John Greene had a principal hand in raising a baptist congregation in Crutched-friars, London, in the year l639»_ and was chosen to the office of minister.! He was by trade
* Edwards's Gangrtena, part iii. p. 102—105. + (.'rosin's Baptists, vol. iii. p. 26, 42.
a felt-maker or hat-maker, but he became a zealous and popular preacher. In the year 1641, there was published a quarto pamphlet, entitled, " The Brownists' Synagogue; or, a late Discovery of their Conventicles, Assemblies, and places of meeting; where they preach, and the manner of their praying and preaching; with a relation of the names, places, and doctrines of those which do commonly preach. The chief of which are these: Greene, the felt-maker; Marler, the button-maker; Spencer, the coachman; Rogers, the glover: which sect is much increased of late within this city. A kingdom divided cannot stand." In this work, Greene and Sptncer are called the two arch-separatists, and are said to be " accounted as deini-gods, who were here and every where." It shews the manner of their worship, which we extract, because it gives some idea of the spirit of the times, and proves that the voice of slander could not attribute any improper conduct to them in their public assemblies. "In the house where they meet," it is said, "there is one appointed to keep the door, for the intent to give notice, if there should be any insurrection, warning may be given them. They do not flock together, but come two or three in a company; and all being gathered together, the man appointed to teach stands in the midst of the room, and his audience gather about him. The man prayeth about the space of half an hour; and part of his prayer is, that those which come thither to scoff and laugh, God would be pleased to turn their hearts; by which means they think to escape undiscovered. His sermon is about the space of an hour, and then doth another stand up, to make the text more plain; and at the latter end he entreats them all to go home severally, lest the next meeting they should be interrupted by diose which are of the opinion of the wicked. They seem very steadfast in their opinions, and say, rather than turn,.they will burn."*
During the above y«ar came forth another pamphlet, entitled, " New Preachers, New;" in the epistle to which, the writer, addressing Mr. Greene, says, "Do not these things come from proud spirits, that he, (Mr. Spencer,) a horse-keeper, and you, a hat-maker, will take upon you to be ambassadors of God, to teach your teachers, and take upon you to be ministers of the gospel in these days of light. Consider, I pray you, that our Lord would not have had the ass, (Matt. xxi. 3,) if he had not stood in need of him. Now the truth is, the church hath no need of such a* you, an unlearned, self-conceited hat-maker. It is true, that, in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the popish priests and friars being dismissed, there was a scarcity for the present of learned men; and so some tradesmen were permitted to leave their trades, and betake themselves to the ministry; but it was necessity that did then constrain them so to do. But thanks be to God, we have now no such necessity; and therefore this practice of you and your comrades casts an ill aspersion upon our good God, that doth furnish our church plentifully with learned men; and it doth also scandalize our church, as if we stood in need of such as you to preach the gospel. This you call preaching, or prophesying; and thus, as one of them told the lords of the parliament, that they were all preachers; for so they practise and exercise themselves as young players do in private, till they be by their brethren judged fit for the pulpit, and then up they go, and, like mountebanks, play their part.—Mr. Greene, Mr. Greene, leave off these ways: bring home such as you have caused to stray. It is such a* you that vent their venom against our godly preachers, and the divine forms of prayers; yea, against all set forms of prayers: all is from antichrist; but that which you preach is most divine; that comes fresh from the Spirit: the other ii an old dead sacrifice, composed (I should have said killed) so long ago, that now it stinks. It is so old, that in the year 1549 «t was compiled by Doctor Craumer, Doctor Goodricke, Doctor Scip, Doctor Thirlby, Doctor Day, Doctor Holbecke, Doctor Ridley, Doctor Cox, Doctor Tailor, Doctor Haines, Doctor Redman, and Mr. Robinson, archdeacon of Leicester -r but what are all these? They are not to be compared to John Greene, a hat-maker; for he thinketh what he blustereth forth upon the sudden, is far better than that which these did maturely and deliberately compose." It is not at all wonderful, that, when the church had lost its power to persecute nonconformists, those who still retained the spirit of persecution should indulge in this kind of defamation and ridicule.
* Browuists' Synagogue, p. 5, 6.
However, during this year, Mr. Greene, together with several of his brethren, was complained of to the house of commons, for lay-preaching. He was convened before the house, when he was reprimanded, threatened to be severely punished, if he did not renounce the practice, and then dismissed;* but whether he obeyed their orders, or still
* Nalion'i Collections, Toi. ii. p. 365, 270.
continued to exercise his talents in preaching, we are not able to learn.
Mr. Edwards, in reproaching all who dissented from his presbyterian bigotry, observes of Mr. Greene, that he was one of the first mechanics, who, presently after the meeting of the long parliament, preached publicly in the churches in London; and that afterwards, in the year 1644, he accompanied Colonel Hemstead to Trinidad. After his return, he statedly preached in Coleman-street, once on the Lord's day, and once on a week day; where, in the year 1646, to use the words of our author, " there is so great a resort and flocking to him, that yards, rooms, and house are all so full, that he causes his neighbours' conventicles, and others, to be oftentimes very thin, and independents to preach to bare walls and empty seats, in comparison of this great rabbi."» Crosby mentions one Mr. John Green, who survived the restoration, and who endured cruel persecution with the rest of his brethren; but it does not appear whether this was the same person.t