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John Field

John Field, A. M.—This excellent divine was a great . sufferer in the cause of nonconformity. There having been several persons of the same name, has rendered it rather difficult to distinguish them; yet this Mr. John Field appears to have been fellow of Lincoln college, Oxford. Wood intimates, that he was afterwards a famous preacher at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London; but this is rather doubtful." It is certain, however, that he was the excellent minister of Aldermary church, in the city.

The puritans having in vain sought for a further reformation from the queen and the bishops, resolved in future to apply to the parliament, and stand by the constitution. Accordingly, they made all the interest in their power among the members, and compiled a treatise, setting forth

« Fuller's Church Hist. b. ii. p. 103. + Strype's Parker, p. 466. £ See Art. Bonham.

$ MS. Chronology, vol. ii. p. 873, (8.)—Parte of a Register, p. 409.
ii Meal's Purilans, vol. i. p. 423. *• Atheme Ojton. vol. i. p. 188.

iheir numerous grievances in one view. This was drawn up by Mr. Field, assisted by Mr. Thomas Wilcocks, and was revised by several of the brethren. The work was entitled " An Admonition to the Parliament;" w ith Beza's letter to the Earl of Leicester, and Gualter's to Bishop Parkhurst, for reformation of church discipline, annexed. It contains the platform of a church; the manner of electing ministers; with their several duties, and their equality in government. It then exposes, with some sharp language, the corruptions of the hierarchy, and the tyrannical proceedings of the bishops. The Admonition concludes with a petition to both houses, that discipline, more consonant to the word of- God, and agreeable to Ihe foreign reformed churches, may be established by law. Their attempt to procure an establishment of their own opinions, Mr. Peirce justly observes, was the greatest fault in the book, or in any of the attempts which the puritans made. With unanswerable evidence they exposed the corruptions of the established ecclesiastical government, and particularly the persecution and tyranny by which it was upheld. But I fear, says he, could they have obtained their desire of the parliament, the platform which they proposed, must have been established by some persecuting laws; which I cannot find that Christ ever appointed his ministers to use for the advancement of his kingdom. All compulsion, and all enforcing of ecclesiastical discipline, by civil penalties, is quite contrary to the spirit of christianity.* Mr. Field and Mr. Wilcocks presented the Admonition themselves to the parliament; for which, July 7, 1572, they were sent to prison; and after examination, they were, by the instigation of the bishops, committed to Newgate.t Upon this, the book, already printed, was suffered to go abroad, and it passed through no less than four editions in about two years, notwithstanding all the vigilant endeavours of the bishops to suppress it.J

The two prisoners were indicted, and sentenced to suffer imprisonment one whole year, which they did accordingly. After having suffered confinement some months in a most loathsome prison, by which their health was greatly impaired, they petitioned their noble friend, the Earl of Leicester, to procure their removal to some other prison, where they should meet with better usage. Their wives and children also presented a petition to the same

• Peirce's Vindication, part i. p. 84, 85. + MS. Register, p. 118. t Strype'a Parker, p. 347.

nobleman, earnestly desiring him to move the queen to discharge them from prison, on account of their great sufferings, and their extreme poverty and want. But these two petitions were without effect.* The prisoners still remained in close confinement, enduring many extreme hardships; and though they were committed to prison three month's previous to receiving the sentence, and remained in prison twelve months after conviction, according to the cruel tenor of the sentence, they could not, even at the expiration of that period, obtain their liberty. Under these afflictive circumstances, they presented the following petition to the lords of the council:

" Whereas, right honourable lords, your poor and daily " orators, John Field and Thomas Wilcocks, being indicted " before the lord mayor and court of aldermen, in the city " of London, upon a statute of the first year of her majesty's *' most happy and gracious reign, entitled ' An Act for the " Uniformity of Common Prayer,' &c. were adjudged to " suffer imprisonment by the space of one whole year, which " they have already fully endured, according to the effect " of the said statute. And now being given to understand, " that they cannot be discharged otherwise than by a special " order from your good lordships, they most humbly, and u for Jesus Christ's sake, pray and beseech your honours, " to take pity of their great poverty and extreme necessity, " now come upon them and their poor wives and children, " through their so long imprisonment. And that in your " accustomed clemency, so graciously and continually " extended towards all her majesty's subjects, you will also " vouchsafe, in compassion to their great misery, take order " for their enlargement. And as in duty they are bound, u so they and theirs will daily pour out their hearty prayers " to Almighty God, for bis merciful favour, and most " gracious protection, to be extended to your lordships for " ever, Amen."+

During their imprisonment, they also petitioned the Earl of Leicester, humbly entreating him to be a means of forwarding their petition to the council. In this petition, they express themselves thus:—" This in all humility " sheweth unto your honour, that your poor and faithful " orators, John Field and Thomas Wilcocks, upon October " 2,1572, by virtue of a certain statute made the first year " of her majesty's reign, were convicted and committed to

" prison, there to continue for the space of one whole year, " and have now endured patiently all that time, besides a " quarter of a year before conviction, to their great charge " and utter undoing. May it, therefore, please your honour, " for the tender mercies of God, and in consideration of " them, their poor wives and children, to be a means with " the rest of her majesty's most honourable privy council, " to whom they have exhibited their most humble supplica" tion that they may be released and discharged, and as much " as in your honour lieth, to promote and further the same. " So they shall be greatly comforted, after this their tedious " and long imprisonment; and they will not be unmindful " to pray for your lordship's great and continued pros" perity."* It does not, however, appear whether they were released, or still detained in a state of confinement.

During the imprisonment of these two divines, Dr. Whitgift published his " Answer to the Admonition," in which he brought many severe charges against its authors: as, " That they were disturbers of good order; enemies to the state; and as holding many dangerous heresies." To

brief Confession of Faith, written by the Authors of the first Admonition to the Parliament, to testify their Persuasion in the Faith, against the uncharitable Surmises and Suspicions of Dr. Whitgift, uttered in his Answer to their Admonition, in Defence both of themselves and their Brethren." This Confession was written from Newgate, dated September 4, 1572, and contains a very judicious and comprehensive statement of their religious opinions, upon the principal doctrines of the gospel, t

In the month of September this year, Archbishop Parker sent one of his chaplains to confer with the two prisoners in Newgate, most probably with a view to convince them of their supposed errors, and bring them to a recantation. During this conference, they acknowledged themselves to be the authors of the Admonition, saying, " We wrote a book in parliament time, which should be a time of speaking and writing freely, justly craving redress and reformation of

* MS. Register, p. 118.

t Upon the holy scriptures, they say, " We hold that they alone ought " to be preached, and the whole of them preached, anil nothing kept back; " and that it is not lawful for men, or for angels, to add any thing thereto, " or take any thing therefrom. And we affirm, that no antiquity, custom, " interpretation, or opinion of men, no, nor statute or ordinance of any

" pope, council, parliament, or prince, may be set against the word of " God."— /Ibid .p. 119—132.

these slanderous many abuses, for which we are so uncourteously treated." A particular account of this conference is given in another place.*

There being no prospect of any further reformation of the church by the legislature, some of the leading puritans agreed to attempt it in a more private way. For this purpose, they erected a presbytery at Wandsworth in Surrey; which, being seated on the banks of the Thames, was convenient for the brethren in London. Among the members of this society was one Mr. Field, lecturer of Wandsworth, and undoubtedly this painful sufferer for nonconformity. The formation of this presbytery is said to have been in the year 1572; in which case, it must not have been in the month of November, as some have supposed, but previous to the month of July ; for on the seventh of July, this year, Mr. Field and Mr. Wilcocks were committed to prison, and remained in close confinement, at least till towards the close of 1573.

Mr. Strype observes, that while these sufferers for conscience were closely confined in Newgate, they were frequently visited by their brethren, Drs. Fulke and Humphrey, and Messrs. Wyburn, Cartwright, Deering, Lever, Crowley, Johnson, and Brown. And upon their appearance before the council, they were told, that unless they could obtain the queen's pardon, they must be banished from their country, for the singular crime of disliking the Book of Common Prayer;+ though at that time there was no law in existence requiring such punishment. Whether they ever sought to her majesty for pardon, we are not able to learn; only in 1574, Mr. Field, we find, was minister of Aldermary church, London.| Though he was released from prison, his troubles were not over. In the year 1577, he was cited before Bishop Aylmer, who pronounced him obstinate, for having taught children in gentlemens' houses, contrary to the prohibitions of the archbishop. Bishop Aylmer, therefore, recommended that both Mr. Field and Mr. Wilcocks might be sent into the most barbarous parts of Staffordshire, Shropshire, Lancashire, or other places, where, his lordship/)bserved, they might be profitably employed in reclaiming people from the ignorance and errors of popery.^

What the bishop recommended was undoubtedly a more

• See Art. Wilcocki. t Strype't Parker, p. 413.

} MS. Register, p. 285. S Strype'a Aylmer, p. 55, 56.

moderate kind of punishment than close confinement from one year to another, in a filthy, cold prison; and was, indeed, exceedingly moderate for a prelate of his tyrannical principles. Accordingly, Mr. Field was silenced or separated from the people of his charge. The parishioners of Aldermary, at the same time, used every effort in their power to procure his restoration. They applied to the Archbishop, as well as to the Bishop of London, but without success. They also presented two supplications to the Earl of Leicester, being one of the council, to be a means of promoting his restoration.

These supplications are now before me, in one of which they expressed themselves as follows:—" We, in most " humble-wise, beseech your honour, that whereas of late " we did to our comfort enjoy, one Mr. Field to be our " preacher, who laboured painfully amongst us for the " space of four years, in preaching the word of God, and " catechizing our youth, teaching obedience both to God " and our prince, and keeping us in good order. Whereas " since his restraint and inhibition, we are left as scattered " sheep upon the mountains, and have none ordinarily to u break unto us the bread of life, than which a greater evil " cannot come upon us. Hearing that God of his great " goodness hath made you the honoured instrument of " restoring many, we, your humble suppliants, beseech " you, even for the cause of God, to be a means also for us. u We feel persuaded that, if the matter be fairly examined, " there will be no cause found in him why he should " be sequestered from us. For we are able to witness to " your honour, even in the presence of Him who seeth all " hearts, that to our knowledge he ever behaved himself " wisely and faithfully, as became a true minister of Jesus " Christ. The things urged against him were never hindered, " impugned, or any way resisted by him, but were duly " kept and observed. And seeing that which he received " was out of our purses, without any burden upon the " church whatever, we cannot help feeling ourselves hardly u treated, that without cause he should be taken from us. " We have used what means we could with the Archbishop " and Bishop of London; but as we could learn of them no " cause of his sequestration, so we could receive no favour" able answer for his restoration. We beseech your honour, " therefore, in behalf of ourselves, our wives, our children, 'l and our servants, so to stand forth our good lord in this " our necessary and holy suit, as that by your means, he " may be again restored : So shall many hearts be made " glad; and we shall evermore pray for your honour's long u and happy stale. Your honour's poor suppliants ever to " command, of the parish of Aldermary, in London."*

How long Mr. Field continued under the ecclesiastical censure, or whether he was ever restored to his charge at Aldermary, appears extremely doubtful.

The next account we meet with of this excellent divine,

men, in a disputation with certain papists in the Tower; but our information is so extremely scanty, that he is only said to have taken an active part in those learned disputations/ and to have collected and published an account of them, after it had undergone the examination of the persons who engaged. In 1584, we find him brought into other troubles, when he was suspended by the Bishop of London. The cause of his suspension was, his admitting an assembly of ministers at his house, among whom were several Scotch divines. These divines being disaffected to the hierarchy, the assembly was declared to be an unlawful conventicle. Mr. Field was, therefore, suspended from his ministry, for entertaining them, and the rest were deprived for refusing subscription.} How long he continued under suspension, and whether he was ever restored, is very uncertain. He died in February, 1587, when his remains were interred in Cripplegate church, London. Mr. Field, a short time before his death, united with his brethren in subscribing the " Book of Discipline.

His Works.—t. Prayers and Meditations for the use of private Families, 1581.—2. A Caveat for Parsons Howtet, concerning bis untimelye Flighte, and Scriching in the clear Day Lighte of the Gospel, necessarie for him, and all the rest of that darke Brood, and uncieane Cage of Papists, 1581.—3. Exposition of the Symbol of the Apostles, 1581.—4. A godly Exhortation, by occasion of a late Judgment of God at Paris Garden, 1583.—He published Translations of many of Calvin's Sermons, and the productions of other learned men.