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John Davenport

John Davenport, B. D.—This learned divine was born at Coventry, in the year 1597, and educated first in Merlon college, then in Magdalen-hall, Oxford. Having finished his studies at the university, he was called to preach in London, where his rare ministerial'endowments, and his pious courage in visiting the1 sick during the raging of the plague, soon brought him into public noliiv. Ihs sermons were, distinguished by the. labour with which they were prepared, and by the gravity! tfte energy, (he'^leW

• Hist, of New EnK. p. 70—Mather's Hist. b. iii. p. 131, 13?.

+ Mor<e and Parish's Hist. p. 110. ,. ..; '. i •

% Backups Hist, of Dopti.sji, vol. i. p. mt..K , i'

santncss, and the engaging elocution with which they were delivered. His veTy enemies allowed him to be an excellent preacher; and by his midnight studies, and his uncommon induslry, he obtained the just reputation of a universal scholar.

About the year 1626 Mr. Davenport was chosen one of the feoffees for buying impropriations; but Bishop Laud, looking with great jealousy upon the undertaking, lest it should become the nursery of puritanism, put an effectual stop to it. This he did, to the great grief of all good people, and the lasting reproach of his own character. About the same time Mr. Davenport, by a conference with Mr. Cotton, became an avowed, but a peaceable nonconformist. Soon after his removal to London he became vicar of St. Stephen's church, Coleman-street, where he continued some years. Here his preaching, with that of Mr. Norton's, was instrumental in the conversion of the excellent Mr. Kiffin.* In the year 1631 he was convened before Bishop Laud, by whose arbitrary proceedings he was afterwards driven into Holland.+ He was also convened before the high commission as a notorious delinquent, only for uniting with some other worthy persons in promoting a private subscription for the poor distressed ministers of the Palatinate, even after public collections tailed. + Previous, however, to his departure for Holland, finding himself in danger, he called together the principal people of his charge, desiring their opinion and advice; when he acknowledged their right to him as their pastor, and declared that no danger should drive him from any service which they required or expected from him. But with a noble disinterestedness of soul, which reflected great honour upon them, and demonstrated their tender affection, they relieved him from his scruples of conscience; and, though aware of their own loss, they advised him to resign his office for his own safety. Having sent in bis resignation, instead of enjoying the peace and quietness which he expected, he found himself more officiously watched than ever, being continually hunted by hungry pursuivants. Therefore, in the year 1633, he fled from the storm and retired to Holland, where he was immediately chosen co-pastor with Mr. John Paget to the English church at Amsterdam.^

* Wilson's Hist, and Antiq. of Dissenter's, vol. i. p. 404, 403 + Wharton's Troubles of Laud, vol. i. p. 526.

? Huntley's Prelates' Usurpations, p. Id4. Mather's Hist, of New Eoj. b. iii. p. 51—53.

Mr. Davenport did not, however, enjoy much comfort in this new situation. His objections against the promiscuous admission of children to the ordinance of baptism excited considerable opposition; and he soon found that he must baptize children when there was no charitable evidence of their belonging to christian parents, or give up his pastoral relation to the church. Therefore, in the year 1635, he resigned his charge, and opened a catechetical exercise at his own lodgings every Lord's day evening, after the public services of the city were over. But the popularity of his talents soon collecting great numbers, increased the jealousy and opposition of the contrary party. He then returned to England, saying, " that he thought God had carried him to Holland on purpose to bear witness against that promiscuous baptism, which bordored on a profanation of the holy ordinance." He used to observe, that when the reformation of the church had been effected in any age or country, it was seldom advanced beyond the improvements of the first reformers; and that it was as easy to remove Noah's ark from Ararat, as to persuade people to proceed beyond the first remove of their leaders.* This coincides with the just observation of the celebrated Mr. John Robinson. "The Calvinists," said he, "stick just where John Calvin left them."

Mr. Davenport had long been a warm friend to New England, fie took an active part with some others in obtaining the .patent of Massachusets colony. His purse and his time had been employed to promote the advantage of the new plantation, even before his departure to Holland. This now seemed to be the only field in which he could carry his ideas of ecclesiastical reformation to their full extent. About the same time Mr. Cotton, of Boston in New England, wrote to him, saying, "that the order of the churches and commonwealth was now so settled in that country, that it reminded him of the new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," which led him to determine to cross the Atlantic. Therefore, in the year 1637, Mr. Davenport, with several eminent christians and their families, went over to New England. Among these adventurers were Mr. Eaton and Mr. Hopkins, two London merchants, men of good estates, and highly celebrated for wisdom and piety. The Oxford historian, by mistake, therefore observes, that Mr. Davenport did not return from Holland till after

• Mather's Hist, of New Eug. b. iii. p. 51—53.

the commencement of the civil wars, when he came to England, and obtained a benefice in the church; but afterwards went to New England.*

When this learned divine fled to New England, with a view to escape the storm of persecution in his own country, Archbishop Laud said, " My arm shall reach him there;" but whether the cruel oppressions of this arbitrary prelate were, in this instance, equally extensive as his wishes, appears extremely doubtful.t Upon the arrival of Mr. Davenport and his friends, they found the colony deeply agitated by the antiuomian and familistic errors, winch, by the influence of a bold woman, had shaken the pillars of the government, and threatened the existence of the churches. She held public assemblies in her own house, and expounded the scriptures to all who came. Mr. Davenport arrived just before the famous synod at Cambridge, appointed to consider the errors that were then propagated. His assistance and influence on this occasion were peculiarly seasonable. In the conclusion, he was appointed to announce the result of the synod, when he preached a sermon from Phil. iii. 15., in which, it is said, " he shewed the occasion of differences among christians, and, with much wisdom and sound argument, persuaded the people to unity."t

In the month of March, 1658, Mr. Davenport, Mr. Prudden, and Mr. Eaton, brother to the above person of this name, removed, with many families, from Massachusets, intending to form a new settlement at Quinipioke. They had formed a high opinion of the situation, and expected there to escape the power of a general governor, whom they feared would soon be sent over. The good people of Massachusets parted very reluctantly with these valuable brethren. Charlestown made them large offers to induce them to settle there. Newbury generously offered them their whole town, and the legislature kindly offered them any place they should choose, which had not been already granted. But Quinipioke, which they now called New Haven, was the spot on which they resolved to fix their station, and no allurements could divert their attention from it. The first public service observed in this new plantation was on Lord's day, April 18, 1638, under a large spreading oak. Mr. Davenport preached from Matt. iii. 1. on the temptations of the wilderness. Here he endeavoured to

• Wood's Athoii;!', »ol. li. p. 334.

+ Wharlon's Trouhlrs of Laud, vol. i. p. 348.

J Morse and Parish's Hilt. p. 71.

establish a civil and religious order more strictly accordingto the word of Got!, than he had seen exhibited in any other part of the world. He was an original genius, and the plan lie adopted was his own; and, our author adds, ** if success be any evidence of merit, he certainly has high claims to the veneration and gratitude of nations."* '1 here the famous church of New Haven, as also the neighbouring towns, enjoyed his ministry, his discipline, his government, and his universal direction for many years. The holiness, the watchfulness, and the usefulness of his ministry, are worthy of the remembrance of all who would set liefore them an example of ministerial excellence. His attention and influence extended to all the churches. He was a man of much devotion; and he used to say, "ejaculatory prayer is like arrows in (he hands of the mighty; and happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them."

Mr. Davenport was scrupulously careful in the admission of persons to the Lord's table. To promote church-purity was one important object of his life. It was a fixed principle with him, that no person should be admitted a member of a church who docs not make such a profession of faith as the church may in discretion conclude he is in a state of salvation. He was persuaded that there are many rules in the word of God, by which it will appear who are saints, and by which those who admit others to gospel ordinances are to be guided; so as to separate between the precious and the vile. This, indeed, is no more than all sects and even individuals claim for themselves. The only difference is, they do not all fix on the same standard tor the admission of members. Mr. Davenport had the same right to his terms of communion that other men have to theirs. He thought too much caution coidd not be used, where some persons might think very little to be necessary. His own words are these: "Tlie officers and brethren of churches are but men, who judge by outward appearance; therefore, their judgment is fallible, and hath been deceived, as in the reception of Ananias, Sapphira, and Simon Magus. Their duty is to proceed as far as possible by rule, with due moderation and gentleness, to try those who offer themselves to church fellowship, whether they be true believers. And when they have done all, hypocrites will creep in."+

Mr. Davenport continued at New Haven till the year

• Morse and Parish's Hist. p. 69,71. t Mather's Hist. b. iii. p. W, 55,

1667, when his fame was so great in all the churches, that he was invited to Boston, even in the sixty-ninth year of his age, to succeed a Cotton, a Norton, and a Wilson, He remained in this new situation only till March 15, 1670, when, by a fit of apoplexy, he was called to his everlasting rest. He was seventy-two years old, and his remains were interred in the same tomb with those of Mr. Cotton. He was a great scholar, an admirable preacher, and a man of exemplary piety. He was so remarkably diligent in his studies, that the Indians used to call him, The big study man.* And even Archbishop Laud denominates him " a most religious man, who fled to New England for the sake of a good conscience.-!' He was a millenarian in sentiment, being fully persuaded of Christ's personal reign upon the earth for a thousand years. He was, nevertheless, one of the

Seatest men that New England ever enjoyed.}: Mr. xenbridge, ejected in 1662, succeeded him as pastor of the church at Boston.^

His Works.—1. A Letter to the Dutch Classis, containing a just Complaint against an unjust Doer, 1634.—2. Certain Instructions delivered to the Elders of the English Church deputed, which arc to be propounded to the Pastors of the Dutch Church in Amsterdam, 1634.—3. A Report of some Passages or Proceedings about his Calling to the English Church in Amsterdam, against John Paget, 1634.— 4. Allegations of Scripture against the Baptizing of some kind of Infants, 1634.—5. Protestation about the Publishing of his Writings, 1634.—6. An Apologetical Reply to the Answer of W. B., (William BradshaWj) 1636.—7. The Profession of the Faith of the Reverend and Worthy Divine Mr. John Davenport, sometimes Preacher at Stephen's, Coleman-Street, London: made publicly before the Congregation at his Admission into one of the Churches of God in New England, 1642.—8. A Catechism containing the chief Heads of the Christian Religion, 1659.—9. The Saints Anchor-hold in all Storms and Tempests, 1661.—10. The Power of Congregational Churches asserted and vindicated, 1672.—11. An Essay for Investigation of the Truth.—12. Several Sermons and some other articles.