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Francis Merbury

' Francis Merbury was minister at Northampton, and brought into many troubles for nonconformity, being several times cast into prison. November 5, 1578, he was convened before the high commission; when he underwent the following examination before Bishop Aylmer, Sir Owen Hopton, Dr. Lewis, Mr. Recorder, and Archdeacon Mullins, in the consistory of St. Paul's, London :

' • Baker'. MS. Collec. vol. 1. p. 146. 152.
t Palmer'i Noncoo. Mem. vol. iii. p. 58, 78.

Bishop. Merbury, where have you beeu since your last enlargement ?

Merbury. At Northampton.

B. You were especially forbidden to go to that place. For there you did all the harm.

M. I was not, neither in justice may be inhibited from that place. Neither have I done harm there, but good.

B. As you say, sir.

M. Not so. I refer myself to the judgment of God's church at that place.

B. The last time, you found more favour than you deserved, and more than you shall find hereafter; and yet you vaunted that you had rattled the Bishop of Peterborough, and in like manner you would treat me.

M. If your ears be open to every sycophant, you will have slanders enow: but for proof, bring forth mine accusers. For if bare words will serve your purpose, you may as well accuse me of high treason.

B. Well, sir, what have you to say against my lord of Peterborough, or me ?

M. Nothing; but God save you both.

B. Nothing! Why, you were wont to bark much of dumb dogs. Are you now weary of it ?

M. I came not to accuse, but to defend. Yet because you urge me for advantage, I say, that the bishops of London and Peterborough, and all the bishops in England, are guilty of the death of as many souls, as have perished by the ignorance of the ministers of their making, whom they knew to be unable.

B. Whom such have I made ?

M. I accuse you not particularly, because I know not your state. If you have, you must bear the condemnation.

would be hissed out of the schools. M. Then you had need hire hissers. B. If I, finding one well qualified with learning, admit him, and he afterwards play the truant, and become ignorant, and by his ignorance slay souls, am I guilty of their death ?

M. This is another question. I distinguish and speak of them which never were able.

B. Distinguish! thou knowest not a distinction. What is a distinction ?

M. It is the severing of things which appear to be the

If it were in Cambridge, it B. Nay, that is differentia.9

M. Different, quce non sunt ambigua; but we distinguish those things only which are ambiguous: as, you differ not from the Bishop of London; but I may distinguish between you and the Bishop of London, because you are a man though you were without a bishopric.

B. Here is a tale of a tub. How many predicaments are there ?

M. I answer you according to your question, if I say there are enow of seven. Why do you ask me questions so impertinent ?

B. How many predicables be there ? Where didst thou learn logic-?

M. The last time you spoke of good behaviour; but this is something else. 1 am no logician.

Recorder. Merbury, use my lord more reverently. He is a peer of the realm. I perceive your words are puffed up with pride.

M. I speak only the truth. I reverence him so far as he is reverend; and 1 pray God to teach him to die.

B. Thou speakest of making ministers. The Bishop of Peterborough was never more overseen in his life than when he admitted thee to be a preacher in Northampton.

M. Like enough so, in some sense. I pray God those scales may fall from his eyes.

B. Thou art a very ass; thou art mad; thou art courageous; nay, thou art impudent. By my troth, I think he is mad : he careth for nobody.

JM. Sir, I take exception against swearing judges. I praise God I am not mad, but sorry to see you so much out of temper.

B. Did you ever hear one more impudent.
M. It is not impudency, I trust, to answer for myself.
B. Nay, I know thou art courageous; thou art fool-
hardy.

M. Though I fear not you, yet I fear the Lord.
R. Is he learned ?

B. Learned ! He hath an arrogant spirit. He can scarce construe Cato, I think.

M. Sir, you do not punish me because I am unlearned. Howbeit, I understand both Greek and Latin. Make trial of me, to prove your disgrace.

• What ridiculous trifling was this! Yet tbis is the prelate whom Mr. Strype extols on account of his great learning, and deep knowledge of divinity.—Strype'a jtylmtr, p. 256.

VoL. I. «

B. Thou takest upon thee to be a preacher, but there it nothing in thee. Thou art a very ass, an idiot, and a fool.*

M. I humbly beseech you, sir, have patience, and give this people a betler example. Through the Lord, lam •what 1 am. I submit the trial of my sufficiency to the judgment of the learned. But this wandering speech is not logical.

Hopton. Mr. Merbury, how do you prove all the bishops in England, to be guilty of the death of as many souls as have perished, by the ignorance of the unable ministers which they have made?

M. If they ordain unmeet or unable ministers, they give unto them imposition of hands too hastily, to do which, the apostle saith, they are partakers of other mens' sins. - •

B. The Greek word importeth nothing but the examination of their lives.

M. It is general enough to include both; and it is before set down in the Epistle as a positive law. " A bishop (a word formerly used in a more general sense) must be apt to teach;" and, according to the apostle, if he be not so approved to your conscience, you communicate with his ■ins.

B. What sins are those, I pray thee ?

M. Soul-murder.

B. How dost thou prove that ?

M. The words of the prophet are, " My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." And who should teach

B. Knowledge! Have they not the homilies and the catechism ? It is more, methinks, than they will learn.

M. Yes, or their parish priest either, to any purpose, in many places. .

B. Why then, by thy saying, it seems they have too much of this already.

M. And too little of the other.
B. What other?

M. I mean preaching. What can an ignorant minister see in those things more than a book-learned parishioner?

B. O! thou wouldst have all preaching. Are not the homilies sermons ? i- - > -

M. God giveth his own blessing to his own appointed means, which is preaching, not reading.

* Such was the language from a l»ri bishop, whom Mr. Strype highly commends as an exact logician, and a man of universal learning !Strfft' Aylmer, p. 240.

B. Mark you what his words insinuate. He condemneth reading in churches; and seemeth to affirm, that they are all damned, whose minister is not a preacher. You see what he is.

Dr. Lewis. By St. Mary, these be pernicious errors. Sir, what hay you of them ? ....

M. Mr. Doctor, I allow of the reading of the scriptures in the church; for Christ read Esaias in the temple, and expounded what he read. I am no judge. God hath extraordinary supplies, when he takes away the ordinary means; but it is good for us not to tempt God, but thankfully to use his ordinary means.

L. Go to the purpose. If I present a man to my lord, whom I take to be a true man, and he prove a thief, am I guilty of his theft ? Neither is the bishop guilty of the faults of mimsters, of whom there is good hope when he maketh them. •«•

M. Sir, you argue a paribus, but your reason holdeth not.

L. Why?

M. You may try him who would be a spiritual thief before you trust him: but you cannot try the other till he have stolen something.

L. What trial would you have more than this: he is a honest man, and in time likely to prove learned?

M. Then, in the mean time, the people perish. You will not commit your sucking child to a dry nurse, be she ever so honest.

L. A good life is a good sermon; and such ministers slay no souls, though they be not so exquisite.

M. To teach by example only, is good in a matron whom silence best becometh; but the apostle telleth Titus, that " ministers must be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." » .

B. This fellow would have a preacher in every parish church!

M. So would St. Paul. B. Where wouldst thou have them ? M. In Cambridge, in Oxford, in the inns of court, yea, and some in prison, if more were wanted. We doing our part, the Lord would do his.

B. I thought where thou wouldst be. But where is the

that of the other prelates, and it would never be missed.

B. Go thou on to contrive. Thou shalt orderly dispose of our livings.

M. That is more than you can do yourselves. If rich livings be the fault, they are to blame who have too much. Whatever be the cause, the church fet-leth the smart.

Mullins. Sir, in the beginning of her majesty's reign, there was a defect of able men; and the church was constrained to take such as it could get, upon the recommendation of noblemen.

M. I speak of later times. As for noblemen, they are no sureties for us; and as to the defect, it cannot wholly dispense with the word. A minister must be able to teach.

Mull. Then you would have a preacher, or none at all; and so the church would be unserved.

M. It would be better to have nothing, than that which God would not have.

B. Howjdost thou prove that God would not have them, when we can get no better ?

M. Doth he not say, " Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest unto me ?"

B. Thou are an overthwart, proud, puritan knave.* Thou wilt go to Northampton; and thou wilt have thine own sayings till thou die. But thou shalt repent.

M. I am no puritan. I beseech you to be good to me. I have been twice in prison already ; but I know not why.

B. Where was he before ?

Keeper of the Gatehouse. With me, my lord.

B. Have him to the Marshalsea. There he shall cope with the papists.

M. I must go where it pleaseth God. But remember God's judgments. You do me open wrong. I pray God forgive you.t

Mr. Merbury was then carried to the Marshalsea; but how long he remained in prison we arc not able to learn. Notwithstanding the cruelty with which the good man was treated, he was not a person of severe principles, but acted with great moderation; and afterwards, with liberty of interpretation, became much more conform* able.t A minister of the same name was afterwards

* This prelate was much accustomed to use foul language. He called Bishop Bouner, because he was remarkably corpulent, " My Lord Lubber of London."—Strype't Aylmtr, p. 275.

t Parte of a Register, p. 381—386. \ Baxter's Second Plea, p. 41.

beneficed in the city of London; but whether he was the same person appears rather doubtful.*