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Richard Blackerby

Richard Blackerby.—This eminently holy and learned divine was born at Worlington in Suffolk, in the year 1574, and educated in Trinity college, Cambridge, where he continued nine years, and made amazing attainments in useful literature. Here he sat under the ministry of the famous Mr. Perkins, by means of whose preaching he was effectually converted to God. For several years he laboured under the most painful awakenings of conscience, approaching almost to melancholy. While he was groaning under these convictions, his father, who was unconscious of the cause of his dejection, called him home, hoping that a change of air might remove his complaint; but his father was not aware of his disease, and the remedy proved ineffectual. Afterwards, he found peace with God, and enjoyed comfort in his own soul, through faith in Jesus Christ, which he never lost to his dying day. Upon his leaving the university, he became domestic chaplain first to Sir Thomas Jermin of Rushbrook in Suffolk, then to Sir Edward Lukenor* of Denham in the same county. Here he continued till he married the daughter of Mr. Timothy Oldman, minister of Denham, whose father was greatly persecuted, and at length forced to abscond, in the days of Queen Mary.' Mr. Blackerby, after remaining two years with his father-in-law, was called to preach at Feltwell in Norfolk. In this situation he continued some time, but, on account of his nonconformity, was at last obliged to remove to Ashdon in Essex, where he abode twenty-three years, and was employed in the education of youth. Some of his scholars became men of considerable eminence. Dr. Bernard, whom he recommended to Archbishop Usher, and who afterwards became that learned prelate's chaplain and wrote his life, was one of them. Although Mr. Blackerby, on account of his nonconformity, could not, with a good conscience, accept of any ecclesiastical preferment, or undertake any pastoral charge, within the pale of the national church, yet he constantly preached at one place or another, as he found opportunity. During the last ten years of the

• Sir Edward was member in several parliaments, and a person of considerable eminence. He was a gentleman of great piety, an able patriot, a zealous promoter of a further reformation, and a great friend to the persecuted nonconformists.—MS. Chronology, *ol. ii. p. 593. (2.)

above period, he preached regularly at Henningham in Essex, or Stoke, or Hundon in Suffolk.*

Mr. Blackerby was a man of a most holy and exemplary character, as will appear from the account given of him by Mr. Clark. "During his long life," says this author, " lie never seemed to lose one moment of time in idleness. As a wise man, he spent all his leisure hours in providing for immortality. He rose early, both winter and summer, and spent the whole day in reading, meditation, prayer, and t lit> instruction of others. He was remarkably punctual and-conscientious in the observance of family religion. He instructed his pupils daily in true christian piety and useful learning, and walked before them continually in wisdom, love, and true holiness. Young students, upon their leaving the university, put themselves under his tuition, to be further prepared for the public ministry; to whom he taught Hebrew, opened the scriptures, read divinity, and gave excellent instructions relative to learning, doctrine, and future life."

In his public ministry, when he was suspended in one place, he fled to another. By this means, though he lived in bard times, he was seldom kept silent for any considerable period. His method in preaching consisted chiefly in opening the meaning of scripture, and in making appropriate observations, followed with a close application. He studied hard to understand the scriptures, had great skill in llie original, and lived much in holy converse with God. ' His preaching was accompanied with so abundant an out-pouring of the Spirit, that he had reason to believe God made him the spiritual father of above txco tlwusand persons. Indeed, the word of God falling from his lips, soon became the savour of life unto life to those who heard it, or they became enraged against it. And though persons of seared consciences sometimes became violently outrageous against his preaching, the signal judgments of God commonly found them out. At Hundon he met with considerable opposition from many of the principal persons in the place, who united together and procured his suspension, but who were afterwards blasted in their estates, some brought to beggary, and all, excepting one, died miserable deaths. The sabbath after his suspension, one of them boasting in the churchyard, that now they had got Blackerby out of the pulpit; a woman standing by, and hearing him, replied, " Blackerby will preach in Hundon pulpit, when you are crying in hell."

• Clark'* Lira, last To), part I. p. 57, 58

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And the very sabbath after this man was buried, Mr. Blackerby obtained his liberty, and preached on that day in Dilution pulpit.

Mr. Blackerby was eminently distinguished for personal religion and true holiness. To promote this, was indeed his chief business. Though he was not without his infirmities; yet, to all impartial judges, he was free from the allowance of any iniquity. His whole deportment was as if God, his holy law, and the day of judgment, were constantly before his eyes. He was always deeply impressed with the majesty and holiness of God, and maintained a constant watchfulness over his heart and life. He practised mortification and selfdenial, and was justly reputed " one of the holiest men living." Nevertheless, he was deeply humbled under a sense of his manifold infirmities and imperfections. This he often discovered to a grand-child of his, whom he used to address as follows: "Oh, thou little thinkest what a vile heart I have, and how I am plagued with proud thoughts. Child, if thou hast any acquaintance with God, pray for me, that God would purify this filthy heart. Oh! if God did not enable me, in some measure, to keep a watch over it, I should act to the shame of my face." While he brought these bitter accusations against himself, he exercised the greatest candour towards others, even those who differed from him in matters of subscription and church discipline. He used to observe, with the famous Mr. Perkins, " That when a man is once acquainted with his own heart, he will be apt to think every one better than himself: and an appearance of the love of God in any, will make him put the best construction on all their words and actions." Yet no hope of preferment, nor any painful suffering, would prevail upon him to act contrary to the convictions of his own mind. Though he could not, with a safe conscience, conform to the church of England, with the view of obtaining a living, or to secure himself from the iron hand of persecution; yet, in those things wherein it appeared to be his duty to conform, no man was more exact than himself. Like many other nonconformists, he had no objection to the use of some parts of the Book of Common Prayer.

He was a wise, affectionate, and faithful friend, and never suffered sin to pass unreproved. In the discharge of this most difficult duty, he manifested so much love, seriousness, and sweetness of spirit, that while he touched the consciences of those whom he reproved, they still loved him. "Hit reproofs," as one observes, " were dipt in oil, driven into the

heart, and received with all acceptation, because of the overcoming kindness with which they were attended." When he was in company with persons of wealth, and heard them swear, or use profane language, he would withdraw from their company with a sad countenance; and would address them in private, with so much affection and seriousness, that they would frequently thank him. On one of these occasions, a gentleman said to hiin, " Ha'd you reproved me at table I would have stabbed you, but now 1 thank you."

He was a strict and zealous observer of the sabbath. As preparatory to the holy observance of this day, he constantly preached in his own house on the Saturday afternoon. He rose earlier on the sabbath than on other days; and prayed six times with his family every sabbath, besides expounding the scriptures. He was particularly zealous in recommending to others the holy observance of this day. Being once invited to preach at Linton in Cambridgeshire, where a fair was annually kept on the Lord's day, he so convinced the inhabitants of the sinfulness of the practice, that, it is said, they would hold the fair no more on that day. He was of a most tender and contrite spirit; and enjoyed so much the presence and blessing of God in holy duties, that he often said at the conclusion, he would not for many worlds have missed the opportunity. This holy man was crucified to the world, and the world was crucified to him. He lived above the world, having his affections set on better things. His passionate fondness for the things of this world was so far subdued, that, though he had a most tender affection for his relations and friends, the loss of them did not discompose his mind, nor interrupt his communion with God. When his eldest daughter, whom he dearly loved, was taken away by death, he preached her funeral sermon with the utmost composure, and said, he believed she feared God from three years old. He preached as a man who had not lost his God, though he had lost his dearest child. The love of the creature could never draw his heart from the Creator. He enjoyed the abundant manifestations of God's love. His holy and heavenly deportment was accompanied with a settled peace of conscience, and a full assurance of eternal life. He often declared before his death, that for more than forty years he never had a single doubt of his salvation.

When the persecuting prelates were laid aside, and Mr. Blackerby could take the pastoral charge without subscription and observing the ceremonies, he was chosen pastor of Great Thurlow in Suffolk, where he continued the rest of his days. With great zeal and faithfulness, he laboured to promote the glory of God and the good of souls to the very last. He was taken ill in the pulpit, was carried home, and continued in a weak state about six weeks, but kept his bed only two days. He died in the year 1648, aged seventy-four years. Mr. Blackerby was " an excellent linguist, and accounted the best Hebrean in Cambridge."* Granger says, "he was perfectly skilled in the learned languages."t At in* death, he expressed his strong hopes, that in the day of judgment there would be many hundreds of his posterity standing at the right hand of Christ. And it is said, that those w ho knew his children believed they were all heirs of eternal life: there were favourable hopes of all his grandchildren, many of whom were eminent persons; and many of his great grandchildren were truly pious christians.) The excellent Mr. Samuel Fairclough, who was ejected in 1662, married one of his daughters.^ It is said, that on account of the heavenly majesty and holiness which always attended Mr. Blackerby, the excellent Mr. Daniel Rogers of Wethersfield used to say, he could never come into his presence without trembling.||