Dudley Fenner was a divine of excellent learning and piety, and, for some time a celebrated tutor in the university of Cambridge, where he had Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Travers, and other distinguished persons for his pupils. Upon his removal from the university, he became minister at Cranbrook in Kent; but being dissatisfied with the episcopal ordination of the church of England, he went to Antwerp, and was ordained according to the manner of the reformed churches at that place, renouncing his former ordination.t During his stay at Antwerp, he preached, with Mr. Cartwright, to the English congregation in that city. But upon his return to England, he was brought into many troubles for nonconformity. In the year 1583, universal subscription to Whitgift's three articles being required of the clergy, Mr. Fenner and sixteen of his
• Wood'» Athene Oion. vol. i. p. 194, 195.
t Fuller's Church Hilt I}. U. p. 198.—H.eylin's Hist of Pres. p. 290.
brethren, all ministers of Kent, waited upon his lordship, and signified that they could not subscribe with a good conscience. Therefore they humbly desired to know the result of his proceedings, and whether they might be favoured with a license to continue in their beloved work of preaching. This they did, in a letter addressed to the archbishop, dated January 30, 1584; in which they express themselves as follows:*—" Our duty in most humble " manner unto your grace presented. Whereas our coming u to your lordship in so great a company, was that every " one might be resolved, being in your lordship's judgment " offensive. Notwithstanding many of our doubts have " been heard, and by your lordship's great pains, favourably *f interpreted, we were in the end dismissed without any " certainty of your lordship's pleasure. We have thought " it meet, therefore, to signify these two things to your " grace:—1. That we are not resolved in our consciences, " of the most of our former doubts, and have yet many " others not mentioned, which we judge of equal weight.— " 2. That seeing we are not in our consciences, satisfied u to subscribe, we humbly desire to understand your grace's " favourable purpose, in proceeding with us, and whether ee we shall receive license to depart or no.
" Your grace's most humble to command in the Lord.
" Dudley Fenner, Robert Golleford,
" Joseph Nichols, John Elvin,
u Joseph Minge, Lever Wood,
« George Caslocke, William Knight,
" William Evans, Anthony Hilton,
" James Grove, Theophilus Calver,
" George Ely, John Mayo,
u Richard Holden, John Grimestone."
" Anthony Brimstone,
In the conclusion, the archbishop suspended them all; upon which, Sir Thomas Scot and twenty-six respectable gentlemen in Kent, feeling the great loss of so many excellent ministers being silenced, all waited upon his lordship. From the conversation which they had with the archbishop, now before me, it is manifest how exceedingly solicitous they were to procure their restoration. But nis grace being immoveable, their generous endeavours proved ineffectual.t Mr. Fenner continued under suspension many
• MS. Register, p. 326.
+ MB. Chronology, vol. i. p. 332. (3 | 1) (3 | 3.)
years, even to the time of his death ; and most probably his brethren shared no better fate.*
Upon their suspension, being slanderously aspersed from the press, by one who subscribed himself R. S., they were vindicated against the foul reproaches of this scurrilous writer. This vindication is at considerable length, though probably it was never printed.t Mr. Fenner, that he might silence calumny, gave a written testimony, that he was suspended merely for refusing subscription to Whitgift's articles. This testimony, dated June 12, 1585, was as follows:—" I, Dudley Fenner, was suspended from the ** execution of my ministry, for this cause only, that I " refused to subscribe to the two last articles generally pro" pounded to the ministers at the time of subscription. And " this my suspension was pronounced by the archbishop " himself. Indeed, I appeared before him and the rest " of her majesty's commissioners, to answer unto other " articles, but this was after my suspension; neither did I " receive any censure or other pain in that behalf, after my " answer to the said articles. This, being lawfully called
thereto, I am ready to confirm by oath.
" Dudley Fenner.'^
Upon Mr. Fenner's appearance before the archbishop and other commissioners, at the time specified in the above testimony, he received much unkind usage. Though he was a man of distinguished learning and piety, the proud archbishop called him a boy, a lenave, a slanderer, a libeller, and other foul names, equally contrary to truth, and reproachful to his archiepiscopal character.^ Dr.- Grey stigmatizes him " on account of his vile republican principles, with holding that it was lawful to take away the life of a king;" for which, if the good man had been punished more severely, than by seven years' suspension, the learned doctor could not but think he would have deserved it.fl Such were the illiberal notions of these bigotted churchmen!
Some time after Whitgift suspended Mr. Fenner, he was committed to prison for nonconformity. And having suffered twelve months' imprisonment, upon a general subscription to the articles, as far as the law required, with a promise to use the Book of Common Prayer, and no other, he is said to have been released. He joined his brethren in
subscribing the " Book of Discipline."* Afterwards, on account of the severities of the times, there being no prospect of enjoying his liberty in the ministry, or some further troubles awaiting him, he was obliged to flee from the storm, when he went to Middleburgh, where he died towards the close of the year 1589.+ His widow became the famous Dr. Whitaker's second wife. . .
Mr. Fenner, who is styled " an eminent light, yea, a bright-burning candle in his time,"t was a man of distinguished learning and abilities, and the author of many excellent works, some of which were upon the controversies of the times. Among these, was " A Defence of the godly Ministers against Dr. Bridges' Slanders, with a true Report of the ill Dealings of the Bishops against them." This work was finished a month only before the author's deaths Dr. Bridges having asserted, that the puritans were not grievously afflicted, unless it was produced by their own deserts, Mr. Fenner made the following reply:— " Is it no grievous affliction, by suspension to be hung up between hope and despair for a year or two, and in the mean time, to see the wages of our labours eaten up by loiterers ? Nay, our righteous souls are vexed with seeing and hearing the ignorance, the profane speeches, and evil examples, of those .thrust upon our charges; while we ourselves are defamed, reproached, scoffed at, and called seditious, and rebellious; cited, accused, and indicted, and yet no redress to be found. All this we have patiently borne, though we come daily to the congregations to prayers, to baptisms, and to the sacrament, and by our examples and admonitions have kept many from those excesses whereunto their rashness of zeal would have carried them. And though to such as you, who swarm with deaneries, double benefices, pensions, advowsons, reversions, Sec. these molestations may seem light; yet, surely, upon every irreligious man's complaint, to be sent for by pursuivants, to pay two-pence for every mile, to find messengers, to defray our own charges, and all this by such as can hardly provide for themselves and their families, it is not only grievous, but heart-burning.
" We will not justify ourselves in all things," says he, " but acknowledge, that when coming by dozens and scores
• Neal's Hist, of Puritans, vol. i. p. 406, 423.
+ Wood's Athens Ozon. vol. i. p. 172.
J Paget's Church Government, p. 86.
S MS. Register, p. 587.
before the bishop, after half a day's disorderly reasoning, some not being heard to the full, some railed on and miscalled, none with lenity satisfied, but all suspended from our office, because we refused to subscribe to his two last articles, there might afterwards pass from us some unjustifiable expressions. This we are willing to impute to ourselves. "• The following is a list of Mr. Fenner's other learned productions.
His Works.—1. An Answer to the Confutation of John Nichols, 1581.—2. A Counter-Poyson, modestlic written for the Time, to make Answere to the Objections and Reproaches, wherewith the Answerer to the Abstract, would disgrace the Holy Discipline of Christ—3. A Defence of the Reasons of the Counter-Poyson, for maintainance of the Eldershippe, against an Answere made to them by Doctor Copequot, in a publike Sermon at Paules Crosse, upon Psalm lsxxiv., 1584.f —4. A Commentry on Canticles.—5. The Order of Houshold Government.—6. An Interpretation of the Lord's Prayer.—7. An Interpretation of the Epistle to Philemon.—8. A short Table of Religion out of the first Table of the Law.—0. A Treatise of the Sacrament.—10. A profitable Treatise of Lawful and Unlawful Recreations.—11. The Art of Logic and Rhetoric plainly set forth.— 12. Sacred Theology, in Ten Books.}—13. The Consideration of the Admonition of Mr. Vaughan. A MS. copy of this work is now before me, but most probably was never published.