Stephen More was a person of good reputation, and endowed with considerable ministerial abilities. He was for some years deacon to the congregation of separatists in London, and a citizen of considerable property; but, after the death of Mr. Samuel Howe, whose memoir is given in the preceding article, he was chosen to the pastoral office, to the apparent hazard of his liberty and estate.* This congregation practised mixed communion, and his predecessor was a baptist, but Mr. More was an independent. The leal of these people exposed them to the severe persecution of the prelates; and they were obliged to assemble in private as they found an opportunity. This poor congregation had subsisted almost by a miracle for upwards of twentyfour years, shifting from place to place, to avoid the notice of hungry informers; but January 18,1641, they ventured to set open their doors in Deadman's-place, Southwark. Fuller says, that on " this day happened the first fruits of anabaptistical insolence, when eighty of that sect, meeting at a house in St. Saviour's, Southwark, preached that the statute in the 35th of Elizabeth, for the administration of the Common Prayer, was no good law, because made by bishops; that the king cannot make a good law, because not perfectly regenerate; and that he was only to be obeyed in citil matters. Being brought before the lords, they confessed the articles; but no penalty was inflicted upon them."t
This, however, is a very partial and imperfect account of the matter, as appeared from their own records. As it is probable that only a small part of them were of the baptist persuasion, they were more properly a congregation of independents than anabaptists. With respect to their insolence, if, by opening their doors for all to come to their assembly who might feel disposed, they discovered their insolence, they must bear their own reproach. But if it refer to the opinions they delivered, what immediately followed will afford the best explanation. This is, therefore, an impartial statement of facts. Mr. More and his congregation having assembled in Deadman's-place, for the purpose of public Worship on the Lord's day, though not with their former secrecy, they were discovered and taken into custody by Sir John Lenthal, marshal to the King's-bench, who committed most of them to the Clink. Next morning, six or seven of the men were carried before the house of lords, and charged with denying the king's supremacy in ecclesiastical
• Cnwbj'i Baplltti, vol. lii. p. 40.
+ Fuller*! Church Uiit. b. zi. p. I78.
matters, and with preaching in separate congregations, where the Common Prayer was not used, contrary to the statute of the 35th of Elizabeth. The latter charge they confessed; and as to the former, they declared to the house, "That they could acknowledge no other head of the church besides Jesus Christ; that they apprehended no prince on earth had power to make laws to bind the conscience; and that such laws as were contrary to the laws of God, ought not to be obeyed; but they disowned all foreign power and jurisdiction."* Such a bold declaration, a twelvemonth before, would have sent them to a close, filthy prison, or cost them their ears.
The house, however, instead of remitting them to the ecclesiastical courts, or inflicting any penalty upon them, treated them with great civility and respect, and some of the lords inquired where was their place of meeting, intimating that they would come and hear them. Accordingly, three or four of the peers went to the meeting the next Lord's day, to the great wonder of many. The good people, not intimidated with their presence, conducted their worship in their usual method : having two sermons, in each of which the preacher discussed those principles for which they had been accused, founding his discourses on the words of our Saviour: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. In the conclusion the Lord's supper was administered, and a collection made for the poor, in which the lords contributed liberally with them. Upon their departure, they signified their satisfaction in what they had heard and seen, and their inclination to come again. But this made so great a noise, it is said, that they durst not venture a second time.t
It does not appear how long Mr. More continued pastor of this church, nor how long he lived after the above troubles; but the church divided by mutual consent, most probably at his death, when just one half chose Mr. PraiseGod Barebone, and the other half Mr. Henry Jessey, to the office of pastor.f