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Sydrach Sympson



Sydrach Sympson, B. D.:—This meek and quiet divine received his education in the university of Cambridge, and afterwards became a celebrated preacher in London. He was appointed curate and lecturer of St. Margaret's church, Fish-street; but his preaching soon gave offence to Archbishop Laud, who, in his metropolitical visitation, in die year 1635, convened him before him, with several other divines, for breach of canons. Most of them having promised submission, they were dismissed.t By the intemperate superstition and bigotry of Laud, and the violence with which he exacted conformity, many eminent divines were driven out of the kingdom. Among these were Mr., (afterwards Dr.) Thomas Goodwin, Mr. Philip Nye, Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs, Mr. William Bridge, and Mr. Sympson. They all retired to Holland, and were afterwards denominated the five pillars of the independent or congregational party; and, in

* Mather's Hist, of New England, b. iii. p. 99.

t Morion's Memorial, p. 153.

t Wharton'i Trouble! of Laud, To!, I. p. 536.

the assembly of divines, were distinguished by the name of the dissenting brethren.*

Upon Mr. Syinpson's arrival in Holland, he went to Rotterdam; and beholding the good order of the English church at that place, under the pastoral care of Mr. Bridge, he desired to become a member; and, upon delivering his confession of faith, was received into their communion. After some time, Mr. Sympson discovered certain things in the church which lie did not well approve; and urged the utility of prophesyings, that, after sermon on the Lord's day, the people might express their doubts, and propose questions to the ministers, with a view to their better edification. This, however, with some other things, produced a misunderstanding betwixt Mr. Bridge and Mr. Sympson; which, at length, caused the latter even to separate himself from the church, and begin a new interest. This new society had, indeed, a very small beginning, but afterwards, through the blessing of God, it became very considerable.+ Mr. Joseph Symonds, another persecuted puritan, succeeded him in the office of pastor to this church.J

About the commencement of the civil war Mr. Sympson returned to England ; and in the year 1643 was chosen one of the assembly of divines, and he constantly attended during the session. in all their debates he conducted himself with great temper and moderation. He was one of the'five divines who published and presented to the house of commons, in 1643, " Aq Apologetical Narration submitted to the Honourable Houses of Parliament," in favour of the independents. In the year 1645 he was appointed one of the committee of accommodation.$ In the year 1647 he united with his dissenting brethren in presenting their reasons to the houses of parliament, against certain parts of the presbyterian government. || In the year 1650 he was appointed, by the parliamentary visitors, master of Pembroke-hall, Cambridge, in the room of Mr. Vines, who was turned out for refusing the engagement. In 1654 he was chosen a member of the committee for drawing up a catalogue of fundamentals, to be presented to the parliament. During the same year he was constituted, by order of the council, one of the commissioners for the approbation of public preachers; these commissioners were commonly distinguished by the name of tryers. In 1655 he was appointed, by a commission from the protector Cromwell, one of ihe new visitors of the university of Cambridge.* During the long parliament he gathered a church and congregation in London, upon the plan of the independents, which assembled in Abchurch, near Cannon-street.

• Nral's Puritans, vol. iii. p. SIT.

+ EdwardV* Antapnlogia, p. 148, 143.

J Bailie's Dissuasive, p. 77. (, Papers of Accra, p. 13.

| Reasons of Dissenting Brethren, p. 40, 133, 192.

Mr. Sympson was a divine of considerable learning, of great piety and devotion, and a celebrated preacher. Dr. Grey calls him a celebrated preacher of rebellious principles; which is plain, says he, from the following passage in one of his sermons: " Reformation is liable to inhuman treacheries. Pharaoh's dealing was very treacherous. He bade the people go; gave them liberty by proclamation; and when he had got them at an advantage, he brought up an army to cut them off. The reforming of the church will meet with such kind of enemies."t If the learned doctor had not been in the constant practice of ascribing rebellion to the puritan divines, he would have found some difficulty in discovering rebellious principles from this passage. And so far from appearing plain from the passage, that he was a celebrated preacher of those principles, we think it would puzzle all the learning of the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge to make the discovery. Mr. Edwards censures him for attempting to propagate his own sentiments relative to church discipline, liberty of conscience, and universal toleration.t In his last sickness, he laboured under spiritual darkness and some melancholy apprehensions; on which account certain of his friends and brethren assembled at his house to assist him with their prayers. When they took their leave of him, he thanked them, and said, he was now satisfied in his soul, and lifting up his hands towards heaven, exclaimed, "He is come, he is come!" and died the same evening. This was in the year 1658.$ Mr. Sympson published several sermons preached before the parliament, one of which is entitled, "Reformation's Preservation, opened in a Sermon preached at Westminster before the Honourable House of Commons, at the late solemn Fast, July 26, 1643." He was author of some other pieces, the titles of which have not reached us.

* Sylvester's Life of Baxter, pari ii. p. 197.—Neal's Puritans, vol. iv. p. 21,183.

+ Grey's Examination, vol. i. p. 18S. J Anlapologia, p. 215,216, <S Nial'i Puritans, vol. It. p. 207