Robert Peck.—This zealous puritan was rector of Iligham in Norfolk, to which he was preferred in the year 1605. He was a zealous nonconformist to the ceremonies and corruptions of tixe church, for which he was severely persecuted by B.shop flarsnet. Having catechized his family and sung a psalm in his own house, ou a Lord's day evening, when some of his neighbours attended, his lordship enjoined him, and all who were present, to do penance, requiring them to say, / confess my errors. Those who refused were immediately excommunicated, and required to pay heavy costs. All this appeared under the bishop's own hand. For this, and similar instances of his oppression and cruelty, the citizens of Norwich, in the year 1623, presented a complaint against his lordship in the house of commons.
In the bishop's answer to this complaint, he had nothing to say against Mr. Peck's doctrine and life, only his nonconformity.' He pleaded, in his own defence, "That Mr. Peck bad been sent to him by the justices of the peace, for keeping a conventicle at night, and in his own house; that his catechizing was only an excuse to draw the people together; and that he had infected the parish with strange opinions: as, 'that the people are not to kneel as they enter the church; that it is superstition to bow at the name of Jesus; and that the church is no more sacred than any other building.'" His grace further affirmed, that Mr. Peck had been convicted of nonconformity, and of keeping conventicles, in 1615 and 1617; and that, in 1622, he was taken in his own house, with twenty-two of his neighbours, at a conventicle.* How far the house of commons acquiesced in his lordship's defence, or whether they considered it a sufficient justification of his arbitrary proceedings, we have not been able to learn.
* Jacomb's Funeral Srrmoo for Mr. Bright. + Palmer's Noucod. Mem. vol, ii. p. 328.
Mr. Peck suffered much under the persecutions of Bishop Wren; when he was driven from his flock, deprived of his benefice, and forced to seek his bread in a foreign land.i He is indeed said to have been deprived for nonresidence, which was the case with many of his brethren; By the terrific threatenings of their persecutors, and having no-better prospect than that of excommunication, imprisonment, or other ecclesiastical censure, they were driven from their beloved flocks, or they retired for a time into some private situation, in hope that the storm might soon be over; tor which they were censured as nonresidents. This was no doubt the case with Mr. Peck. He and Mr. Thomas Allen are said to have had so much influence upon their parishioners, that, after the deprivation of the two ministers, none of them would pay any thing to those who served their cures. This shews how greatly they were beloved.J Having fled to New England; the church at Higham, in the new colony, rejoiced for a season in his light. He remained there several years; till afterwards he received an invitation from his old friends at Higham, in his native country, when he returned home, .laboured among them, and was of eminent service to the church of God.^
The following account is given of Mr. Peck by one of our historians, the design of which is too obvious: "He was a man of a very violent schismatical spirit. He pulled
• MS. Remarks, p. 713—715.
+ Nalson's Culler, vol. ii. p. 400, 401.—Rusbworth's Collec. tol. iii. p. 353.
X Wren's Parentalia, p. 95.
S Mather's Hist, of New Eng. b. iii. p. 214.
down tlie rails in the chancel of the church at Highara, and levelled the altar and the whole chancel a foot below the church, as it remains to this day; but, being prosecuted for it by Bishop Wren, he fled to New England, with many of his parishioners, who sold their estates Tor half their value, and conveyed all their effects to the new plantation. They erected the town and colony of Higham, where many of their posterity still remain. He promised never to desert them; but, hearing that the bishops were deposed, he left them to shift for themselves, and came back to England in 1646, after a banishment of ten years. He resumed his charge at Higham, where he died in the year 1656. His funeral sermon was preached by Mr. Nathaniel Joccline, and afterwards published;"» but this we have not seen.