John Stroud was minister first at Yalding, then at
exemplary piety, peaceable behaviour, and a faithful, laborious, and very uselul preacher; but was repeatedly persecuted for nonconformity. He entered upon his troubles
about the year 1567. Having had in his possession the Book of Ecclesiastical Discipline, he was cited before the chancellor to the Bishop of Rochester; and confessing the fact, that such a book had been in his hands, the chancellor said, " it contains treason, rebellion, and heresy," and immediately committed him to prison. Mr. Stroud observing thai he hoped he was not deserving of such hard usage, wished to give sufficient security, but his offer was utterly disregarded. Upon his release from prison, he was forbidden to preach, and even to teach children, within the parish of Yalding or elsewhere, and commanded to depart out of the diocese in forty days. This unfeeling arid inhuman sentence was sent to the churchwardens of Yalding, with a strict command to see it fully executed. But an impartial statement of his case being laid before the Archbishop of Canterbury, the cruel sentence was in part reversed. By the license, and under the seal, of the archbishop, he obtained liberty to continue a twelvemonth; when he returned to Yalding, hoping to proceed in his ministry without further molestation.
His liberty, however, was of very short continuance. For in a few months, he was cited, with several others, to appear at Rochester; and the citation was ordered to be read publicly in the church at Yalding. Upon his appearance in the court, the churchwardens were first called and examined. The chief article of their examination was, " whether any child or children had been baptized in their parish, when the order prescribed and appointed in the Book of Common Prayer was not in all points observed; and whose children they were, who were godfathers and godmothers, and whether they answered according to the form required in the said book?" But the churchwardens were too wise to accuse their own minister, and they were all dismissed.
Afterwards, both minister and churchwardens were again brought into the bishop's court, at Rochester. The churchwardens were first examined as before; and in addition to the former interrogatory, their examination was extended to the following articles:—" Whether any one preached at Yalding without a license ?—Whether any preached who were forbidden, and commanded to leave the diocese?— Whether any such preachers have any unlawful or suspected books, leading to the contempt or derogation of the Book of Common Prayer, or of any orders, rites, or ceremonies of the church, as by law established ? or who hath in any public meeting or private conventicle set forth any such books, or any doctrine therein contained?—And whether they knew or had heard, that Mr. Stroud had observed or done any of the things above named f"
Mr. Stroud being next called, and required to take the oath ex cfficio, to answer the inquiries of the court, he refused till he knew those inquiries. The following interrogalorics were then read to him:—" Have you now, or have you had in time past, any printing-press and letters, and where are they ?—Have you printed any contentious or rebellious books, and when, and where, and how long since, and what is become of them?—Have you any suspected or unlawful books leading to the contempt of the Book of Common Prayer?"—Mr. Stroud refused to answer these interrogatories, which were evidently designed to make him accuse himself, and told the chancellor that these things belonged to her majesty's commissioners, and not to him. Upon this, the angry and cruel chancellor pronounced upon him the sentence of excommunication, which he commanded to be publicly announced in the church of Yalding.* He, also, received the sentence of deprivation from the bishop.
The good man being thus cast out of the church, and reduced to extreme poverty, was obliged to condescend to the low office of correcting the press, and of publishing books to obtain a livelihood. But even in this occupation, he was not suffered to enjoy quietness. For, having published Mr. Cartwright's Reply to Whitgift, he was summoned, November 25, 1573, before the Bishop of London and other high commissioners, when he underwent the following examination:
Mr. Stroud being asked what became of Cartwright's books after they were printed, said he delivered thirty-four of them to the Bishop of London; but the rest were dispersed abroad. And being asked how he dared to print them a second time, seeing the queen's proclamation was against him, he said they were printed before the queen's proclamation came out, or he would not have printed them; upon which, the bishop thus addressed him:
Bishop. Are Mr. Cartwright's books good and lawful, or not ? And will you defend them ?
Stroud. As there is no book without its faults, the book of God excepted; so will I not affirm that this book is altogether without faults; but to defend it I will not. Hr
• MS. Register, p. 191—194.
is of age to defend himself. And as for the book, I think your lordship will not utterly condemn it.
B. I confess there is something in it godly. It is a very evil book that hath no good thing in it. But I say the book is wicked, and is the cause of error and dissention in the church.
Catlin. Wilt thou condemn the Book of Common Prayer ? Is it antichristian ?
S. For these five yrars, I have not served in any church; but when I have attended, 1 have resorted to common prayer, which, if I had condemned it, I would not have done. Yet if I should allow of all things in our ministry, I should allow of those things which his lordship has denied. For he said, in his sermon at Paul's cross, " that there were certain evils in our ministry."
B. Indeed, I said there were. Yet ought they not to be removed by private, but by public authority. . S. That is granted. But are those things to be removed ?
B. Though they may be removed, they are such things as cannot offend the church; and every true christian ought to bear with them until they be removed.
S. I have borne with them, or 1 should not have resorted to the church, as I have done.
B. Have you been a minister, and now given it up ? Every one laying his hand to the plough, ought not to look back, without some special cause.
S. About five or six years since, I was called before my ordinary, who told me I must subscribe, or lose my living, and be discharged from the ministry. Accordingly, I refusing to subscribe, he deprived me of my ministry.
C. Wilt thou receive the communion according to the order prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer ?
S. 1 have never refused to receive it according to the word of God; and where I have resorted, I have received it more than six times in the year.
Goodman. Name one church where thou hast received the communion.
S. You seek to injure me.
G. Nay; we seek to save thee.
5. I have refused to attend upon idle shepherds; and, as you said they were dumb dogs, there can be no good received from them. Therefore, I beseech you to endeavour to get them removed.
6. Why, every member of the church of Christ is a sinner.
B. Shall we then receive no communion ?
Dyer. What sayest thou of the order of baptism ? Wilt thou have thy child baptized according to the order prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer ?
S. I have no child to baptize.
D. Dost thou condemn the order of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, the order of churching women, the burial service, or the ceremonies of the church ?
S. If I had condemned them, I would not have resorted to the church, as I have done.
B. Thou wilt then agree to these three things:—1. " That thou hast offended against the law in printing Cartwright's book.—2. That Cartwright's book is neither godly, nor
lawful 3. That thou dost not condemn the Book of Com^
mon Prayer, but wilt receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, according to the order prescribed."
S. I say as I have said before, if I had condemned the Book of Common Prayer, I would not have resorted to the church, as I have done.
Garret. But wilt thou subscribe ?
S. I will.*
Upon Mr. Stroud's submission to subscribe, he returned to his beloved exercise, and became minister at Cranbrook. But his troubles were not ended. For, upon the translation of Whitgift to the see of Canterbury, his nonconformity exposed him to the displeasure of the new archbishop, who deprived him of his ministry, and commanded him to leave the country. But the good man was so uersally beloved, that multitudes of persons in Kent signed petitions to the archbishop, earnestly soliciting his continuance. In one of these petitions, they address his lordship as follows:
" We know, most reverend father, that Mr. Stroud has been several times beaten and whipt with the untrue reports of slanderous tongues, and accused of crimes whereof he has most clearly acquitted himself. Most of us have heard him preach Christ truly, and rebuke sin boldly, and have seen him hitherto apply to his calling faithfully, and live among us most peaceably: so that, by his diligence and doctrine, not only has our youth been instructed, and ourselves have been confirmed in true religion and learning; but we are daily allured by his holy conversation and example, to a christian life, and the exercises of charity. And no one of us, most reverend father, hath hitherto heard
MS. Register, p. 194—195.
from his own mouth, nor by the credible relation of others, that he has publicly in his sermons, or privately in conversation, taught unsound doctrine, or opposed the discipline, about which, alas! there is now so great a controversy. And as he hath given a faithful promise to forbear handling any questions concerning the policy of the church ; so we think in our consciences, he has hitherto performed it.
" In consideration of these things; and that our country may not be deprived of so excellent a labourer in the Lord's harvest; that the enemies of God's truth, the papists, may not have cause of joy and triumph; and that the man himself may not be thus discouraged and wounded to the heart, in receiving condemnation without examination: We, therefore, most humbly beseech your grace, for the poor man's sake, for your own sake, and for the Lord's sake, either to take judicial knowledge of his cause, that he may be confronted by his adversaries; or, of your great wisdom and goodness, to restore him to his liberty of preaching the gospel among us. So we shall heartily thank God, and shall continually pray for you."*
Besides the above petition, signed by many worthy persons, another was signed by twenty-four ministers and others; a third by George Ely, vicar of Tenderden, and his parishioners; a fourth by Thomas Bathurst, minister of
Walter, vicar of Gouldhurst, and parishioners; a sixth by Matthias Water, minister of Frittenden, and parishioners; a seventh by Anthony Francis, minister of Lamberhurst, and parishioners; an eighth by Alexander Love, minister of Rolvenden, and parishioners; a ninth by Christopher Vinebrook, minister of Helcorne, and parishioners; a tenth by Matthew Walton, curate of Benenden, and parishioners; an eleventh by,William Cocks, minister of Marden, and parishioners; a twelfth by William Vicar, minister of Tisehurst, and parishioners; and a thirteenth by William Hopkinson, minister of Salehurst, and his parishioncrs.t
So high a reputation had Mr. Stroud among persons of true piety, and holy zeal for the protestant religion. All these petitions, signed by numerous persons respectable both for learning and piety, were presented to Whitgift; but whether they proved the happy means of procuring his lordship's favour, is extremely doubtful. Mr. Stroua was a man of most exemplary piety, and uersally beloved,
a fifth by William
» MS. Register, p. 196, 197. t Ibid.
and a most excellent and peaceable divine, but continually molested and vexed in the ecclesiastical courts.