William Smyth was born about the year 1563, and educated, most probably, in the university of Cambridge. On his entrance upon the sacred function, he was ordained by the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and licensed to preach by the Bishop of Sarum, when he became minister at Bradford in Wiltshire. Having continued in this situation for some time, he went to London, attended the private assemblies of the Brownists' congregation, and probably became a zealous and active member of the church; for which he was cast into prison, where he remained a long time. During his confinement, he was frequently carried before the inquisitors of the high commission and the star-chamber, and after examination, with a view to make him confess and accuse himself and his brethren, he was sent back to prison. On one of these
• Biog. Briton, vol. ii. p. 621. Edit. 1778. + Rapin's Hist, of Eng. vol. ii. p. 141.
occasions, April 5, 1593, he was convened before the Dean of Westminster, Mr. Dale, Mr. Barnes, and Mr. Young, when he underwent an examination, of which the following particulars are preserved:—He said he had been in prison about two months, committed by Dr. Stanhope and others, on suspicion of being privy to the matters concerning the coffin, (referring, no doubt, to the coffin of Mr. Roger Rippon,) carried to Mr. Young's door. He said also that he had been examined first before Mr. Young and Mr. Townsend; next before the Bishop of London and others; and lastly before the Lord Chief Justice and Judge Anderson, but never, to his knowledge, was indicted. He confessed that he had been at an assembly, in the house of Mr. Lees, near Smithfield; but when he was asked whether he belonged to that church, of which Mr. Johnson was pastor, he refused to answer. Also, when it was* demanded whether he had ever any of Barrow's, Greenwood's, or Penry's books in his possession, he again refused to answer. He acknowledged that he came up to London to confer with Mr. Johnson, Mr. Greenwood, and others, and that he attended the assembly in Lees's house, on purpose to hear and see their orders in church matters. He refused the oath ex officio ; and when he was asked whether he would go to the parish church, he refused to be bound, but was desirous to have a conference.* Great numbers of Brownists were now confined in the different prisons in and about London, many of whose names, and their crimes, with their cruel usage, are now before me. The two principal crimes with which they were charged by their enemies, were, their having seen or possessed certain books supposed to have been published by Barrow, Greenwood, or Penry; and their having joined the congregation of Brownists, which, to avoid the persecution of the bishops, assembled in private houses, in the fields, and in woods. For these significant offences, they were stigmatized as rebels, and committed to filthy prisons, where many of them died, and others, after a miserable imprisonment of four or five years, were banished from the country. Mr. Smyth was probably of this number.t