John Batchelor was a divine of the independent denomination, who lived some time at Rotterdam in Holland, where he was probably driven by the Laudian persecution. Several of his letters, dated from this place in September, 1641, expressive of the liberal sentiments of die independents, were afterwards priuted.t He soon after returned to his native country, and became, a chaplain in the army; on which account, and on account of his views of church government, Edwards has classed him among "the notorious sectaries, and those who smell of the army."* He was an avowed advocate for liberty of conscience, and a universal toleration, for which he has incurred the hot displeasure and indignation of this censorious writer. About the year 1643, he was appointed, with several other learned divines, one of the licensers of the press, for books in divinity. In this office lie discovered his generous sentiments, by giving his public sanction to all publications which were founded on the broad and liberal principles of christian freedom and a toleration of all parties. This was sure to incur the indignant censure of Mr. Edwards, who gives the following amusing account of him:
• Edwards's flangraena, pnrtii. p. 1S4, 144. W 96,97.
t £dwardi'i Anlajtulogia, p. 39. % Gangraena, part iii. p. 266.
"Master Batchelor," says he, " is the licenser-general of books, not only of independent doctrines, but of books for a toleration of all sects, and against paedobaptism."* What a shocking crime was this in the opinion of this bigotted and intolerant writer! In another place he says, " There is one Master John Batchelor, licenser-general of the sectaries' books, and of all sorts of wicked opinions, who hath been a man-midwife to bring forth more monsters begotten by the devil, and born of the sectaries, within this three last years, than ever were brought into the light in England by all the former licensers, the bishops and their chaplains, for fourscore years. He hath licensed books pleading for all sorts of sectaries: as, seekers, antinomians, anabaptists, antiscripturists, arians, antitrinitarians, questionists, and all blasphemers. This is apparent by his licensing that late wicked pamphlet, called, 'Some modest and humble Queries concerning a printed Paper, entitled,' An Ordinance presented to the Honourable House of Commons.'
"This Master Batchelor hath licensed several pamphlets for a toleration; yea, not only for a limited toleration of some sects and opinions, as anabaptists and independents; but for a universal toleration of all consciences and opinions, as may be seen in Walwin's book licensed by him: yea, he hath licensed unlicensed books printed before he was born, as a pamphlet, entitled,' Religious Peace,' made by one Leonard Rusher, and printed in lf.il-i; wherein there is a pleading for a toleration of papists, jews, and all persons differing in religion; and that it may be lawful for them to write, dispute, confer, print and publish, any matter touching religion. That the wickedness of Master Batchelor may the more appear, I desire the reader to observe these following particulars:—He gives not a bare imprimatur to this book of Busher's, but gives his imprimatur with a special recommendation in these words: 'This useful treatise, entitled, Religious Peace, long
• Gangraaa, part I. p. 18. TOL. III. D
since presented by a citizen of London to King James and the high court of parliament then sitting, I allow to be reprinted; and so to some of Saltmarsh's books, Smoak hi the Temple; Groans for Liberty; Reasons for Unity; Love and Peace. In the reprinting Busher's book for general toleration, he made some material alterations, and wrote in the margins of such places in the book where some special passages were for toleration, that they should be printed in a larger letter, no doubt that the reader might better observe them."
This intolerant author also adds; " John Batchelor treads in the steps of some licensers who went before him. The man hath justified and acquitted the former licensers, Dr. Baker, Dr. Bray, Dr. Hayward, Dr. Weeks, and the rest of that race, who, in the point of licensing, were saints to him. He hath licensed such books and things, that I am confident none of them durst have done, for fear the people would have risen up and torn them in pieces; and certainly the people would never have borne with sucli books in the bishops' days. If any man, before the sitting of this parliament, had written or licensed sucli books, he would without doubt have been questioned and proceeded against by this parliament. This Batchelor is such a desperate licenser, that nothing now in that kind can stick with him, having swallowed down those wicked ' Queries' upon the ordinance against heresies and blasphemies; and," says my author, "I am afraid that if the devil himself should make a book, and give it the title, ' A Plea for Liberty of Conscience, with certain Reasons against Persecution for Religion,' and bring it to Mr. Batchelor, he would license it, not only with a bare imprimatur, but set before it the commendations of a useful treatise, a sweet and excellent book, making for love and peace among brethren."*
Such are the reproaches cast upon our divine, who was greatly celebrated for christian moderation, liberty of conscience, and free inquiry. He was living in 1646; but where he preached, or when he died, we have not been able, to ascertain.