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Charles Chauncey

Charles Chauncey, B. D.—This learned divine was the fifth and youngest son of George Chauncey, esq.; born at Yardley-Bury in Hertfordshire, in the year 1589,|| and educated at Westminster school, then in Trinity college, Cambridge; where he took his degrees, was chosen Greek lecturer, iind fellow of the college. In the year 1627 he became vicar of Ware, in his native county, and afterwards minister at Marston-Lawrencc in Northamptonshire.* At each of these places his Labours were made a blessing to many souls: "for the hand of the Lord was with him, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord." Upon the publication of the Book of Sports, under the direction of Laud, Mr. Chauncey was prohibited preaching on the Lord's day afternoon, that (he people might have the better opportunity tor their profane sports. He then catechized all, both old and young, who would come to him. u This," said the bishop, " was as Lad as preaching!!"t

• Mather's Hist. p. 56. + Laud's Ans. to Lord Say's Speech, p. 47.

X Neat's Hist, of New Eng. vol. ii. p. 370.

\ Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol. i. p. 899.

|| He is said to have been born io the year 1592. He was great uncle to Sir Henry Chaaocey, author of " The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire;" and descended from a family which came to England with William the Conqueror.—Bhgraphta Britaitnica, vol. it*, p. 482—184. Edit. 1778.

Most of the puritan divines were now treated with the utmost cruelty. Bishop Laud was determined to bring them to an exact conformity, or stop their mouths, or cast them into prison, or drive them out of the land. Mr. Chauncey did not escape the vengeance of this tyrannical prelate. In January, 1629, he was questioned in the high commission court for having used the following expressions in his sermon:—" That idolatry was admitted into the church; that not only the prophets of Baal, but Baal himself, was received, and houses multiplied for their entertainment; and that the preaching of the gospel would be suppressed. That there wanted men of courage to remind their superiors of their neglect, and that there was a great increase of atheism, heresy, popery, and arm in tan ism in the church." To the charges founded upon these expressions, Mr. Chauncey gave his answer upon oath in the high commission, in the month of April following. The next day, the cause, by order of the court, was referred to the decision of Bishop Laud. This was on condition, that, if Mr. Chauncey did not submit to observe what the bishop should appoint, his lordship might, if he pleased, refer him back to be censured in the high commission. But he is said to have made his submission to the bishop.?

This, however, was not the end of his troubles. For in 1635 he was again prosecuted in the high commission for opposing the railing in of the communion table at Ware; when he was suspended, cast into prison, condemned in costs, and obliged to make the following degrading recantation:

» Newcourt's Rcpert. F.cel.vol.i. p.904.—Prvnne'sCant. Doome, p. 9#.

+ Mather's Hist, of New Eng. b. iii. p. 134, 135.

$ Prynne'i Cant. Doome, p. 362.—RnsbWorth'* Collec vol. ii. p. **.

"Whereas I, Charles Chauncey, clerk, late vicar of *' Ware, in the county of Hertford, stand, by sentence of "this honourable court, legally convicted for opposing the "setting of a rail about the communion table in the chancel "of the parish church of Ware, with a bench thereunto "affixed, for the communicants to resort unto, and to "receive the blessed sacrament there, kneeling upon their u knees, saying it was an innovation, a snare to men's con*'sciences and a breach of the second commandment, an *' addition to the Lord's worship, and that which hath "driven me out of the town. I, the said Charles Chauncey, *' do here, before this honourable court, acknowledge my "great offence in using the said invective words, and am "heartily sorry for them. I protest, and am ready to "declare by virtue of mine oath, that I now hold, and am "persuaded in my conscience, that kneeling at the receivuig "of the holy communion is a lawful and commendable "gesture; and that a rail set up in the chancel of any "church by the authority of the ordinary, with a bench "thereunto affixed for the communicants to repair unto, to "receive the holy communion kneeling, is a decent and "convenient ornament for that purpose, and this court "conceiveth, that the rail set up lately in the parish church "of Ware, with the bench affixed, is such a one. And I "do further confess, that I was much to blame for opposing "the same, and do promise, from henceforth, never, by "word or deed, to oppose either that or any other the "laudable rites and ceremonies prescribed and commanded "to be used in the church of England.

"Charles Chauncey."*

This submission is said to have been forced from Mr. Chauncey, and designed only to deter others from opposing the archbishop's innovations. After he had made this disgraceful recantation in the open court, the archbishop judicially admonished him "to carry himself peaceably and conformably to the doctrine, the discipline, and rites and ceremonies of the church of England ; and that, in case he should be brought before them again for any similar offence, the court intended to proceed against him with all severity ;" and so dismissed him.*

* This prosecution was procured chiefly by the tyrannical power and influence of Laud; and when Dr. Merrick, counsel to Mr. t.'hanncey, endeavoured to vindicate bis client, because the setting np of the rail was done by a few parishioners, and without any warrant from those in authority, the archbishop, in a rage, threatened to suspend the doctor from his practice, for pleading thus in his favour.—Prvnnt'i Cant. Doomi, p. 03, 95, 96.—Ruihvorlh'a Colltol. vol. ii. p. SI 8.

Though Mr. Chauncey was overcome in the hour of temptation; and enforced, by the terrors and censures of his cruel oppressors, to make the above recantation, he afterwards felt the bitterness of it, and deeply bewailed his sinful compliance. Though he obtained forgiveness of God, he never forgave himself as long as he lived. He often expressed a holy indignation against himself, as well as the superstitious innovations in the church. He was a most exemplary man, and lived a most holy life; yet, at the time of his death, nearly forty-years after, he made the following humiliating declaration in his last will and testament:— "I do acknowledge myself to be a child of wrath, and sold under sin, and one who hath been polluted with innumerable transgressions and mighty sins ; which, as far as I know and can call to remembrance, I keep still fresh before me, and desire, with mourning and self-abhorrence, still to do, as long as life shall last; and especially my so many sinful compliances with, and conformity unto, vile human inventions, and will-worship, and hell-bred superstitions, and other evil things patched to the service of God, with which the English mass-book; I mean the Book of Common Prayer, is- so fully fraught."+ - Our author further observes, that there were very tew who suffered more for nonconformity, by fines, by jails, by necessities to abscond, and at last by an exile from his native country.

At length he withdrew from these perils and tribulations and went to New England, where he arrived January 1, 1638. There he preached for some time, and with great applause, at Plymouth ; and would have been chosen pastor of the church, had not his peculiar sentiments hindered his settlement. He was of opinion, " that the Lord's supper ought to be administered in the evening, and every Lord's day ^ and that baptism ought only to be by dipping or plunging the whole body under water, whether in the case of children or ad tilts." J Afterwards, he became pastor of the church at Scituate, where he continued twelve years a zealous and faithful labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. At the time of his settlement, in his discourse to the congregation, reflecting upon his sinful compliance with the arbitrary and superstitious demands of the high commission, he said, with tears in his eyes, "Alas! my soul hath been defiled with false worship; and how wonderful is the free grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that I am still employed to labour in his vineyard."*

, • Prynne's Cant. Dnomc, p. 96,494.

+ Mather's Hist, of New Eng. b. iii. p. 135.

1 Backus's Hist, of New ling. Bap. vol. i. p. 115,145.

When the episcopal power was destroyed in England, nnd his friends at Ware invited him to return, he came as far as Boston with a view of returning to England. There he was interrupted by the overseers of Harvard college, who, being very unwilling that the country should lose so valuable a person, pressed him to accept the office of president of the college, in the room of Mr. Henry Dunster, removed for his antipaedobaptist sentiments. Mr. Ghauncey yielded to their earnest and repeated importunities, and spent the rest of his days in the education of the youth of the country. He continued his labours to the very last, even when his years and infirmities required a recess. When he was desired to spare himself, he replied, "It behoveth a general to die on the field; and I should be glad to die in the pulpit." However, finding himself at last almost worn out, he delivered a farewell oration in the college, in which he took his solemn leave of his friends, and died February 19, 1671, aged seventy-two years, having been president seventeen years. In his last sickness be was speechless; but as the hour of his departure approached, Mr. Urian Oakes, who had been praying with him, desired him to give some sign of his assurance of future glory; when the speechless old man lifted up both his hands as high as he could towards heaven, and then expired. He was a man of most exemplary piety, an admirable preacher, an excellent scholar, and an indefatigable student, even in old age. He rose at four o'clock in the morning, winter and summer; and after spending about an hour in his closet, he visited the college, prayed with the students, expounded a chapter out of the original Hebrew, and, in the evening, prayed and expounded a chapter out of the Greek. His natural temper was rather hasty and passionate, but, by watchfulness and prayer, he was enabled to bring it into the obedience of Christ, He had six sons, Isaac, Ichabod, Barnabas, Nathaniel, Elnathan, and Israel, all ministers.t H is son Isaac was ejected by the Act of Uniformity, in 16G24 Mr. Ghauncey was author of " Sermons on Justification;" and " Antisynodalia Americana."

• Mather's Hist. p. 136. + Ibid. p. 138— HO.

t Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol, iii. p. 380