Humphrey Fenn.—This most learned and venerable divine was several years minister at Northampton, and above forty years a laborious and faithful preacher in Coventry, and uncommonly successful in his ministry; yet
• See Art. Dudley Fenner. + Neat's Puritans, vol. i. p. 406.
+ Sir Francis Walsingham was a steady promoter of the reformation ; a zealous and constant friend to the puritans; and a most celebrated statesman. His talent for business, his eloquence, insinuating address, universal intelligence, and profound secrecy, are mentioned by all our historians. He was employed by Queen Elizabeth in the most important embassies, and / advanced to the post of secretary of state; notwithstanding which, he was so far from accumulating a fortune, that he spent his patrimony in the service of the public, and was buried in the night, at the expense of his friends, through fear of his corpse being arrested for debt: a fault which few statesmen since his time have been guilty of. He died April 6,1590.— WtlwoooTt Memoirs, p. 9—12.—Grmng«r'i Bieg. Hist. vol. i. p. 232.
ii Fuller's Church Hist. b. ix. p. 162, 163.—Strype's Whitgift, p. 226,227.
H MS. Register, p. 585.
be underwent many troubles for nonconformity. While in the former situation, he experienced the cruel oppressions of the times, and was apprehended and committed to close prison, where he remained a long time. During his confinement, the inhabitants at Northampton presented a supplication to Queen Elizabeth, humbly and earnestly beseeching her majesty to grant his release, and his restoration to his beloved ministry. In this supplication they affirmed upon their dutiful allegiance, that during his abode in that place, he had lived an honest and a peaceable life, and gave a high character of his diligence in preach* ing, his obedience to God, and to those in authority. It does not appear, however, whether this application was at all success ML It is very probable he never returned to his charge at Northampton.
Having at length obtained his release, he most probably entered upon his ministerial charge in the city of Coventry. The oppressed puritans being desirous to be eased of their heavy burdens, Mr. Fenn was unanimously chosen by the London ministers, to accompany the Earl of Leicester, in a presentation of their afflictions and desires to those in authority ; but with what success, we have not been able to learn. He consented to this appointment, saying " that he was ready to run, whenever the church commanded him." It is said to have been his opinion, that impropriations, which were attached to her majesty, to colleges, &c. ought to be set to the pastors; and that all tythes, which are appendages by some composition, should be paid to the ministers in specie. It is also observed, that he accounted it unlawful to receive the sacrament at the hands of a dumb minister, or to attend the ordinary service of the church without a sermon.*
Upon the publication of Whitgift's three articles, and the persecutions which followed, he was cited to Lambeth, and, refusing to subscribe, was immediately suspended. When he appeared before the archbishop, he was urged by many arguments, to subscribe; and he, on the contrary, endeavoured to answer those arguments, stating his reasons for refusal. This was as follows:
Archbishop. Your subscription is required by the statute of 13 Eliz.
Fenn. That statute extendeth no further than the confession of christian faith, and the doctrine of the sacraments.
• Baker'i MS. Collec. Toi. Xt. p. 73,78.
A. There is provision in the statute of 7 Eliz., that the queen, with her high commissioners, or the archbishop, may take further order.
F. The proviso of 7 Eliz. can have no relation to 13 Eliz., which was some years after. And the proviso expresseth how far it is to be extended: not to taking away and establishing ceremonies.
A. But so much of the canon law is still in force, as is not contrary to God's word; and you have promised canonical obedience.
F. But the question is, whether the things required be agreeable to God's word ? And not only so, there is no canon which requires us to subscribe to the judgment of our ordinary.
A. That I allow; but the law hath charged the bishop to see that all things for the ministry be duly observed, as by law established; and I take this order for the more effectual execution of things already established.
F. Your care and diligence in the execution of laws must be according to law, and not contrary to law; that is, by admonition, by suspension, by sequestration, or by deprivation, as the case may require. But these proceedings are not according to law; but an inquisition into our hearts and consciences, for which there is no law.
A. I make this a decree and order for the whole of my province, and, therefore, is to be observed as if it had been made before.
F. No one person, nor any number of persons, hath authority to make decrees or constitutions, except in convocation ; which must be called together by the king's writ: As 25 Henry VIII. and 1 Eliz., which is entitled, " The Submission of the Clergy."
A. I have the queen's consent.
F. But that consent was not according to law provided in this behalf. Nor was it done in convocation.
A. I have the consent of my brethren and some others.
F. That was not according to the order of convocation, wherein we are to have our free choice of clerks.*
Mr. Fenn remained under suspension a long time, during the whole of which period his cure was totally neglected.* But by the kind favour of the Earl of Leicester, as appears from his letter to the archbishop, dated July 14, 1585, he was at length restored to his ministry, when he returned to
his charge in Coventry.* The same honourable person also promised, that he would treat with the bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, to obtain his favourable allowance. Though this excellent divine might probably enjoy peace and quietness for a season, his troubles were not ended. In the year 1591, an information was exhibited against him and many of his brethren, for being concerned in the classis, atending their associations, and subscribing the " Book of Discipline;" when they were all apprehended, and committed to prison. A circumstantial account of these proceedings, together with their examinations and endeavours to procure their deliverance, is given in another placet These worthy sufferers, during their confinement, presented a long letter to the queen, dated April, 1592, in vindication of their own innocency.t It does not, indeed, appear how long a time they remained in prison, after that period.
Upon Mr. Fenn's release, he most probably returned to Coventry, where he spent the rest of his days. He died in a firm attachment to those principles for which he suffered. Mr. Clark observes, that he was famous for his ministry and nonconformity in the city of Coventry; and that in his last will and testament, he made so full and open a protestation against the hierarchy and ceremonies, that when his will was tendered to be proved, the prelates, or those of their party, would not allow it to have a place among the records of the courM