Nicholas Brown, B. D. — This learned divine was fellow of Trinity college, Cambridge, and one of the preachers to the university, but dissatisfied with the discipline, of the national church. In the year 1573, he was brought into trouble for two sermons which he preached in the university. For the erroneous and dangerous doctrines supposed to be contained in these sermons, he was several times called before the heads of colleges, and, after repeated examination, was kept for some time in a state of confinement. Dr. Whitgiit, afterwards the famous archbishop, was a leading person in these severe proceedings.
Upon Mr. Brown's appearance before his learned judges, he was required to retract his dangerous positions; which, at first, he utterly refused; but afterwards, it is said, he complied. These dangerous positions were contained in the two following articles: " That in his two sermons, he uttered doctrine and reasons tending to infringe the order and manner of creating and electing ministers, and the regimen now used in the church of England.—And that no priests made in the time of popery ought to have any function in the church of England, except they be called afresh."+ These doctrines, said to have been delivered in his sermons, contain all the crimes with which he was accused even by his enemies. He was, therefore, required to make the following recantation, in the place, and before the congregation, where he had delivered the sermons :
u Whereas, I preaching in this place, the Sunday before
* MS. Register, p. 814. + Strype't Parker, p. 391, S9«.
answering that he " Christmas, and January 25, last past, was noted to have " preached offensively; speaking as well against the manner u and form of making and ordering of ministers and deacons " in the church of England, as by law established : also, " against such priests as were made in the time of King " Henry and Queen Mary, saying that they were not to be " admitted into the ministry without a new calling. I now " let you understand, that I never meant so. For I do here " acknowledge and openly protest, that the manner and " form of ordering ministers and deacons in the church of " England, now established, is lawful and to be allowed. " Also, that the priests made in the time of King Henry and " Queen Mary, now allowed, and now exercising any u function in the church, are lawful ministers of the word u and sacraments, without any new ordering, otherwise than " is prescribed by the laws of this realm."1
Mr. Brown refused to comply with the above tyrannical requisition. He would not defile his conscience by doing that which was contrary to the convictions of his own mind. He considered it to be his duty to obey God, rather than men, though they were the spiritual rulers of an ecclesiastical establishment. He was, therefore, detained in prison a considerable time, but afterwards obtained his release. Notwithstanding this, his troubles were not over. After his deliverance from prison, he was repeatedly convened before the vice-chancellor and heads of colleges. On one of these occasions, the vice-chancellor commanded him to deliver another sermon in St. Mary's church, on a particular day, and at the usual hour of public service, requiring him to read openly and distinctly a paper, which the vicechancellor should deliver to him. He also charged him " to accomplish the same humbly and charitably, without any Jlouting, girding, twisting, or overthxearting any man, and without using any words or gesture tending to the discredit of any person, or to the stirring up or maintaining of any contention or dissention."+ That which the learned ecclesiastic delivered to him, and commanded him to read before the public congregation, was a kind of revocation of his opinions; but he remained inflexible, and would not comply with the tyrannical imposition.}
On account of the cruelty with which he was treated, he presented his distressing case to Lord Burleigh, the chancellor, who warmly espoused his cause, and sent a letter to
• Strype's Parker, p. 391,892.—Baker's MS. Collec. vol. It. p. 55, 56 + Ibid. vol. iii. p. 395, 396. t Ibid. p. 399, 400.
the vice-chancellor, dated June 26, 1573, in which his lordship wrote as follows:—" Mr. Brown was with me," says he, ** five or six days past, to entreat me, that by my means to you and others, he might forbear the execution of a certain order by you as vice-chancellor prescribed, to pronounce a certain declaratory sentence, in a sermon to be made by him now at the commencement. In which matter I had no disposition to deal; yet by the importunity of his sorrowful petition, and purpose not to offend in any such cause wherewith he hath been charged, I did with my pen write suddenly a few lines, to shew my inclination to have him favoured, and so dismissed him. Since which time, he is this day returned to me with a letter from Sir Thomas Smith, the queen's majesty's principal secretary, whereby you shall see how I am entreated to procure more favour for him. And yet without hearing you and others, who best know his cause, I dare not precisely require any alteration of your orders, but do recommend the party, who hath a good report, to be as favourably ordered, as he may find his repair to me hath in some measure relieved him, without hurting the public cause of good order."*
This pacific address from the treasurer proved ineffectual. The tyrannical vice-chancellor and his reverend colleagues refused to observe the generous instructions of the chancellor. Mr. Brown still remained under their ecclesiastical oppressions; and on account of the cruel usage he met with, he again laid his distressing case before Burleigh, July 6, 1573; but whether with any better success, we have not been able to learn.t
The year following, a puritan divine of the same name, and no doubt the same person, was concerned in Undertree's sham plot, when many letters were forged in his name. After examination, his innocence, with that of his brethren, was" made openly and perfectly manifest, t Upon Mr. Brown's removal from the university, he became minister at Norton in Suffolk, where he was afterwards molested for nonconformity. For, in the year 1583, on the publication of Whitgift's three articles, he refused subscription, and, with many others, was immediately suspended. How long he continued under the ecclesiastical censure, or whether he was ever restored, we are unable to ascertain.^
• Strype's Parker, vol. Mix. p. 371, 372.
t Ibid. vol. iv. p. 56. • — - J Ibid. p. 466.
S MS. Register, p. 436, 437.