Francis Cornwell, A. M.—This person was educated at Emanuel college, Cambridge, and afterwards beneficed at Orpington in Kent. During the intolerance of Archbishop Laud, having refused to wear the surplice, to kneel at the sacrament, and use the sign of the cross in baptism, he was cast into prison. His companion in Maidstone gaol was Mr. Wilson of Otham, near that place. About this time, he
• Granger's Biog. Hist. vol. ii. p. 193.
t Fuller's Hist, of Camb. p. 147.
t Williami'i Christian Preacher, p. 433.
espoused the sentiments of the baptists, and became a zealous advocate in the cause. In 1643, he publicly avowed his principles, and wrote in defence of them. In 1644, in a visitation sermon preached at Cranbrook in Kent, from Mark vii. 7, before the ministers of those parts, he took the liberty of freely and fully declaring his sentiments upon the subject of baptism. This very much startled some of the clergy present, and offended others. The matter was, therefore, debated among them, and the arguments in favour of antipaedobaptism were strongly urged by Mr. William Jeffery of Seven-oaks, who had baptized Mr. Cornwell, and to whom he referred them. The debate was carried on till Mr. Christopher Blackwood, one of the ministers, desired them to desist at that time; for he had taken down the sermon in short-hand, and would return an answer in print, which he hoped would be to the satisfaction of them all. His advice being adopted, it was agreed to postpone, for the present, the discussion of the question, to re-examine the point in dispute, and to bring their .collections together at the next meeting, which was to be within a fortnight. In the mean time, Mr. Blackwood, as our author observes, studied the question with great diligence and close attention. The impression made on his mind was very different from what was expected. As he studied the subject, he began to suspect his own opinions; presently changed his sentiments; and, when they met, he produced his arguments against infant baptism. His papers being left with the ministers for their examination, and waiting some time, and receiving no answer to his arguments, he published them with corrections and enlargements.*
Mr. Cornwell, soon after this, withdrew from the established church. He disapproved of national and parochial churches; and taught, that a church ought to consist of such only as professed repentance from dead works, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and were baptized by immersion, and upon their believing, which he thought was the pattern of the first churches in Judea. He soon gathered a church in Kent, which was formed upon this plan, and to which he was pastor to the day of his death. He was succeeded in the same place and office by his son. It reflects great honour on Mr. Cornwell's memory, that he was a zealous opposer of persecution and an imposed uniformity. He wrote against the ordinance of parliament that was made
• Crosby's Baptists, vol. i. p. 344—347.—Meal's Puritans, vol. i». p. 632—634.
to silence all preachers who had not received episcopal or presbyterian ordination, or who should preach any thing contrary to the articles of faith, and the directory of public worship, set forth by the assembly. He maintained, that all who prohibited any minister from preaching the gospel freely, acted like the Jews of old, who cast the blind man out of the temple, for confessing that Jesus was the Christ.'
His Works.—1. A Vindication or the Royal Commission of King Jesus, 1643.—2. A Description of the Spiritual Temple; or, the Difference between the Christian and Antichristian Church, 1646.— 3. A Conference between Mr. John Cotton and the Elders of New England, 1646.—4. Two Queries worthy of Consideration.