Thomas Coleman, A. M. — This learned and pious divine was born in the city of Oxford, in the year 1598, and educated in Magdalen college, in that university. Having entered upon the ministerial work, he became vicar of Bliton in Lincolnshire; but he was persecuted, and afterwards driven from the place for nonconformity. On the commencement of the civil wars, he fled for refuge to London, was made rector of St. Peter's, Cornhill, and chosen one of the assembly of divines. He frequently preached before the parliament; and, October 15, 1643, when both houses took the covenant, he preached before the lords, giving some explanation of it. He observed on this occasion, " that by prelacy, as used in the covenant, was not meant all episcopacy, but only the form therein described."* In 1644, he was appointed one of the committee of examination and approbation of public preachers. The year following, in the grand debate of the assembly, concerning the divine right of the presbyterian mode of church government, he gave his opinion against it; and openly declared, both in the assembly and from the pulpit, that if the divine right of presbyterianism should ever be established by public authority, he was apprehensive it would prove equally arbitrary and tyrannical as the prelacy had been. He therefore proposed that, under present circumstances, the civil magistrate should have the power of the keys till the nation should be brought into a more settled state.t
Mr. Coleman was of erastian principles respecting church government; but he fell sick during the above debate; and some of the members waiting upon him, he desired they would not come to any conclusion till they had heard what he had further to offer upon the question. But his complaint increasing, he died in a few days, and the whole assembly paid the last tribute of respect to iiis memory by attending his funeral solemnities, March 30, 1647- Wood says, " he was so accomplished an Hebrean, that he was commonly denominated Rabbi Coleman?' and adds, " that he behaved
• Sylvester's Life of "Baxter, part i. p. 49. t Meal's Puritans, vol. iii. p. 261.
both modestly and learnedly in the assembly."* Fuller styles him " a modest and learned divine, equally averse to presbytery and prelacy."t
From the eminent talents, learning, and moderation of this excellent divine, we might suppose that even bigotry itself would lie dormant; but this unhappy temper, ever influenced by party principles, and to promote a party interest, will break through all difficulties, to blacken the memory of real worth. Mr. Coleman, in common with many of his brethren, is die subject of public calumny. The zealous historian, speaking of those divines who preached before the parliament, says, "Another of these brawlers, who seldom thought of a bishop, or the king's party, but with indignation, was Mr. Thomas Coleman. In one of his sermons, he thus rants against the church of England, and violently persuades the parliament to execute severe justice upon her children. 'Our cathedrals in a great part are of late become the nests of idle drones, and the roosting places of superstitious formalists. Our formalists and government, in the whole hierarchy, are become a fretting gangrene, a spreading leprosy, an insupportable tyranny. Up with it, up with it to the bottom, root and branch, hip and thigh: destroy these Amalekites, and let their place be no more found. Throw away the rubs; out with the Lord's enemies, and the land's. Vex the Midianites; abolish the Amalekites, or else they will vex you with their wiles, as they have done heretofore. Let popery find no favour, because it is treasonable; prelacy as little, because it is tyrannical.'
"This," our author adds, " was rare stuff for the blades at Westminster, and pleased them admirably well. Therefore they straitly order Sir Edward Aiscough and Sir John Wray, to give the zealot hearty thanks for his good directions, and to desire him by all means to print it; which accordingly he did, and, in requital of thanks, dedicates his fury to their worships; where he falls to his old trade again, very prettily by his art of rhetorick, calling the king's army partakers with atheists, infidels, and papists; saying, ' it hath popish masses, superstitious worships, cold forms in the service of God: it is stored with popish priests: it persecutes God's ministers, painful preachers: it doth harbour all drunken, debauched clergy, or idle, non-preaching, dumb ministry, our ambitious tyrannical prelacy, and the sink and dregs of the times; the receptacle of the filth of the present and former ages, our spiritual court's-men.' This man's railing," he adds, " pleased the commons so well, that they could think of no man fitter to prate when their wicked league and covenant was taken than he; which accordingly he did to the purpose, tickling their filthy ears with the same strains of malice; impudently affirming, 'That none but an atheist, papist, oppressor, rebel, or the guilty, desperate cavaliers, and light and empty men, can refuse the covenant:' and so concludes with reflection upon the king's party, as idolaters. And for this stuff", Colonel Long must be ordered to give him thanks from the house."'
• Athens Oxon. vol. ii. p. 58.
t hller'i Church Hi.l, b, xl. p. 213.
Admitting the correctness of our author's extracts, there was certainly too much truth in many of Mr. Coleman's remarks, though some of them perhaps require a degree of limitation. It is, however, a certain fact, which many of our zealous historians seem willing to forget, that" their worships, the blades at Westminster," whose " filthy ears were tickled with the preacher's strains of malice," and who thanked him for his sermons, desiring him to print them, even the commons in parliament, as well as the lords, were, according to Clarendon, all members of the established church.i Yet, such is the foul language of the above bigotted and peevish writer, that his prejudices and party feelings appear without restraint, while he pours forth his abundaut slander and contempt upon men of the worthiest character.
His Works.—l.Thc Christian's Course and Complaint, both in tho pursuit of Happiness desired, and for Advantages slipped in that pursuit; a Sermon preached to the Honourable House of Commons on the monthly Fast, Aug. 30,1643; at St. Margaret's Westminster, 164.'$.—2. The Heart's Engagement, a Sermon preached at St. Margaret's Westminster, at the public cnteriug into the Covenant, 1643.— 3. God's unusual Answer to a Solemn Fast, a Sermon preached to both'Houses of Parliament, at their public Fast, Sep. 12, 1644— 1644.—4. A Brotherly Examination Examined: or, a clear justification of those Passages in a Sermon, against which Mr. Gillespie did preach and write, 1646.—5. A short Discovery of some Tenets which intrench upon the Honour and Power of Parliaments.—6. A Model1, &c.