Try out the new BibleStudyTools.com. Click here!

Hanserd Knollys

Hanserd Knollys.—This pious and venerable divine was born at Cawkwell in Lincolnshire, in the year 1598, and educated in the university of Cambridge. He had the privilege of pious parents, who were careful to have him instructed betimes in the principles of religion and good literature. His behaviour at the university, where he became a graduate, was particularly exemplary. He divided his time between study, conversation, and religious duties; and though he had been long noticed for his pious disposition, he attributed his conversion to the sermons which he there heard. It was at Cambridge, most probably, that he received his first tincture of puritanism; as he conversed chiefly with persons of that persuasion. Having finished his studies at the university, he was chosen master of the free-school at Gainsborough in his native county.

June 29, 1629, Mr. Knollys was ordained deacon, and the day following presbyter, by the Bishop of Peterborough; soon

» Mather's Hist, of New England, b. iii. p. 190—206. + Neal'sHist. of New England, vol. ii. p. 471.

af+erwhich the Bishop of Lincoln presented him to the vicarage of Humberstone in his own county. He was indefatigably laborious, and preached mostly three times on the Lord's day, and not unfrequently four times; but he did not hold his living above two or three years. For, scrupling the lawfulness of using the surplice, the cross in baptism, and the admission of persons of profane character to the Lord's supper, he resigned it into the hands of the bishop; but, through his lordship's connivance, he continued to preach for two or three years longer in different churches. When he resigned the benefice of Humberstone, the bishop offered him a belter living; but he resisted the temptation, and modestly refused to accept it. About the year \636 he left the church entirely, renounced his episcopal ordination, and joined himself to the puritans. This exposed him to numerous difficulties and hardships. He was driven out of Lincolnshire, and, at length, out of the kingdom, for his nonconformity. Upon his going to Boston, probably with the view of being sheltered from the storm, he was apprehended by virtue of a warrant from the high commission, and, for some time, put under confinement. But, by his serious discourse, he so terrified the conscience of his keeper, that he set open the prison doors, and suffered him to depart. Having thus escaped the snare of his persecutors, he removed with his family to London; but, being still harassed by the high commission, he resolved to escape the violence of his enemies, and to depart into a foreign lnnd. After suffering numerous hardships, being persecuted from one place to another, he took shipping in the river Thames, and, after many difficulties during the voyage, at length safely arrived at Boston in New England. When he went abroad he had only sixfarthings of his money left, only his wife had saved five pounds 1unknown to him, which she then gave him.

Mr. Knollys continued in America about five years, at thr expiration of which period he returned to England upon the invitation of his aged father, and arrived in London, December 24. 1641. The dreadful massacre which during that year deluged Ireland with blood, was succeeded the following year by the civil wars which burst forth between the king and the parliament. Mr. Knollys, not long after his arrival, was again reduced to great poverty, and, after paying for his lodgings, had only six-pence left; but having many friends, he met with unexpected kindness and relief. For his better support, he took under his care a few scholars, whom h« continued to instruct in his own bouse upon Great Tower-hill, London, till he was chosen master of the free-school in St. Mary-Axe. There, in the space of one year, he had no less than one hundred and fifty-six scholars. But he quitted the benefits arising from this employment to go into the parliament's army; where he preached freely to the soldiers, till he perceived that the commanders sought their own glory and advantage, more than the cause of God and his people, breaking their vows and solemn engagements. Upon this he left the army and returned to London.

After the abolition of episcopacy, Mr. Knollys preached For some time in the parish churches with great approbation. But the presbyterians obtaining the ascendancy, and abusing their power, too much in imitation of their predecessors, proscribed all who did not fall in with their peculiar sentiments. Mr. Knollys, who had some years before embraced the leading opinions of the baptists, then a rising sect in England, propagated them with great zeal, freedom, and success. Ho engaged, about this time, in a public disputation with Mr. Kiffin and the learned Mr. Henry Jessey, on the subject of baptism, which continued several weeks.* One of the most considerable of his converts was Mr. Jessey, to whom he administered the ordinance of baptism by immersion.+ But the publicity with which he declared his sentiments, at length awakened the'jealousy and incurred the displeasure of those in power.

Mr. Knollys, having been earnestly and repeatedly requested to preach one Lord's day at Bow-church, Cheapside, took occasion in his sermon to speak ' against the practice of infant baptism. This giving offence to some of the auditory, a complaint was immediately lodged against him to the parliament; and, by a warrant from the committee of plundered ministers, he was apprehended by the keeper of Elyhouse, who refused bail, and kept him several days in prison. He was afterwards brought before the committee, in the presence of about thirty divines, and examined by Mr. White the chairman; to whom he gave such satisfactory answers, that he was discharged without blame, or paying fees; when the jailer was sharply reproved for refusing him bail, and threatened to be turned out of his place.

Not long after this, Mr. Knollys went into Suffolk, and preached at several places as opportunity offered, at the request of his friends. But, being accounted an" antinomian" and an " anabaptist," his sentiments were deemed seditionand factious, and the virulence of the mob was instigated against him by the high-constable. At one time he was Stoned out of the pulpit; and at another time the doors of the church were shut against him and his hearers; upon which he preached in the church-yard. But this was a crime of too great magnitude to be connived at or excused. He was, therefore, taken into custody, and prosecuted at die petty-sessions of the county; then sent a prisoner to London, with articles of complaint against him to the parliament. On his examination he proved, by witnesses of good reputation, that he had neither sowed sedition nor raised tumult; and that all the disorders which had happened were owing to the malignity and violence of his opposers, who had acted contrary to law and common civility. He also produced copies of the sermons he had preached, and afterwards printed them. Indeed, his answers on this occasion were so perfectly satisfactory, that, on the report of the committee of the house of commons, he was not only discharged, but a vote passed that he should have liberty to preach in any part of Suffolk, when the minister of the place did not himself officiate. And, upon the petition of the inhabitants of Ipswich, the house ordered, January 17, 1648, that Mr. KnoHys and Mr. kifriu should go there to preach.* In addition to all the trouble which the above business gave Mr. KnoHys, it cost him no less than sixty pounds.

• Crosby's Baptists, vol. Hi. p. 311.

t Mr. Jessey was afterwards silenced ami imprisoned for nonconformity •tthe restoration.—Palm;i•'» ffenctn. Mem. vol. i. p. 129—134.

f~

This persecuted servant of Christ, finding how much offence was taken at his preaching in the church, and to what painful and expensive troubles it exposed him, set up a separate meeting in Great St. Helen's, London; where the people flocked to hear him, and he had commonly a thousand hearers. This, however, gave greater offence to his presbyterian brethren than his former method; and the landlord was prevailed upon to give him notice to remove from the place. After this he had a large meeting-house in Finsbury-nelds; and still continuing to preach, he was summoned before a committee of divines, in Queen's-court, Westminster. Being brought to examination, Mr. Leigh, the chairman, asked him, why he presumed to preach without holy orders. To whom he replied, that, though he had renounced his episcopal ordination, he was ordained in a church of God, according to the order of the gospel; and then explained the maimer of ordination among the baptists. At last, when he was conimanded to preach no more, he told them, that he would preach the gospel, both publicly and from house to house; saying, " It is more equal to obey Christ who commandeth me, than men who forbid me;" and so went his way, and ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. The displeasure of the presbyterians against Mr. Knollys, at this time, seems to have been occasioned chiefly by a letter which he wrote to a friend in Norwich, containing some sharp but just reflections on the proceedings of the London ministers against toleration. Tim letter, by some means, came into the hands of the Suffolk committee, who sent it up to London, where it was published.* It is dated London, the 13th of the 11th month, called January, 1645, and addressed " to his beloved brother, Mr. John Dutton in Norwich," of which the following is a copy :+

* Whillockc's Memorials, p. 363.

"Beloved Brother, I salute you in the Lord.

"Your letter I received the last day of the week, and upon the first day I did salute the brethren in your name, who re-salute you, and pray for you. The city presbyterians have sent a letter to the synod, dated from Zioa college, against any toleration; and they are fasting and praying at Zion college this day about further contrivings against God's poor innocent ones; but God will doubtless answer them according to the idol of their own hearts. To-morrow there is a fast kept by both houses and the synod at Westminster. They say it is to seek God about the establishing of worship according to their covenant. They have first vowed, now they make inquiry. God will certainly take the crafty in their own snare, and make the wisdom of the wise foolishness; for he chooseth the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and weak things to confound the mighty. My wife and family remember their love to you. Salute the brethren that are with you. Farewell:

"Your brother in the faith and fellowship of the gospel,

"Hanserd Knollys."

When Mr. Knollys quitted the army, he returned to his employment of teaching school, from whence he derived the principal means of his support. The allowance he received from the church, on account of the poverty of its members, was only trifling: "but," says he, "I coveted no man's silver or gold, but chose rather to labour, knowing it is more blessed to give than to receive." He, accordingly, gave liberally, out of his own earnings, to the poor of the church. Notwithstanding his constant avocations, he did not neglect the charge of his flock, but preached constantly two or three times a week, and visited his people from house to house, especially those who were sick. In the year 1644 he subscribed the confession of faith published by the seven baptist churches in London." Afterwards, in the year 1651, the sectaries labouring under severe persecution, he united with thein in their " Humble Proposal," addressed " To the right honourable the committee of parliament, for receiving such proposals as shall be tendered to their consideration by persons fearing God, in order to the propagating of the gospel." It contains many excellent hints, tending to promote unity, concord, and the toleration of all worthy subjects.t In the " Declaration" published by the baptists, in the year 1654, fourteen of those who subscribed it are said to have walked with Mr. Knollys.*

* Crosby's Baptists, vol. i. p. 231.

+ Edwards's Ganjrscna, part iii. p. 48.

The life of this good man was one continued scene of trouble and vexation. Upon the rising of Venner, immediately after the restoration, in 1660, Mr. Knollys, with many other innocent persons, was dragged from his own dwelling-house, and committed to Newgate. There he suffered eighteen weeks' imprisonment, till released by an act of grace upon the king's coronation. At that time four hundred persons Were confined in the same prison, for refusing the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. The rebellion of Venner occasioned a royal proclamation, prohibiting anabaptists and other sectaries from worshipping God in public, excepting at their parish churches. This unnatural edict was the signal for persecution, and only the forerunner of those cruel laws which afterwards disgraced the reigns of Charles and James the second. Mr. Knollys, as may be supposed, was often obliged to shift his abode. After removing into different parts of England and Wales, he went over to Holland, from thence to Germany, and back again to Rotterdam; from whence he returned to London. These frequent revolutions occasioned a great variation in his.circumstances. Sometimes he was worth several hundred pounds; at other times, he had no house to dwell in, no food to eat, nor any money to lay out. But these sudden changes tended very much to the exercise and confirmation of his graces, and furnished him with frequent instances of the goodness of Divine providence.

* Featley's Dippers Dipt. p. 177.

+ Grcj's Examination, vol. iii. Appen. p. 144. J Declaration, p. 22.

During his absence on the continent Colonel Legge, lieutenant of the ordnance, commenced a suit in chancery against him, to obtain possession of his house and ground, which he had left in charge with a friend, and which was alleged to be the property of the king. But the law not favouring his majesty's pretensions, the colonel sent a party of soldiers, and took violent possession of the premises, which had cost Mr. Knollys upwards of seven hundred pounds. He had, also, two hundred pounds lodged with the weaver's company, which was in the same manner given to the king, without the formality of the owner's consent. Much larger sums belonging to other persons shared tire same fate. When a great monarch descends to such paltry and dishonourable methods of replenishing his empty coffers, he quits the dignity of his station, and becomes at once an object both of terror and contempt.

Mr. Knollys, upon bis return from Holland, betook himself to his former employment of teaching school, by which he was enabled, through the blessing of God, to repair his losses, and to provide things honest and convenient for his family. For this service he was admirably qualified, being an excellent linguist, and haying adopted an excellent method of instruction. So that when the times would permit him to follow this employ, he never wanted sufficient encouragement; and many persons eminent for piety and learning were educated under him. While he was employed in the education of youth, he was by no means negligent of that work which was the great labour of his life: but he continued in the faithful discharge of the pastoral office to his gathered congregation, in various places, till his death;- at which time his meetinghouse was in Broken-wharf, Thames-street. He also preached a morning lecture every Lord's day at Pinner's-hall. The bigotry and malice, of men, indeed, occasioned frequent interruptions in his work. By virtue of the conventicle act, commencing May 10,1670, he was apprehended at a meeting in George-yard, and committed by the lord mayor to the Compter, Bishopsgate. But having favour in the eyes of the keeper, he was permitted to preach to the prisoners. Not long after, at the sessions in the Old Bailey, he was set at liberty. The good man was no sooner delivered from these troubles than he was called to endure heavy bodily affliction; and afterwards some domestic trials, first by the loss of his wife, who died April 13, 1671, and then by the death of his only son.

Towards the close of life, this venerable servant of the

Lord recorded the following reflections, which are worthy of preservation :—" My wilderness, sea, city, and prison mercies," says he, " afford me very many and strong consolations. The spiritual sights of the glory of God, the divine sweetness of the spiritual anil providential presence of my Lord Jesus Christ, and the joys and comforts of the holy and eternal Spirit, communicated to my soul, together with suitable and seasonable scriptures of truth, have so often, and so powerfully revived, refreshed, and strengthened my heart in the days of my pilgrimage, trials, and sufferings, that the sense, yea, the life and sweetness thereof, abides still upon my heart, and hath engaged my soul to live by faith, to walk humbly, and to desire and endeavour to excel hi holiness to God's glory and the example of others. Though, I confess, many of the Lord's ministers, and some of the Lord's people, have excelled and outshined me, with whom he hatb not been at so much cost nor pains as he hath been with me. 1 am a very unprofitable servant; yet by grace I am what I am."

The life of this holy and venerable person was prolonged to a good old age; and he came to his grave like a shock of corn that is gathered in its season. During his last illness, which was of short continuance, he discovered extraordinary patience and resignation to the Divine will, longing to be dissolved and to be with Christ, not so much to be freed from pain and trouble as from sin. He kept his bed a few days only, and departed in a transport of joy, September 19,1691, aged ninety-three years; when his remains were interred in Bunhill-fields. Mr. Thomas Harrison preached his funeral sermon at Pinner's-hall, which was afterwards published; and Mr. Benjamin Keach published an elegy upon his death.

About two years previous to the death of this venerable divine, liberty was afforded to all denominations of dissenters, when the baptists took immediate steps to improve their privileges and promote the prosperity of their churches. To convene a general meeting for this purpose, a circular letter, signed by some of the London ministers, was sent to the different churches. That which was sent to the church at Luppitt in Devonshire, dated London, July 22, 1689, was signed by Mr. Knollys and several of his brethren. He also took an active part in several other transactions relative to the churches of his own denomination." Therefore,

•Crosby's Baptists, Toi. iii- p. 93, 94, iv. 295, S96.—Ivimej'sHilt. of Baptists, p. 478^80, 488—502.

though he lived in evil times, and endured many persecutions, and other tribulations, he lived to see better days.

Mr. Knollys was favoured with an extraordinary measure of bodily strength, which fitted him the better for his great labours in the ministry, and enabled him to bear with resolution his numerous sufferings in the cause of Christ and a good conscience. He was very diligent and laborious in his work, both before and after his separation from the established church. While a conformist, he commonly preached three or four times on the Lord's day: at Halton, at seven in the morning; at Humberstone, at nine; at Scartho, at eleven; and at Humberstone again, at three in the afternoon. In addition to this, he preached every holiday, and at every funeral, as well of die poor as the rich. Nor was he less diligent in bis beloved work after he became a nonconformist. For upwards of forty years successively he preached three or four times every week, whilst he enjoyed health and liberty; and when he was in prison it was his usual practice to preach every day. He possessed an excellent gift in prayer, and has recorded several remarkable answers to his petitions, particularly during the time of the great plague. Thfi success of his ministry, after he became a baptist, was very great; but he seems to think that his labours were without any fruit while he continued in the church. How far this statement might proceed from prejudice, we will not pretend to ascertain; but the manner in which it is recorded appears to savour too much of it. He seems at first to have carried his separating principles to the same rigorous extent as the Brownists, who, not wholly unlike their episcopal brethren, were too free in their uncharitable censures. Indeed, bigotry, even in good men, appears to have been the prevailing evil of those times.

Mr. Knollys continued in his work as long as he had strength to perforin it. He often entered the pulpit when he could scarcely stand, and when his voice could with difficulty be heard. Such an affection he had for his work, that he was unwilling to leave it. He bore his sufferings with the greatest courage and cheerfulness; took up his cross and followed the Lord daily; and behaved with great meekness towards his enemies. Through the whole of his life he exhibited a bright example of christian piety. He did not confine his affections to christians of his own party, but loved the image of God wherever he saw it. And so circumspect was he in the whole of his behaviour, as even to command the reverence and esteem of those who were

enemies to his principles.' Dr. Mather, speaking of other excellent men, makes honourable mention of him as a person of a most pious and worthy character^ Though our excellent historian, Mr. Neal, appears to cast some reflections upon hiin, he does not seem to have deserved them.J Granger uncandidly and unjustly insinuates, " that he was strongly tinctured with quakerism."$

His Works.—1. Christ exalted; a lost Sinner sought and saved by Christ; God's People an holy People; being the Sum of divers Sermons preached in Suffolk, 1646.—2. The Shining of a Flaming J ire in Zion; an Answer to Mr. Saltmarsh, his thirteen Exceptions against the Grounds of New Baptism, in his Book, entitled. The Smoke of the Temple, 1646.H—3. A Preface to Mr. Collier's book, entitled, The Exaltation of Chist, 1647.—4. The Parable of the Kingdom of Heaven Expounded, Matt. xxv. 1—3., 1664.—6. Grammatica Latinac, Grcoae & Hcbraica?, cumpendtum; rhetoric;*' ad umbratio; item radices Grccae $c Hcbraicae, oranes quae in sacra.. Scriptura vcteris & novi Testamenti occurrent, 1665.—6. An Exposition of the whole Book of the Revelations, 1668.—7. An Essay of sacred Rhetoric, used by the Holy Spirit in the Scripture of Troth. 1675.—8. Last Legacy to the Church, 1692.—9. Some Account, of his Life, to the year 1670, continued by Mr. Kiflin, 1692.—10. The World that now is, and that which is to come.—11. A Defence of Singing fte Praises of God.—12. Preface to Mr. Reach's Instructions for Children.