertain.*
In the year 1581 he settled in the city of Norwich, where he was employed in the stated exercise of his ministry; and many of the Dutch, who had there a numerous congregation, imbibed his principles. Growing confident by success, he called in the assistance of one Richard Harrison, a country schoolmaster, and planted churches in different places.t He did not, however, remain long unnoticed. For during the above year, he was convened before Bishop Freake of Norwich, and other of the queen's commissioners, and committed to the custody of the sheriff of the county, by whom he was for some time detained a prisoner.} Also, in the same year, the celebrated judge Anderson discovered the warmth of his zeal against Brown; for which Bishop Freake wrote to the treasurer Burleigh, desiring he might receive the thanks of the queen.^ Whether the treasurer laid the case before her majesty we cannot learn; but by his kind intercession Mr. Brown was at length released from prison, when he left the kingdom, and settled at Middleburg, in Zealand. There, by leave of the magistrates, he formed a church according to his own model, which is explained in a book he published in 1582, entifled, " A Treatise of Reformation without tarrying for any, and of the wickedness of those Preachers, who will not reform them and their charge, because they will tarry till the Magistrate command and compel them. By me, Robert Brown." After continuing a short time at Middleburg, his people began to quarrel so violently, and divide into parties, that Brown grew weary of his office, and returned to England in 1585. Soon after his arrival in his native country, he was convened before Archbishop Whitgift, and required to give his answer to certain things published in one of his books; but the archbishop having by force of reasoning brought him to a submission, he was dismissed a second time by the intercession of the lord treasurer. He went to his father's house; but his father was soon tired of him, and abandoned him to a wandering course of life, and discharged him from his family, saying, " that he would not own him
• Strype's Parker, p. 386,327.
t Collier's Eccl. Hist. vol. ii. p. 581.
t Heylin'j Hist, of Pres. p. 298, 299.
\ Biog. Britan. vol. i. p. 180. Edit. 177S.
for a son, who would not own the church of England for his mother."* After travelling up and down the country, preaching against the laws and ceremonies of the church, he went to reside at Northampton. Here his preaching soon
fave offence, and he was cited before Bishop Lindsell of eterborough, who, upon his refusing to appear, publicly excommunicated him tor contempt. The solemnity of tins censure made such an impression upon Brown, that he renounced his principles of separation, and having obtained absolution, he was, about the year 1592, preferred to the rectory of Achurch, near Oundle in Northamptonshire.* Upon his promise of a general compliance with the church of England, improved by the countenance of his patron and kinsman, the Earl of Exeter prevailed upon the archbishop to procure him this favour.
Mr. Brown having obtained a settled and permanent abode, allowed a salary for another person to discharge his cure; and though, according to our author, he opposed his parishioners in judgment, yet agreed in taking their tithes. He was a person of good parts and some learning, but his temper was imperious and uncontrollable; and so far was he from the sabbatarian strictness espoused by his followers, that he seemed rather a libertine than otherwise. " In a word," continues our historian, " he had a wife with whom he never lived, a church in which he never preached, and as all the other scenes of his life were stormy and turbulent, so was his end." For being poor and proud, and very passionate, he struck the constable of his parish for demanding the payment of certain rates; and being beloved by nobody, the officer summoned him before Sir Rowland St. John, a neighbouring justice, in whose presence he behaved with so much insolence, that he was committed to Northampton gaol. The decrepid old man not being able to walk, was carried thither upon a feather bed in a cart; where, not long after, he sickened and died, in 1630, aged upwards of eighty years, boasting, " that he had been committed to thirty-two prisons, in some of which he could not see his hand at noon day."t Such was the unhappy life and tragical end of Robert Brown, founder of the famous sect, from him called Brownists. He lived in a little thatched house at Thorp Waterville, which was still subsisting in the year 1791, and
• Fuller't Church Hist. b. ix. p. 167.
+ Collier's Eccl. Hist. vol. ii. p. 6S2.
t Fuller's Church Hilt. b. iz. p. 163, 169.
inhabited by a tenant of the Earl of Exeter.' Though Fuller does not believe that he ever formally recanted his opinions, several of our historians assert that he conformed, and became an obedient son of the church of England, to which he appears to have been tempted by the above valuable benefice.t If he conformed to the national church, lie does not properly belong to the list of puritans, though it was requisite to give some account of him.
His Works, in addition to the article already mentioned.—1. A Treatise upon the twenty-third chapter of St. Matthew, both for an order of studying and handling the Scriptures, and also for avoiding the Popish disorders, and ungodly communion of all false Christians, and especially of wicked preachers and hirelings.—2. A Book which aheweth the life and manner of all true Christians, and how unlike they are unto Turks, and Papists, and Heathen folk. Also the points and parts of all Divinity, that is, of the revealed will and word of God, are declared by their several definitions and divisions following.