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John Simpson

John Simpson.—This person was a zealous fifth monarchy-man of the baptist denomination, and for some time lecturer at St. Botolph's church, Bishopsgate, London. One Mr, Simpson, and no doubt this person, was for a time silenced from preaching, because he differed in certain points from the assembly of divines; but, October 28, 1646, he

was restored to his ministry.' He and Mr. Feake are styled "two of the chief cainains of the anabaptists, who preached, most scornfully agauist Cromwell's government."t Mr. Erbery, in his piece entitled " The Bishop of London; being a brief Narrative of what paised at London-house among church Ministers, Mr. Simpson at Bishopsgatc, and others, on Monday night, November 22, l6o2," has given ns the following very curious information, which, because Mr. Simpson took an active part on the occasion, and it may afford the reader some amusement, we shall give in the author's own words :—" The churches of London," says he, "both independent and baptized, having formerly associated and girt themselves with a sw:ord, or martial power; I mean some army preaching men, joined in a body at Great Alhallows, to pray for a new representative, and to preach against the old: for which they received no countenance, but rather a check from those in authority. Having there 'laboured in vain, and spent their strength for nought,' not finding the spirit in a presbyterial or parochial church, they changed their quarters, and came to seek it in the episcopal see at London-house. There, as men who would again build up Babylon, they founded a structure of two stories high: not a pulpit and reading pew, but a stately frame of wood to preach and pray in two distinct forms. The one being the highest, I conceive, is for the independent fellowship; the other is the baptized footstool.

"The Lord brought me there to behold their order, but seeing their confusion, I heard one praying below, afterwards another above, Captain Spenser; at whose loud and long prayer, my spirit was stirred: I could scarcely refrain from crying, 'A noise and nothing else.' The first man that I heard preaching was Mr. Feake, who, I thought, spake to the purpose concerning prayer, even that the saints should now return to their old spirit of prayer in gospel times, which was not in loose requests, and long confessions of sins, but in short breathings of their present desires to God, with abundance of fervency and faith to obtain a blessing. Looking up on high, I spied Mr.' Simpson, Mr. Cockayn and others, preparing themselves to do something. The first, instead of praying, began to preach, or prophesy, as he terms it. Before Mr. Simpson would name his text, he opens himself in a large preface; and, as if he stood on the stool of repentance, he confesseth his faults before us all.

» Whitlocke's Mem. p. 230. + Thurloe's State Papers, To! . ii. p. 87.

First, he professeth himself a fool, for the rising of his heart against that which another held forth not according to his apprehension. Secondly, he suid again that lie was a fool, for that rigidness of spirit to stick to his own opinion, or to oppose the light that might shine in another. He shewed further how God had judged that rigidness in prelacy and presbytery, and would also in independency or dippers. But see how the man doth judge and condemn himself, or backslide into the same sin or folly which just now he confessed. For, as Mr. Feake had truly declared what was said before concerning prayer, Mr. Simpson doth presently censure, and publicly condemn, what his brother had spoken in peace and truth, and with much submission. I wondered at the magisterial spirit and self-confidence in the honest man. But he confessed himself before to be a fool, and, it may be, he had not thoroughly repented of it.

"My spirit, indeed," says he, " was exceedingly stirred; and though I came thither to hear in silence, yet my spirit being hot, I spake at last with my tongue, saying,' Mr. Simpson, you have preached long. Will you suffer another fool to speak a little concerning prayer?' There was much reluctancy and murmuring in many, who bid me hold my peace. Then said I, whether you will hear, or whether you will forbear, 1 must speak a word to the churches. It is this: Prelates had their common prayers, and your prayers are common also. Presbyters had their directory, so have you this day, teaching one another how to pray. I could not be suffered to speak any more, only I told the churches, saying, Sirs, your prayers are legal, and your preaching legal; I see you are all in the dark; and so I bid you good night."* Such is the carious account given by our author.

Mr. Simpson and Mr. Feake preached with great warmth against the protectorship of Cromwell, for which, in the year IfoS, they were both apprehended and sent prisoners to Windsor-castle, where tkey continued for some time.t But, July 26, 1654, Mr. Simpson was released from confinement, and allowed to preach at any place within ten miles of London.t This, however, was not the conclusion of his troubles. He was again cast into prison, most probably after the restoration, when many fifth monarchy-men were apprehended and committed to Newgate, where they continued several months.^ Upon Mr. Simpson's release from prison, he took the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, for which he was severely censured by many of his brethren. It is, indeed, observed, that, for some time previous to his imprisonment, he had publicly declared his readiness to take the oaths; the same he also made known to his friends white he was in confinement. When he was brought before the court, he found that he must take them, or return to prison, when he complied without hesitation. He was of opinion, that, if he had refused, " he should have sinned against God, against the flock over which the Holy Ghost had made him overseer, against his family, and against himself.* •

• Erberjr'» Testimony, p. 43—46.

+ Thurlur's Stair Papers vol. Hi. p. 485.

t Whitlockc s Mem. p. 564, 579. <, Kronct's Cbroo. p. 363,

In the " Declaration of the several churches of Christ, and godly people in and about the city of London," published in the above year, nine of those who subscribed it are said to be " of the church that walks with Mr. Simpson."+ Dr. Calamy mentions one John Simpson as silenced from his lecture at Botolph's church, Bishopsgate or Aldgate, whom he denominates "a great antinomian." He afterwards acknowledges, that he died previous to the black Bartholomew-day, in 1662, and so should not have been included in the list of ejected ministers.} This was undoubtedly the same person.

Whether Mr. Simpson was, indeed, a great antinomian, we shall not attempt, because we are unable, to ascertain; but, from the account given of him by the author of his funeral sermon, he appears to have been a diligent, pious, and useful minister of Christ. We will let the author speak for himself. Addressing the bereaved congregation, he says, "Many of you lived for years under the ministry of this faithful servant of Christ, and his ministry hath been to you as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: you have heard his words, but you would not do them. There hath not been a suitable conversation to such a ministry. A gospel, spiritual, and heavenly ministry, calls for a gospel, spiritual, and heavenly conversation. Such was his ministry, but such, I fear, hath not been the conversation of many of his hearers. Indeed, all of us who enjoyed more or less df his labours, have cause to mourn before the Lord this day for our misimprovement of his ministry, and for taking no more care about hearing, receiving, and practising what God was pleased to reveal unto us by his servant. This faithful man, according to the judgment of reason, might have lived

• Funeral Sermon for Mr. Simpson. + Declaration, p. 22.

X Galatny's Account, vol. i. p. 39.—Contin. vol. i. p. 58.

many years, and done much service: but for God to take away his faithful labourers in the midst of their days, and cause their sun to set at noon, is a providence of a dreadful aspect upon unfaithful and unfruitful hearers. Oh! what would many a condemned wretch give at the great day of the Lord, to have Christ, and mercy, and pardon proffered him, as they have been proffered by this glorified saint! God took him away immediately upon his release from prison, when you had some hopes of the further enjoyment of his labours; at a time when there is the greatest want of such faithful and zealous labourers; especially of such as are enlightened in, and are zealous for church-work; such as have a heart and abilities to encourage the people of God in their separation from the world and antichristian defilements.

"There was a near relation between this servant of the Lord and many of you present. He was to many of you a faithful pastor and teacher, labouring among you in word and doctrine. If the Lord prevent not, now that the shepherd is smitten, you will be scattered. It will be hard to find a person so ready to venture life and liberty to serve you. To many of you he might be a spiritual father, a means of your conviction and conversion; and oh! what hard hearts must you have, if you cannot mourn over a. dead father, a dead shepherd, a faithful pastor, when taken from you. Consider those blessed qualifications with which this servant of Christ was endowed, and by which he was enabled to promote the glory of God and the welfare of your souls. He had love for all the saints. He had room in his heart to receive every one whom Christ received. He held communion with the saints, not on account of their names, or forms of worship, but on account of their union to Jesus Christ. He loved no man on account of his opinions, but his union to Christ, as he often declared in his congregation. He made known to die members of his church, to whom he gave the right hand of fellowship, that their union to Christ was the ground of their communion with saints; and that the reason of their admission was not because they were of this or that opinion, but because they were looked upon as interested in Christ; and that they who were heirs of glory ought to receive all saints, not as presbytei ians, or independents, or anabaptists, but as saints.

"He had a great insight into the doctrines of grace. Having cast anchor within the vail, he understood well the great mystery of the mercy-seat. It was the glory of his ministry to hold forth the riches of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. In preaching this doctrine he was a mystery to a blind world: they could not understand him; and, therefore, they hardly knew by what name to call him. He was an offence to many professors, who charged him with giving liberty to sin, notwithstanding he often preached upon the apostolic cautions against it. As at many other times, so a little before his imprisonment, he so charged professors with their lukewarmness, their hypocrisy, their neglect of closet devotion, family religion, and the duties of public worship, that he left a sufficient testimony to stop the mouths of such for ever. The doctrine of the covenant was, indeed, his great delight. When he spoke of the unsearchable riches of the grace of Christ, he was carried beyond himself: he had a Hood of words, yet seemed to want words to express what he knew and enjoyed of divine grace.

"lie was a faithful servant of Christ. Whatever the Lord made known to him, he made known to his people without reserve, whether it pleased or displeased. He did not shun to declare all the counsel of God, so far as it was revealed to him. Also, if at any time he was convinced that he had delivered any thing not consonant to scripture, he would openly and publicly confess his error, and trample upon his own name and honour, rather man deceive the souls of his people by leading them to imbibe false doctrine. While he thus ingenuously and openly confessed his mistakes, it shews how eminently faithful he was to truth and to the souls of his hearers.

"He was a zealous servant of Christ. He was willing to spend and be spent, that he might fulfil his ministry, and do good to souls. How laborious was he in preaching; how constant in attending the assemblies of the church; and how often did he blame his people for neglecting them! He was not one who did the work of the Lord negligently, but he served his God with fervency of spirit. He did not stand upon terms with (jod, saying, Lord, I will serve thee, if my name, and estate, and liberty may be secured: but whatever he judged to be his duty he would be sure to attend to it, and leave the event to the Lord. He enjoyed much communion with God, and a rich experience of his goodness. Many a faithful minister of Christ lived hut low, compared with what this blessed saint enjoyed. By this rich experience of divine favour, be was enabled to administer comfort to others.

"He was a very humble and holy man. For the sake oL peace, he would condescend to the meanest member of his

church. He followed after those things which made for peace, and laboured always to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. After the Lord was pleased to work upon him by his mighty power, and to reveal the grace of Christ to his soul, he was of a heavenly conversation. He walked closely with God in his family. He was a saint at home as well as abroad; and he made it appear that he was really and relatively good, by being a good husband, a good father, &c. He lived loose from the world, and made not his gain his godliness. He had no design to make merchandize of Christ and the gospel. He often refused money for preaching, especially funeral sermons; and if, on those occasions, any was forced upon him, or sent after him, he soon disposed of it by giving it to the poor. His discourse was mostly upon spiritual and heavenly subjects, in which he always discovered great pleasure and forwardness. In his youthful days he was greatly addicted to vanity and ungodliness, which, to his own shame, and to the praise of divine grace, he acknowledged to his dying day.

"His ministry was very successful, and attended by the abundant blessing of God. He was instrumental in the conversion of many souls; and he left behind him many seals to his ministry. Every faithful preacher was not so remarkably blessed. God blessed him above scores, nay, hundreds of preachers, in the great work of conversion, by ' turning souls from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.' His happiness is unquestionable. Your loss is his gain. He is taken up into glory, and there hath communion with God. He is out of the reach of all his enemies. They can now imprison him no more. He will never have any thing more imposed upon him contrary to his conscience. He will never suffer there for nonconformity. There God will be for ever served, adored, and glorified with one heart, and with one consent."* Mr. Simpson's funeral sermon, entitled, " The Failing and Perishing of good Men a matter of great and sore Lamentation," was preached June 26,1662, the day of his interment.