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William Strong

William Strong, A. M.—This excellent minister received his education in Katherine-hall, Cambridge, of which he was chosen fellow. The master of the college was the celebrated Dr. Sibbs. Upon leaving the university, he was presented to the living ol" Long Crichill in Dorsetshire, where he continued till he was forced to flee from the cavaliers.' He then fled to London, where he often preached before the parliament, was chosen one of the additional divines to the assembly, and minister of St. Dunstan's in the West. After some time he gathered a congregation upon the plan of the independents, which assembled in Westminster abbey, and was composed of many parliament men and persons of quality residing in Westminster. + He was chosen to the office of pastor in this society, December 9, 1650, upon which occasion he delivered a sermon on the order of a gospel church, which may be seen among his select sermons published after his death. He was afterwards nominated one of the triers for the approbation of preachers.f

• Wood's Athens; Oxod. vol. ii. p. 139. + Calnmy's Account, vol. ii. p. 4t.

t Bishop Kcnnet pours great calumny upon those learned divines wh» Were appointed triers. "By the questions they were wont to aik," says he, "a man could not tell what they aimed at. except it was In advance Quakerism, or make way for Mahometiim."—ffead Puritans, vol. if. p. 103.—Kennel's Chronicle, p. 714.

Mr. Strong died in the vigour of life, and was buried in the Abbey church, July 4, 1654; but his remains were dug tip at the restoration and thrown into a pit dug in purpose in St. Margaret's church-yard ; but of this bru<al transaction a more particular account is given in another place.* Mr. Obadiah Sedgwick, who preached his funeral sermon, says, '• that he was so plain in heart, so deep in judgment, so painful in study, so frequent, exact, and laborious in preaching, and, in a word, so eminently qu lifted lor all the duties of the ministerial office, that he did not know his equal."t Mr. Strong published several sermons and theological treatises in his life-time; and others were published after his death. Among these we find, in quaito, "Thirty-one select Sermons, preached on special Occasions, By William Strong, that godly, able, and faithful Minister of Christ, lately of the Abbey at Westminster, 1656." To this volume there is a preface by Dr. Thomas Manton, Mr. John Rowe, and Mr. George Griffith. There is another preface by Dr. Henry Wilkinson, dean of Christ's Church, who gives the following account of Mr. Strong's character: "There is an excellent vein in his sermons, as one saith in the like case, the farther you search the richer treasure you are likely to find. That which made his sermons pass with so great approbation of the most judicious hearers, when he was alive, and will be a passport to his writings though posthumous, was, that he followed the advice of the Apostle to Timothy, studying to shew himself approved to God, a workman thai need not be ashamed, right/u dividing the word of truth. He made preaching his work. He was so much taken up in this work, that to my knowledge he was often in watchings a great part of the night, besides his pains in his day studies. But, besides that very great diligence and travail of head and heart, and that unseasonable and hard study, that he laid put in his sermons, he had a special faculty of keeping close to bis text and business in hand; which, as it is very requisite in a preacher, so it is very advantageous to commend a discourse to the most judicious ear. That which further contributed to his excellency in preaching, was his skill and deep insight into the mystery of godliness, and the doctrine of the free grace of God. And as to the mystery of iniquity within us, he was well studied in the soul's anatomy, and could dexterously dissect the old man. He understood well the mystery of iniquity without us, of Satan and antichrist; and, by his knowledge of these mysteries, he was able to advance the? kingdom and honour of our Lord Christ in the hearts and lives of his hearers; to discover Satan's depths, and to disappoint his plots and devices. There was one thing more which added very much unto him and to his labours in preaching, and made him successful in clearing dark places, and searching further into the deep mines of the word, and that was his constant recourse to the originals, in which he had good skill. By these means he went beyond most of his brethren in the work of the ministry; so that his sermons had always something above the ordinary reach, and a certain strain answering the advantage and happiness of the age in which he lived. There was so great a weight, both of words and sense, in this our author's sermons, and so much of worth, that they appeared as good upon a narrow disquisition as they seemed to be when they were delivered. The ignorance or want of a clear knowledge of the doctrine of the covenant of grace, God's rich and free grace in the business of our salvation, was formerly, and is still, the cause of many errors in the church. The author of these sermons had arrived to an excellency and height in this doctrine, beyond the most that I ever read or knew. Had he lived to have perfected his labours about the covenant of grace, I presume I may say they had surpassed all that went before. Though his adversaries did very much endeavour to asperse him, yet he proved them to be unjust and false. He was as happy in the purity and innocency of his life as he was for the fervour which, through grace, he erected in his preach

• See Art. Dr. William Twiise. + Strong'* Funeral Sermon.

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Mr. George Griffith, in his preface to Mr. Strong's sermons, entitled, " The Heavenly Treasure," 1656, gives the following account of the author: " It is abundantly manifest to most of the godly through the nation, but more especially in the city of London, with what singular ability, strong affection, and good success, Mr. Strong employed and spent himself in the service of the gospel. He did the work of him who sent him while it was day; because, as he often said, the night was coming when no man can work. While he had the opportunity, neither the flatteries nor the frowns of men could hinder him from his beloved exercise. He preached the word with much freedom and boldness, and

• Wilkinson's Preface to Mr. Strong's Tbirty-one Sermons.

without fear or partiality. He was not of them who corrupt the word of God, but declared all the divine counsel. He often told me that one chief object of his study and prayer to God was, that he might be led into all truth, and teach the same both seasonably and profitably. God appointed him to labour in those places where all his abilities might be exercised, and shine forth in all their lustre. Though he commonly preached four times a week, and frequently oftener, his sermons were not tilled with empty notions; but were well studied and enriched with substantial matter, the com

{>osition being close, elaborate, and pithy. Aud while he aboured more to profit than to please, he never failed to please as well as profit those who heard him. What he delivered harmonized one part with another, and was ever supported with strong arguments. He compared spiritual things with spiritual; yet not with the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in full demonstration of the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit, he was enabled to do much work in a little time. He did not wear out widi rusting, but with using. He exhorted professors of the gospel, however they might differ about matters of discipline, to maintain good Tvorks, and bring forth the fruits of righteousness. He laboured to bring all parties to live a holy life. Indeed, he well knew that persons zealous about external matters, might shew with what party they sided; but by the holiness of their lives only, could they know that they were on the Lord's side. Hence he pressed the duties of self-examination and self-denial with great earnestness and exactness, lest any persons should profess Christianity out of faction, carrying a pagan heart under a christian name."*

The learned Mr. Theophilus Gale, who published Mr. Strong's " Discourse of the Two Covenants," in 1678, gives him the following character: "He was a wonder of nature for natural parts, and a miracle of grace for deep insight into the more profound mysteries of the gospel. He had a spirit capacious and prompt, sublime and penetrant, profound and clear; a singular sagacity to pry into the more difficult texts of scripture, an incomparable dexterity to discover the secrets of corrupt nature, a divine sapience to explicate the mysteries of grace, and an exact prudence to distribute evangelical doctrines, according to the capacity of his auditors. He was a star of the first magnitude in the right hand of Christ, to diffuse the resplendent light of the gospel. Aud as he transcended most of this age in the explanation of evangelical truth, so, in his intelligence and exphcation of the Two Covenants, he seems to excel himself: this being the study of his life, and,that whereon his mind was mostly intent. The notices I received from his other works gave me a great impression of his divine wisdom; but what mine eyes have seen, and my thoughts imbided of his incomparable intelligence, from his elaborate Discourse of the Two Covenants, assures me, that not the half was told me by his works formerly published. He was, indeed, a person intimately and familiarly acquainted with the deepest points in theology; but especially those which relate to the covenant of grace."* The learned Dr. Thomas Manton styles him "an eminent and a faithful servant of God, a man eloquent and mighty in the scriptures, and a burning and shming light in the church ofChrist."t

* Griffith*! Preface to Mr. Strong'* Heavenly Treasure.

His Works.—1. Thirty-one Select Sermons, preached on special Occasions, 1656.—2. The Heavenly Treasure. 1656.—3. Communion with God, the Saint's Privilege and Duly. 1656.—4. A Treatise on the Subordination of Man's \\ ill to the Will of God, 1657.—6. Hell Torments, 1672.—6. A Discourse of the Two Covenants, 16784— 7. The Parable of the Prodigal.