At no period has biographical history been so much esteemed and promoted as in these days of christian freedom. The memoirs of wise and good men, especially such as have suffered for the testimony of a good conscience, afford interesting entertainment and valuable instruction. To rescue from oblivion impartial accounts of their holy actions, their painful sufferings, and their triumphant deaths, will confer a deserved honour upon their memory: and there is, perhaps, no class of men whose history better deserves to be transmitted to posterity than that of the persons stigmatized by the name of Puritans.
The cruelties exercised upon them were indeed very great. They Suffered For The Testimony Of A Good Conscience, and an Avowed AttachMent To The Cause Of Christ. The proofs which they gave of their zeal, their fortitude, and their integrity, were certainly as great as could be given. They denied themselves those honours, preferments, and worldly advantages by which they were allured to conformity. They suffered reproach, deprivation, and imprisonment; yea, the loss of all things, rather than comply with those inventions and impositions of men, which to them appeared extremely derogatory to the gospel, which would have robbed them of liberty of conscience, and which tended to lead back to the darkness and superstitions of popery. Many of them, being persons of great ability, loyalty, and interest, had the fairest prospect of high promotion ; yet they sacrificed all for their nonconformity. Some modestly refused preferment when offered them: while others, already preferred, were prevented from obtaining higher promotion, because they could not, with a good conscience, comply with the ecclesiastical impositions. Nor was it the least afflictive circumstance to the Puritan divines, that they were driven from their flocks, whom they loved as their own souls; and, instead of being allowed to labour for their spiritual and eternal advantage, were obliged to spend the best of their .days in silence, imprisonment, or a state of exile in a foreign land.
The contents of these volumes tend to expose the evil of bigotry and persecution. When professed Protestants oppress and persecute their brethren of the same faith, and of the same communion, it is indeed marvellous. The faithful page of history details the fact with the most glaring evidence, or we could scarcely have believed it. A spirit of intolerance and oppression ever deserves to be held up to universal abhorrence. In allusion to this tragic scene, Sir William Blackstone very justly observes, " That our an" cestors were mistaken in their plans of compul" sion and intolerance. The sin of schism, as such, " is by no means the object of coercion and " punishment. All persecution for diversity of " opinions, however ridiculous or absurd they " may be, is contrary to every principle of sound " policy and civil freedom. The names and sub" ordination of the clergy, the posture of devo" tion, the materials and colour of the minister's " garment, the joining in a known or unknown " form of prayer, and other matters of the same " kind, must be left to the opinion of every man's " private judgment. For, undoubtedly, all per" secution and oppression of weak consciences, " on the score of religious persuasions, are highly " unjustifiable upon every principle of natural " reason, civil liberty, or sound religion."*
Perhaps no class of men ever suffered more re- s proach than the Puritans. Archbishop Parker stigmatizes them as " schismatics, belly-gods, deceivers, flatterers, fools, having been unlearnedly brought up in profane occupations, being puffed up with arrogancy."f His successor Whitgift says, " that when they walked in the streets, they hung down their heads, and looked austerely; and in com
* Blaokstone's Comment, vol. iv. p. 51—53. Edit. 1771.
t Strype's Annals, vol. i. p. 481.—Peirce's Vindication, part i. p. 61.
pany they sighed much, and seldom or never laughed. They sought the commendation of the people; and thought it an heinous offence to wear a cap and surplice, slandering and backbiting their brethren. As for their religion, they separated themselves from the congregation, and would not communicate with those who went to church, either in prayer, hearing the word, or sacraments; despising all, who were not of their sect, as polluted and unworthy of their company."* Dugdale denominates them " a viperous brood, miserably infesting these kingdoms. They pretended," says he, " to promote religion and a purer reformation; but rapine, spoil, and the destruction of civil government, were the woeful effects of those pretences. They were of their father the devil, and his works they would do.""f A modern slanderer affirms, " that they maintained the horrid principle, that the end sanctifies the means; and that it was lawful to kill those who opposed their endeavours to introduce their model and discipline.''^ Surely so much calumny and falsehood are seldom found in so small a compass.
Bishop Burnet, a man less influenced by a spirit of bigotry and intolerance, gives a very different account of them. " The Puritans," says he, " gained credit as the bishops lost it. They put on the appearance of great sanctity and
* Strype's Annals, vol. ii. p. 5.
t Dugdale's Troubles of Eng. Pref.
t Churton's Life of Nowell, p. 215.
gravity, and took more pains in their parishes than those who adhered to the bishops, often preaching against the vices of the court. Their labours and their sufferings raised their reputation and rendered them very popular."* Hume, who treats their principles with ridicule and contempt, has bestowed upon them the highest eulogium. " So absolute," says he, " was the " authority of the crown, that the precious spark " of liberty had been kindled, and was preserved, " by the Puritans alone; and it was to this sect " that the English owe the whole freedom of their " constitution."-!"
It is granted that they had not all equally clear views of our civil and religious rights. Many of their opinions were confused and erroneous; yet their leading principles were the same. Though they had, in general, no objection to a national establishment, many of them maintained, " That all true church power must be founded in a divine commission: that where a right to command is not clear, evidence that obedience is a duty is wanting: that men ought not to make more necessary to an admittance into the church than God has made necessary to an admittance into heaven: that so long as unscriptural impositions are continued, a further reformation of the church will be necessary: and that every one who must answer for himself hereafter, must
* Burnet's Hist, of his Time, vol. i. p. 17, 18. t Hume's Hist, of Eug. vol. v. p. 134.
judge for himself now."* These were the grand principles of their nonconformity.
The author of these volumes has spared no labour nor expense in the collection of materials, and has used the utmost care to retain whatever appeared interesting, curious, and useful. Not writing to please any particular sect or party, he has endeavoured to observe the strictest impartiality. In the lives of these worthies, he has not suppressed their imperfections, nor even the accusations of their adversaries; but has constantly stated their faults, as well as their excellencies, without reserve. Neither has he at any time connived at bigotry and persecution, whether found among prelates, presbyterians, or any others. Whoever were the persecutors or aggressors, their case is represented, as near as possible, as it is found in the faithful pages of history. His sole object has been to give a lucid and impartial statement of facts. Indeed, the documents are frequently transcribed in the very words of the authors; and, wishing to retain the genuine sense and originality of the whole as entire as possible, he has constantly avoided dressing them in any garb of his own.
Through the whole, he has invariably given his authorities. These might easily have been multiplied ; but, when two or more authors have given accounts of the same facts, he has invariably chosen that which appeared the most authentic:
* Calamy's Contin. vol. i. Pref.
or, when they have at any time confradicted each other, he has always given both, or followed that which appeared most worthy of credit. In the Appendix, a correct list is given of the principal books consulted; and, for the satisfaction of the more critical reader, the particular edition of each is specified. In numerous instances, reference will be found to single lives, funeral sermons, and many other interesting articles, of which the particular edition is mostly given. In addition to the numerous printed works, he has also been favoured with the use of many large manuscript collections, a list of which will be found at the close of the Appendix. From these rare documents he has been enabled to present to the public a great variety of most interesting and curious information never before printed.
After all, many , lives will be found very defective, and will leave the inquisitive reader uninformed in numerous important particulars. Such defect was unavoidable at this distance of time; when, after the utmost research, no further information could possibly be procured. The author has spent considerable labour to obtain a correct list of the works of those whose lives he has given, and to ascertain the true orthography of the names of persons and places. Though, in each of these particulars, he has succeeded far beyond his expectations, yet, in some instances, he is aware of the deficiency of his information.
He can only say, that he has availed himself of Vol. i. b
every advantage within his reach, to render the whole as complete and interesting as possible.
The lives of these worthies are arranged in a chronological order, according to the time of their deaths.* By such arrangement, the work contains a regular series of the History of Nonconformists during a period of more than a hundred years. It does not in the least interfere with any other publication; and forms a comprehensive appendage to Neal's " History of the Puritans," and a series of biographical history closely connected with Palmer's " Nonconformist's Memorial," containing a complete memorial of those nonconformist divines who died previous to the passing of the Act of Uniformity. To this, however, there are some exceptions. There were certain persons of great eminence, who lived after the year 1662; yet, because they were not in the church at that period, they come not within the list of ejected ministers, but are justly denominated Puritans. Memoirs of these divines will therefore be found in their proper places.
It was requisite, in a work of this nature, to give some account of the origin and progress of Nonconformity, together with a sketch of the numerous barbarities exercised upon the Puritans. This will be found in the Introduction, which may not prove unacceptable to the inquisitive and
* It should here be remembered, that, in all cases, when the particular period of their deaths could not be ascertained, the la$t circumstance noticed in their lives is taken for that period.
pious reader. If its length require any apology, the author would only observe, that he hopes no part of it will be found superfluous or uninteresting ; that he has endeavoured to give a compressed view of the cruel oppressions of the times; and that it would have been difficult to bring the requisite information into a narrower compass.
The work contains an authentic investigation of the progress and imperfect state of the English reformation, and exhibits the genuine principles of protestant and religious liberty, as they were violently opposed by the ruling ecclesiastics. The fundamental principles of the reformation, as the reader will easily perceive, were none other than the grand principles of the first Protestant Nonconformists. Those reasons which induced the worthy Protestants to seek for the reformation of the church of Rome, constrained the zealous Puritans to labour for the reformation of the church of England. The Puritans, who wished to worship God with greater purity than was allowed and established in the national church,* were the most zealous advocates of the reformation ; and they used their utmost endeavours to carry on the glorious work towards perfection. They could not, with a good conscience, submit to the superstitious inventions and impositions of men in the worship of God; on which account, they employed their zeal, their labours, and their influence to promote a more pure reformation.
* Fuller's Church Hist. b. is. p. 76.
And because they sought, though in the most peaceable manner, to have the church of England purged of all its antichristian impurities, they were stigmatized with the odious name of Puritans, and many of them, on account of their nonconformity, were suspended, imprisoned, and persecuted even unto death. These volumes, therefore, present to the reader a particular detail of the arduous and painful struggle for religious freedom, during the arbitrary reigns of Queen Elizabeth, King James, and King Charles I., to the restoration of King Charles II.
The reader will here find a circumstantial account of the proceedings of the High Commission and the Star Chamber, the two terrible engines of cruelty and persecution. The former of these tribunals assumed the power of administering an oath ex officio, by which persons were constrained to answer all questions proposed to them, though ever so prejudicial to themselves or others: if they refused the unnatural oath, they were cast into prison for contempt; and if they took it, theywere convicted upon their own confession. The tyrannical oppressions and shocking barbarities of these courts are without a parallel in any Protestant country, and nearly equal to the Romish inquisition. The severe examinations, the numerous suspensions, the long and miserable imprisonments, with other brutal usage, of pious and faithful ministers, for not wearing a white surplice, not baptizing with a cross, not kneeling at the sacrament, not subscribing to articles without foundation in law, or some other equally trivial circumstance, were among the inhuman and iniquitous proceedings of those courts.
These intolerant and cruel transactions, instead of reconciling the Puritans to the church, drove them farther from it. Such arguments were found too weak to convince men's understandings and consciences; nor could they compel them to admire and esteem the church fighting with such weapons. These tragic proceedings created in the nation a great deal of ill blood, which, alas! continues in part to this day. While the governing prelates lost their esteem among the people, the number and reputation of the Puritans greatly increased, till, at length, they got the power into their own hands, and shook off the painful yoke.
That the Puritans in general were men of great learning, untarnished piety, and the best friends to the constitution and liberties of their country, no one will deny, who is acquainted with their true character and the history of the times in which they lived. Many of them, it is acknowledged, were too rigid in their behaviour: they had but little acquaintance with the rights of conscience; and, in some instances, they treated their superiors with improper language: but, surely, the deprivation, the imprisonment, or the putting of them to death for these trifles, will never be attempted to be vindicated in modern tunes.
The author is aware, however, of the delicacy of many things here presented to the public, and of the difficulty of writing freely without giving offence. But, as honest truth needs no apology, so the pernicious influence of bigotry, superstition, and persecution, he thinks, can never be too fairly and openly exposed. He also believes that all professing Christians, except those who are blind devotees to superstition, or persecutors of the church of God, will rejoice to unite with him in holding up these evils as a warning to posterity.
The work is not to be considered as a medium, or a test of religious controversy, but an historical narrative of facts. It is not designed to fan the flame of contention among brethren, but to promote, upon genuine protestant principles, that christian moderation, that mutual forbearance, and that generous affection, among all denominations, which is the great ornament and excellency of all who call themselves Protestants. A correct view of the failings and the excellencies of others, should prompt us to avoid that which is evil, and to imitate that which is good.
When we behold the great piety and constancy with which our forefathers endured the most barbarous persecution, will not the sight produce in our minds the most desirable christian feelings? Though we shall feel the spirit of indignity against the inhumanity and cruelty of their persecutors, will not the sight of their sufferings, their holiness, and their magnanimity, awaken in our breasts the spirit of sympathy and admiration ? Shall we not be prompted to contrast our own circumstances with theirs, and be excited to the warmest thankfulness that we live not in the puritanic age, but in days of greater christian freedom? Shall we not be constrained to exclaim, " The lines are fallen to us in pleasant places; yea, Lord, thou hast given us a goodly heritage ?"
The author has not attempted to justify any irregularities in the opinions, the spirit, or the conduct of the Puritans. Although he acknowledges that he has, in numerous instances, endeavoured to prove their innocence, against the evil reproaches and groundless accusations of their adversaries, so far as substantial evidence could be collected from historical facts; yet he has never attempted to vindicate their infirmities, or to connive at their sins. They were men of like passions with ourselves; and, from the cruel treatment they met with, we cannot wonder that they sometimes betrayed an improper temper. Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad. Oh, that we may learn to imitate their most amiable endowments!
Though he does not expect to escape the censures of angry partisans, he will thankfully receive any corrections or improvements from those who are disposed to communicate them, promising to make the best use of them in his power. If his endeavours should, through the blessing of God, prove successful in exciting Protestants, of various denominations, to a zealous imitation of the excellent qualities of their worthy ancestors, he will in no wise lose his reward.
The author wishes here to present a tribute of gratitude to his numerous friends, who have favoured him with the use of books and other materials for the work; and, under a deep sense of his multiplied obligations, he now requests them to accept his most grateful acknowledgments.* He desires particularly to express his special obligations to the Trustees of Dr. Williams's Library, Red-Cross-Street, London, for the use of several volumes of most curious and valuable manuscripts.
•Valuable communications of books or manuscripts have been received from the following ministers:—The late Dr. Edward Williams, Rotherham—Dr. Joshua Touknin, Birmingham—Dr. Abraham Rees, London—Dr. John Pye Smith, Homerton — Mr. Timothy Thomas, Islington—Mr. Joseph Ivimey, London—Mr. John Sutcliff, Olney—Mr. William Harris, Cambridge—Mr. James Gawthorn, Derby — Mr. Joshua Shaw, Ilkeston — Mr. Thomas Roome, Sutton in Ashfield—Mr. William Salt, Lichfield—Mr. John Hammond, Handsworth—Mr. Samuel Bradley, Manchester— Mr. John Cockin, Holmfirth—Mr. John Tallis, Cheadlc. Also from the following gentlemen:—Francis Fox, M. D. Derby—John Audley, Esq. Cambridge—Mr. Walter Wilson, London—Mr. J. Simco, ditto —Mr. Joseph Meen, Biggleswade—Mr. T. M. Dash, Kettering— Mr. James Ash ton, Leek—Mr. Isaac James, Bristol—Mr. William Daniel, Lichfield.