Edward Snape was educated most probably in the university of Cambridge; afterwards he became minister at St. Peter's church, Northampton. He was a decided nonconformist, a laborious preacher, and a zealous advocate for a more pure reformation of the church. It is observed,
that when the parishioners of St. Peter's in Northampton understood that he did not account himself a full minister, till he should be chosen by some particular congregation, they immediately chose him to be their minister."
In the year 1576, Mr. Snape and Mr. Thomas Cartwright were invited to the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, to assist the ministers of those places, in framing the necessary discipline for their churches. Dr. Heylin, who could never speak well of such men, charges these two divines with imposing their discipline upon the people of those islands; than which he could not have asserted a more palpable falsehoods They were averse to every species of ecclesiastical imposition, and were called to those places only to give their instructions and advice; and this peevish, calumniating writer, must surely have known this. The two divines were men of distinguished learning and abilities. They laboured to have the discipline of the church wholly regulated by the New Testament; and, therefore, they were admirably qualified for the important undertaking.
After the comfortable settlement of those churches, Mr. Snape returned to England, and preached the gospel for some time in the diocese of Exeter; where, it is said, he sowed the seeds of nonconformity; but it is added, that the vigilant and stout prelate, Dr. Cotton, plucked them up before they came to perfection.} This, however, is a very defective account of his labours in those parts. For it is observed, that Mr. Snape, Mr. Eusebius Paget, and Mr. John Holmes, three excellent nonconformists in the diocese of Exeter, were exceedingly zealous and laborious to promote true religion; and, by their frequent and useful preaching, they were
common people.^ Mr. Snape having laboured in those
Karts for some time, returned to his ministerial exercise at Forthampton, where he most probably continued several years.!
About the year 1586, he united with his brethren in subscribing the " Book of Discipline ;"i and in 1590, he was brought into trouble on account of the associations held in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, and other counties. He was a zealous and an active member of these assemblies; for
* Bancroft's Dangerous Positions, p. 114.
+ Heylin's Hist, of Pres. p. 293. } Fuller's Worthies, part ii. p. 206. I) MS. Chronology, vol. ii. p. 679. (3.)
| Heylin's Hist, of Pres. p. 276, 290. I Neal's Puritans, vol. i. p. 423.
made a blessing to very many
which he was convened before the high commission, when numerous charges were exhibited against him :* as, li That he had certain books in his possession, entitled ' A Defence of the Ecclesiastical Discipline.'—That he refused to baptize a child, unless it was called by some scripture name.t—That in his public ministry, he did not read the confession, absolutions, psalms, lessons, litany, and some other parts of the Book of Common Prayer.—That he renounced his calling to the ministry by the bishop's ordination.—And that he urged others to renounce their calling in like manner."— Such were the crimes with which our divine was charged !
Mr. Snape, and many of his brethren, for crimes like these, were summoned before the high commission at Lambeth, and required to take the oath ex officio^ to answer all interrogatories which might be proposed to them. This they utterly refused, unless they might first see them. And, says Dr. Heylin, when the interrogatories were even shewed them, Mr. Snape, apprehensive of danger to himself and his brethren, still refused to take the oath. An unpardonable crime was this, in the opinion of this author! It should be recollected, that Mr. Snape and his persecuted brethren did not positively engage to answer, even upon the sight of the interrogatories; they only refused to take the oath, and to give their answer, till they had seen those interrogatories; and, after they had seen them, they should be better able to judge whether it was lawful or unlawful.
Mr. Snape's letters having been intercepted, were produced against him; and when he refused to accuse himself and his brethren, he was immediately sent to prison. Our author adds, " This struck great terror into all the brethren, who now began to apprehend the dangers into which they were fallen by their former insolences."} A pitiful triumph, indeed!—Another writer observes, that when Mr. Snape was examined before the high commission at Lambeth, in
• Strype's Whitgift, p. 329—331.
t The following carious tale is told of Mr. Snape:—" There goes a story," says Dr. Heylin, " that one Hodgkingson of Northampton, having a child to be baptized, repaired to Snape, to do it for him; and he consented to the motion, bpt with promise that he should give it some name allowed in scripture. The holy action being so far forwards, that tbey were come to the naming of the infant, they named it Richard, being the name of its grandfather. Upon this a stop was made, and he would not be persuaded to baptize the child, unless its name were altered; and the god-father refusing to do this, the child was carried home unchristened."— Htylin'i Hitt. of Prtt. p. 298.
t Ibid. p. 302, 803.
April, 1590, thirly-six articles were delivered to him in writing, which, as an inducement to take the oath, he was allowed to read. These articles related to the persons, places, and times of their associations, and the subjects discussed on those occasions. Upon a second examination, and still refusing the oath, he was committed close prisoner.*
Though we are unable to learn whether he continued to refuse the oath, he certainly gave his answer to at least part of the interrogatories. He underwent many severe examinations betore the high commission, and the starchamber; and on one of these occasions, he gave the following answers, containing, it is said, " a true account of that which Edward Snape confesseth, he wrote and gave forth :"
1. " Touching the substance of my calling to the ministry, I affirm, that 1 had it of the church of God, being approved by the godly and learned neighbouring ministers, and chosen to the function by the people of my charge. Touching that allowance which I had of the bishop, I take it to be a thing merely civil, belonging to a civil magistrate, which authority he hath by act of parliament; and which, therefore, I might lawfully receive at his hands, for the peaceable execution of my ministry.
2. " Touching the use of the Book of Common Prayer, I will use it only in those things which are justifiable by the word of God. And if it can be proved unto me, by sound reasons out of that word, that it is utterly unlawful to use any part of it, I will cease to use it at all.
3. " Touching the calling of elders, I do promise to use all holy and lawful means, for the procuring of it.
4. " Touching the surceasing of my ministry, I do also promise, that though I shall be inhibited by the bishop, yet, if the greater part of the communicants of my charge, shall require the continuance of my ministry; and shall also bind themselves to minister competently to my necessities ; and shall have the consent of the godly neighbouring ministers, bonds or liberty, I will not surcease.
5. " Touching obedience to the bishops, I promise not to yield myself subject to them, in any things but such as are civil; and otherwise to disclaim any of their authority over me, as they are taken for ministers.
6. " To conclude. Whatever I use in my ministry,
• MS. Chronology, vol. ii. p. 435. (3.)
which shall be proved out of the word of God, to be unlawful, I will leave it: and whatsoever I use not, which may be also proved out of the word of God that I ought to use, I will, God willing, use it."*
Also, on one of these occasions, when Mr. Snape appeared before his ecclesiastical inquisitors, he confessed, and said, " It was agreed upon in the classical and general assemblies, that dumb ministers were no ministers of Christ, and that the ministers should preach to promote a pure ecclesiastical government."t
Mr. Snape is said to have confessed in effect the whole of that with which he and his brethren were charged. He acknowledged that he moved the mayor of Northampton to unite with other towns, in presenting a supplication to the queen, humbly beseeching her majesty to hear their cries, and grant them a more pure ecclesiastical discipline. He joined with his brethren in their association at Warwick, in 1588; when they declared against private baptism, reading apocryphal books and homilies in the church, communicating with unlawful ministers and the government of bishops and archbishops, and for the erection of a better discipline.
He is said, also, to have used the following rash expressions, against the persecuting prelates:—" I pray God strengthen our faith, and arm us with patience; and then let the devil and his deputies the bishops, do what they can. In the mean time let us take our pennyworths of them, and not die in their debt. It fareth with us as with the prisoners in popery. God send us their comfort." And he compared the established church, under the oppressions of the bishops, " to Babel and the Red Dragon, dyed red with the blood of the saints." t Oppression will make a wise man mad.
At one of Mr. Snape's examinations, the following curious interrogatory was proposed, to which he was required to give his answer:—" Have you said and signified this, viz. * How say you, if we devise a way to take off all the antichristian yoke and government of bishops, and will jointly . erect the discipline and government all in one day, in such sort as they shall never be able to prevail to the contrary ? But peradventure, it will not be this year and half?' Or, did you use any words to the like effect, or tending or
• Baker's MS. Collec. vol. xr. p. 72.
+ Baiter's Second Plea, p. 32.
| Baker'i M8. Collec. vol. zv. p. 73, 74.
sounding that way ? To whom, when, and where, and what was your meaning, and only meaning thereby?"4 Such inquisition was certainly designed to ensnare his conscience, and to compel him to become his own accuser, even in the presence of his judges.
After having suffered eleven months' close imprisonment, Mr. Snape united with many others under similar oppressions, in presenting a supplication to the lord treasurer, humbly desiring to be admitted to give bail. At the same time, Archbishop Whitgift sent them a form of submission, which they unanimously rejected. A particular account of these transactions is given in another placet But when he was released from prison, we are not able to learn.
The following anecdote is related of this persecuted servant of God. Mr. Snape, it is said, being cast into prison by the bishops, for nonconformity; and all his money being expended by his long confinement, he met with much unkind usage from the jailer. The good man being one day on his knees in fervent prayer to God, and the window of his chamber being open, observed something thrown into the room; but he resolved to finish his prayer, before he examined what it was. When he rose from his knees, he found, to his great surprize, a purse full of gold lying on his chamber floor. By this unexpected supply, he was more comfortable in his situation, and enabled to make his keeper belter natured ever after.} The Lord heareth the young ravens when they cry ; how much more will he hear his afflicted people!