Thomas Stone—This pious divine was educated in Christ's Church, Oxford, chosen one of the proctors of the university, and became rector of Warkton in Northamptonshire. He was a person of good learning and great worth, a zealous puritan, and a member of the classis, being sometimes chosen moderator. He united with his brethren in subscribing the " Book of Discipline ;"• but was afterwards brought into trouble for nonconformity, and his concern to reform church discipline. July 27, 1590, he was apprehended and brought bclbre Attorney-General Popham, and required to take the oath ex officio. The day following he was examined in the star-chamber, from six o'clock in the morning till seven at night; and required upon his oath, to give his answer to thirty-lhree articles.t Some of the puritans thought, that when they were examined before their spiritual judges, it was their duty to confess all they knew. This was Sir. Stone's opinion in the case before us. His examination chicflyrelatedtothecliissical assemblies; ami though he could not give a direct answer to all the interrogatories, he gave an account of the greater and lesser assemblies; where they met; how often; and what persons officiated. He answered several questions concerning the authority by which they met together; who were moderators; upon what points they debated; and what censures were exercised. Hut, in order that this may appear to greater advantage, it will be proper to give those articles upon which he spoke explicitly, with the substance of his answers; which were the following:
1. Who and how many assembled at their classis ? where, and when, and how often were they held ?
In answer to this article, he specified the names of about forty ministers } who attended these assemblies, though not all at one time; and that they had held them in London, Cambridge, Northampton, and Kettering.
2. Who called these assemblies, by what authority, and in what manner ?
I know not, says Mr. Stone, by whom they were called; nor do I know any other authority therein, only that which was voluntary, by giving one another intelligence sometimes by letter, and sometimes by word of mouth, as occasion served.
3. Who were moderators in them, and what was their office ?
I remember not who were moderators in any assembly particularly, excepting once at Northampton, when Mr.
• Meal's Puritans, vol. i. p. 423.
+ Fuller's Church Hist. b. Ix. p. 206.
f From a list of the ministers, now before me, who attended these assemblies, there were, in all. upwards of eighty.—MS. Chronology, Toi. ii. p. 435. (6.1
Johnson was admonished, and that was Mr. Snape or myself, I am not certain which.
4. What things were debated in those meetings or assemblies ?
The principal things considered in those assemblies, were, how far ministers might yield to subscribe unto the Book of Common Prayer, rather than forego Iheir ministry. The " Book of Discipline" was often perused and discussed. Three petitions were agreed upon to be drawn up and presented, one to her majesty, another to the lords of the council, and another to the bishops. As to the particular things debated, I remember only, the perfecting of the " Book of Discipline," and the subscription to it at Cambridge. Also, whether it was convenient for Mr. Cartwright to reveal the circumstances of the assemblies, a little before he was committed. Likewise the admonition of Mr. Johnson at Northampton. And whether the books of Apocrypha might be warrantably read in public worship, as the canonical scriptures.
5. Were any censures exercised; what kinds, when, where, upon whom, by whom, and for what cause?
I never saw any censure exercised, excepting admonition once given to Mr. Johnson of Northampton, for improper conversation, to the scandal of his calling: nor was that used with any kind of authority, but by voluntary and mutual agreement, as well by him who was admonished, as him who gave the admonition.
6. Have any of the said defendants moved or persuaded any to refuse an oath, and in what case ?
I never knew any of the defendants to use words of persuasion to refuse any oath; only Mr. Snape sent me certain reasons gathered out of scripture, which led him to refuse the oath ex officio; which, I am persuaded, he sent for no other purpose, than to declare that he refused to swear, not of contempt, but for conscience sake.*
This is the substance of what is preserved by our historians. Mr. Stone, however, by his long examination, brought many things to light, extremely offensive to the ruling prelates; but which, till that time, were perfectly unknown. Though he did not, it seems, give this information out of any ill design, but because he was required upon his oath so to do; yet many of the puritans were' inclined to
• Fuller's Church Hist. b. it. p. 207—209 Slryue's Whilgift, Appen.
complain of his adding affliction to their bonds, seeing it brought them into many troubles. Mr. Stone, therefore, to acquit himself of the blame attached to him by his brethren, drew up and published a vindication of what he had done. The reasons alleged in his own defence, were in all sixteen; but the principal were, " That he thought it was unlawful to refuse an oath, when offered by a lawful magistrate.—That, having taken the oath, he was not at liberty to say nothing, much less to deliver an untruth.—And he saw no probability, nor even possibility, of things being any longer concealed."*
Mr. Stone, with several others, having fully discovered the classical associations, many of his brethren were cast into prison, where they remained a long time under extreme hardships; but he was himself released. Having obtained his liberty, he returned to his ministerial charge at VVarkton; where he continued without further molestation the remainder of his life. He died an old man and full of days, in the year 1617. Bridges observes, thnt he was inducted into the living of Warklon in the year 1553.t If this statement he correct, he must have been rector of that place sixty-four years. He was a learned man, of great uprightness, and uncommon plainness of spirit, minding not the things of this world; yet, according to Wood, " a stiff nonconformist, and a zealous presbyterian."}