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Thomas Edwards

Thomas Edwards, A. M.—This very singular person was born in the year 1599, and educated in Trimty college, Cambridge, where he took his degrees in arts, and was incorporated at Oxford. One of his name, and apparently the same person, is said to have been of Queen's college, Cambridge, and one of the preachers to the university. For a sermon which he delivered in St. Andrew's church, he was committed to prison, February 11, 1627, where he remained till he entered into bonds for his appearance before his ecclesiastical judges. Upon his appearance at the time and place appointed, he was charged with havmg uttered in his sermon the following words :—" When there arise any doubts about the way, that thou knowest not well which way to take, if thou art a servant, thou must not go to thy carnal master, to enquire of him: if thou art a wife, thou must not go to thy carnal husband, to ask him: if thou ait a son, thou must not go to thy carnal father: if thou art a pupil, thou must not go to thy carnal tutor to ask him; but thou must rind out a

man in whom the Spirit of God dwelleth: one who is renewed by grace, and he shall direct thee." A little after, he said, " It all this be not true, then this book, clapping his hand upon the Bible, is full of falsehoods, and God himself is a liar, and Christ himself a deceiver." He also added, " If the day of judgment were now at hand; if the seals were opened; if the fire were now about my ears, which should burn those that follow not this doctrine, I would testify and teach this, and no other doctrine."

Mr. Edwards, for delivering these sentiments, was repeatedly convened before his superiors; and, March 31, 1628, he was required to make a public revocation of his opinions in St. Andrew's church, where he had delivered his sermon; and the following instrument was afterwards drawn up, testifying his compliance:—" These are to certify, that whereas Mr. Edwards, A. M. late of Queen's college in Cambridge, was required to explain himself, concerning words spoken by him in a sermon preached in the parish of St Andrew's in Cambridge, as if he had dehorted from consulting carnal tutors, husbands and masters. To this purpose he did explain himself, in the said church of St. Andrew's, April 6, 1628, being the day appointed, to wit, * He desired not to be mistaken, as if he had preached against obedience to superiors, or hearkening to their advice and counsel, though carnal and wicked; for such might advise well: as the pharisees sitting in Moses's chair, were to be obeyed in their sayings; and that they ought rather to be dutiful to such than others, that they may win them and stop their mouths, 1 Peter, iii. 1. Only if they advise any thing contrary to the word, as to lie, swear, &c. to remember the speech of the apostle,' It is better to obey God, rather than men.' In witness whereof, I, Thomas Goodwin, then curate of the said church, being present, have subscribed my name, as also we whose names are underwritten, being also there present. Thomas Goodwin, Tho. Ball, Th. Marshall."*

Though Mr. Edwards is said to have been always a puritan in his heart, he received orders according to the form of the established church; and, on his leaving the university, he was licensed, in the year 1629, to preach at St. Botolph's church, Aldgate, London.+ About the same time, he was brought into trouble for nonconformity, and questioned or suspended by Bishop Laud, for refusing to observe his superstitious injunctions.! In the year 1640, having delivered

• Bakers MS. Colli-c. vol vi. p. 192. x»i. 898.
+ Newcouri's Report. Keel. vol. i. p. 916.
t Prynuc'i Cant. Doome, p. 313.

a sermon in Mercer's chapel, Which gave great offence to the ruling prelates, letters missive were issued against him, and he was apprehended by the bishop's pursuivants, and prosecuted in the high commission. It will be proper to give an account of his puritanism and persecution m his own words:—" I never had a canonical coat," says he, " never "gave a penny to the building of Paul's, took not the "canonical oath, declined subscription for many years before "the parliament, (though 1 practised the old conformity,) "would not give ne obolurn quidem to the contributions "against the Scots, but dissuaded other ministers; much less "did I yield to bow to the altar, and at the name of Jesus, "or administer the Lord's supper at a table turned altarwise, "or bring the people up to rails, or read the Book of Sports, "or highly flatter the archbishop in an epistle dedicatory to "him, or put articles into the high commission court against "any, but was myself put into the high commission court, "and pursuivants, with letters missive and an attachment, "sent out to apprehend me for preaching a sermon at "Mercer's chapel, on a fast-day, in July, 1640, against the "bishops and their faction; such a free sermon as, I believe, "never a sectary in England durst have preached in such a "place, and at such a time."* This Mr. Edwards has to say of himself; though it is generally supposed that he never had any stated charge, but officiated as lecturer at various places, particularly at Hertford, and at Christ's-church, London, one of his name in 1643, but whether the same person we cannot ascertain, was vicar of Heinton in Hertfordshire.?

When the parliament declared against King Charles I., he became a zealous advocate for the changes in the civil and ecclesiastical constitution, and supported with all his influence the ruling party. He was a most rigid presbyterian, and, with uncommon zeal, defended and supported that discipline and government. This he declares in the dedication of one of his books, to the lords and commons assembled in parliament, as follows: "All my actions," says he, " from the beginning "of your sitting, my sermons, prayers, praises, discourses, "actings for you, speak this. I am one who out of choice "and judgment have embarked myself, with wife, children, "estate, and all that's near to me, in the same ship with you, "to sink and perish, or to come safe to land with you, and "that in the most doubtful and difficult times, not only early "in the first beginning of the war and troubles, in a lnalig

• Edwards's Gangrirna, part i. p. 75, 76. Second Edit. + Wood's Athena: t)*ou. Tbi. ii. p. 723.

"nant place among courtiers and those who were servants "and had relations to the king, queen, and their children, "pleading your cause, justifying, satisfying many that "scrupled; but when your affairs were at the lowest, and the "chance of war against you, and some of the grandees and "favourites of these times were packing up and ready to be "gone, I was then highest and most zealous for you, preach"ing, praying, stirring up the people to stand for you, by "going out in person, lending of money, in the latter going "before them by example; and as I have been your honour's "most devoted servant, so I am still yours, and you cannot "easily lose me."'

When the independents began to gain some ascendency, Mr. Edwards became equally furious against them as he had been against the prelacy. He wrote and preached against them with great severity, and opposed the sectaries with great virulence. This appears from several of his publications; but we shall give the account in his own words:—" Many "years ago," says he, " when I was persecuted by some "prelates and their creatures, in no possibility nor capacity by "my principles and practices of preferment, I preached "against, and upon all occasions declared myself against, the "Brownists, separatists, antinomians, and all errors in that "way, as well as against popish innovations and Armiman "tenets. I have preached at London and at Hertford against "those errors. About ten years ago, when independency "and the church way began to be fallen to by men of some "note, and some people took after it, I preached against it "early, and by all ways laboured to preserve the people." He adds, " I never yet sought any great things for myself, "great livings, or coming into public places of honour and "respect, to be of the assembly, or to preach in any public "places before the magistrates, either at Westminster or "London, but have contented myself with small means, and "to preach in private places in comparison, having refused "many great livings and places, preaching here in London for "a little, and that but badly paid, (as many well know,) mind"ing the work and service, little the maintenance."*

Most of Mr. Edwards's productions are controversial; the language and sentiments of which are bitter and violent in the highest degree. He distinguished himself by all the zeal and bigotry of a fiery zealot. His bitterness and enmity against toleration rose almost to madness; and had he been possessed of power, he would undoubtedly have proved aa furious a persecutor of all nonconformists to presbyterianism, as the prelates had been of those who ventured to dissent from the established episcopal church. Man}' of his severe and unworthy reflections upon some of the most worthy

* GangrjpDa, part i. p. 8. + Ibid, part iii. p. 14,15.

f>ersons, as collected from his " Gangraena" and " Antapoogia," are noticed in the various parts of this work. '1 he pacific Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs says, " I doubt whtiher there ever was a man, who was looked upon as a man professing godliness, that ever manifested so much boldness and malice against others, whom he acknowledged to be religious persons. That fiery rage, that implacable, irrational violence of his, against godly persons, makes me stand and wonder."*

His indignant temper and language against toleration is without a parallel. It will be proper to give a specimen in his own words, for the gratification of the inquisitive reader. "If ministers," says he, " will witness for truth, and against errors, they must set themselves against toleration, as the principal inlet to all error and heresy; for if toleration be granted, all preaching will not keep them out. If a toleration be granted, the devil will be too hard for us, though we preach ever so much against them. A toleration will undo all. It will bring in scepticism in doctrine, and looseness of life, and afterwards all atheism. O! let ministers, therefore, oppose toleration, as that by which the devil would at once lay a foundation for his kingdom to all generations; witness against it in all places; possess the magistrate w ith the evil of it; yea, and the people too, shewing them how, if a toleration were granted, they would never have peace any more in their families, or ever have any command of wives, children, servants; but they and their posterity are likely to live in discontent and unquietness of mind all their days. Toleration is destructive to the glory of God and the salvation of souls; therefore, whoever should be for a toleration, ministers ought to be against it. If the parliament, city, yea, and all the people, were for a toleration of all sects, as anabaptists, antinomians, seekers, Brownists, and independents; yet ministers ought to present their reasons against it, preach and cry out of the evil of it, never consent to it; but protest against it, and withstand it by all lawful ways and means

* Burroughs ViDdication, p. 2. Edit. 1646.

within their power, venturing the loss of liberties, estates, lives, and all in that cause, and inflame us with zeal against a toleration, the great Diana of the sectaries.*

"A toleration," adds this bigotted and furious zealot, " is the grand design of the devil; his master-piece and chief engine he works by to uphold his tottering kingdom. It is the most compendious, ready, and sure way to destroy all religion, lay all waste, and bring in all evil. It is a most transcendent, catholic, and fundamental evil, of any that can be imagined. As original sin is the fundamental sin, having in it the seed and spawn of all sin: so a toleration hath in it all errors and all evils. It is against the whole stream and current of scripture both in the Old and New Testament, both in matters of faith and manners, both general and particular commands. It overthrows all relations, political, ecclesiastical, and economical. Other evils, whether errors of judgment or practice, are only against some few places of scripture or relation; but this is against all. This is the Abaddon, Apollion, the destroyer of all religion, the abomination of desolation and astonishment, the liberty of perdition; therefore the devil follows it night and day, and all the devils in hell, and their instruments, are at work to promote a toleration."t

These extracts, expressed in the author's own language, are justly descriptive of his arbitrary and outrageous temper. But the presbyterian interest beginning soon after to decline, and Oliver Cromwell having overturned the power of the parliament, Mr. Edwards, to escape the expected resentment of the independents, fled to Holland, where he died of a quartan ague, in 1647, aged forty-eight years. By his wife, who was heiress of a considerable fortune, he left one daughter and four sons, the second of whom was Dr. John Edwards, author of Veritas Redux, and many other learned works upon theological subjects.J

His Works.—1. Reasons against the Independent Government of particular Congregations, 1641.—2. A Treatise of the Civil Power of Ecclcsiasticals, and of Suspension from the Lord's Supper, 1643.— 3. Antapoiogia; or, a full Answer to the ' Apologetical Narration'ot Mr.(Thomas) Goodwin, Mr. Nye, Mr. Sjmpson, Mr. Burroughs, and Mr. Bridge, Members of the Assembly of Divines, 1644.—4. Gaugraena; or, a Catalogue and Discovery of many of the Errors, Heresies, Blasphemies, and pernicious Practices of the Sectaries of this

• Edwards's Gnngrxna, part i. p. 85, 86. Third edit.

+ IbW. p. 58, 59.

t Biog. Brilan. vol. v. p. 543. Edit. 1778.

Time, vented and acted in England in these Tour last years, iii Parts, 1646.—6. The particular Visibility of tlic Church. IC47.—6. The Casting down of the last and strongest Hold of Satan; or, a Treatise against Toleration, Part first, 1647.