William Jeffery was the son of pious parents, born al Penhurst in Kent, about the year 1616, and afterwards lived at Seven-oaks in the same county; where he and his brother David were the chief supporters, if not the founders, of a congregation of baptists. He was chosen pastor to this congregation, which greatly increased under his zealous and laborious ministry. At the time of his ordination to the pastoral office, it was denominated the church of Bradburn; and afterwards that which assembled at Bedsell's-green. He did not confine his labours to any one place; but, while he took particular care of his own flock, he extended his labours to distant places in the country. By his unwearied assiduity, many separate congregations were raised, and a church was formed about Speldhurst and Pembury, over which Mr. John Care was ordained elder. This church afterwards removed to Tuubridge-wells. By the united labours of Mr. Jeffery and several others, it is said there were more than twenty particular congregations gathered in the county of Kentj which, with very little variation, continued many years, and some of them were very respectable interests. The great object of this constant and faithful labourer was to preach and establish the fundamental truths of the gospel, without entering upon points of controversy and matters of mere speculation. He was very zealous in maintaining the love of God; a vigorous and successful promoter of the interests of the baptists; and one who suffered much with great patience and pleasure in his Master's cause. He had several disputations with the episcopalians, the independents, and quakers. With the last, he and Mr. Matthew Caffin had several contests. He was author of a piece entitled, " The whole Faith of Man; being the (Jospel declared in plainness, as it is in Jesus, and the way thereof, of old continued by divers signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost," second edition, printed in 1659
• Scohell's Collcc. partii. p. 279. + Cradock's Workl, Pref.
t Parliament Explained, p. 29. Edit. 1646.
The following anecdote is related of Mr. Jeffery's congregation :—The magistrates of Seven-oaks sent their officers to his congregation, then meeting at Bradburn; who took all the men into custody, and carried them up to the town, where they were kept prisoners during the night. The following day, when the justices were assembled, the prisoners were brought before them, and they underwent an examination; after which they were dismissed. They all, with one heart, full of wonder and joy, returned to the meeting-house whence they were carried, to return their united thanks to God for this unexpected deliverance. When they entered the place, to their great surprize and inexpressible joy, they found the women there, who had not departed from the house of God, but spent the whole night, and following morning, in fasting and prayer to God in their behalf.*
Mr. Jeffery survived the restoration, and bore his share of persecution with the rest of his brethren; on account of which, they unitedly published an address to the king, the parliament, and the people, entitled, " Sion's Groans for her Distressed: or, sober endeavours to prevent innocent blood," &c. This is dated March 8, 1661, and is signed by Thomas Monck, William Jeffery, William Reynolds, Joseph Wright, Francis Stanley, Francis Smith, and George Hammon.
Many pious and worthy persons were now prisoners in Maidstone jail, among whom were Mr. Jeffery, Mr. John Reeve his colleague, Mr. George Hammon a minister at Canterbury, and Mr. James Blackmore, minister at som«
• Crosby's Baptiiti, vol. iii. p. 97—100.
other place in Kent. These persecuted servants of- Christ, while under the cruel rod of oppression, published a work entitled, "The humble Petition, and Representation of the Sufferings of several peaceable and innocent subjects, called by the name of Anabaptists, inhabitants of the county of Kent, and prisoners in the jail of Maidstone for the testimony of a
food conscience." It is addressed " To his Majesty Charles I. King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging," and is as follows:*
"May it please your majesty,
"For as much as by authority derived from yonrself, several of us your subjects, inhabitants in the county of Kent, are now imprisoned; it therefore much concerns thee, oh king, to hear what account we give of our distressed condition. Thou hast already seen our confession of faith, wherein our peaceable resolutions were declared. We have not violated any part thereof, that should cause that liberty promised from Breda to be withdrawn. And now for our principles that most particularly relate to magistrates and government, we have with all clearness laid them before thee; humbly beseeching they may be read patiently, and what we say weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, and then judge how worthy we are of bonds and imprisonment. And this we the more earnestly desire, because not only our own lives are in danger, but also an irresistible destruction cometh on our wives and little ones by that violence which is now exercised on us. Disdain not our plainness in speaking, seeing the great God accepts of the like. And now, oh king, that all thy proceedings, both towards us and all men, may be such as may be pleasing to the eternal God, in whose hands thy and our breath are, who ere long shall judge both quick- and dead according to their works, is the prayer of thy faithful subjects and servants."
After stating their sentiments respecting his majesty's authority, they conclude with an earnest supplication to be released from their present bondage, and to enjoy the full liberty of worshipping God. It is signed in the name of tb* baptists now prisoners in the jail of Maidstone, by
William Jeffery, John Reeve,
George Hammon, James Blackmore.
It does not, however, appear what was the result of this application to his majesty, nor when Mr. Jeffery and his brethren were released from prison. He was a person much esteemed for his steady piety and universal benevolence. When he had finished his labours and his sufferings, he died in a good old age, but at what period we cannot learn, and was succeeded in the pastoral office by his son Mr. John Jefterv.*
* Jvuney't Hist, of Baptists, p. 314, SIS.