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Title: Brief Records of the Independent Church at Beccles, Suffolk
Author: Rix, Samuel Wilton
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Brief Records of the Independent Church at Beccles, Suffolk" ***

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CHURCH AT BECCLES, SUFFOLK***


Transcribed from the 1837 Jackson and Walford edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                  [Picture: Independent Chapel, Beccles]



                              BRIEF RECORDS
                                  OF THE
                           INDEPENDENT CHURCH,
                                    AT
                            BECCLES, SUFFOLK;


           INCLUDING BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICES OF ITS MINISTERS, AND
                SOME ACCOUNT OF THE RISE OF NONCONFORMITY
                      IN THE EAST ANGLIAN COUNTIES.

                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                            SAMUEL WILTON RIX.

                                * * * * *

                                 LONDON:

             JACKSON AND WALFORD, 18, ST. PAUL’S CHURCHYARD.

                              M DCCC XXXVII.

                                * * * * *

    “The churches in those early times were entirely Independent; none of
    them subject to any foreign jurisdiction, but each one governed by
    its own rulers and its own laws.”

                                                         MOSHEIM, Cent. I.

    “Indeed this way of examining all things by the Word . . . is a
    course I would admonish all to beware of who would avoid the danger
    of being made Independents.”

                                                           OWEN ON SCHISM.

                                * * * * *

                     WILLIAM LENNY, PRINTER, BECCLES.

                                * * * * *

                           THE FOLLOWING PAGES

                              ARE INSCRIBED

                           TO THE YOUNG PERSONS

                OF THE INDEPENDENT CHURCH AND CONGREGATION

                               AT BECCLES.

                                * * * * *



PREFACE.


MANY months ago, I was favoured with a perusal of the earliest records of
the Independent church at Beccles.  An interest in the subject once
excited, I went on to collect such other materials for its history as
fell in my way: and the re-opening of its place of worship, after
considerable alteration, appeared a suitable time for offering these
records to notice, in a permanent and connected form.

Publications of dissenting church history have not usually received
extensive encouragement.  That circumstance is, I believe, chiefly
attributable to the anxiety of dissenting ministers and parents, in
general, to inculcate and maintain the principles of personal religion,
rather than the peculiarities of nonconformity.  A just preference,
unquestionably,—but which has betrayed many into a neglect of topics
immensely, though not supremely, important.  The youth of dissenting
families too frequently grow up in ignorance of any other reason for
their nonconformity than parental example.  The natural result is, that
“by and by, when persecution ariseth,” or when fashion, or emolument, or
the attractive pomp of the national worship, allures, they forsake the
ground which their ancestors maintained at the peril of liberty, and of
life itself.

Viewed in this light, the prevalent disregard of such subjects becomes a
powerful inducement to invite attention to them.  Nor am I altogether
without hope that local associations and attachments, may, in the present
instance, be subservient to such a purpose.  At all events, I am desirous
that my humble compilation should not be regarded as a _mere_ depository
of what is curious; but should tend to encourage a thoughtful and candid
investigation of the history and principles of nonconformity, as they are
developed in works of wider interest and higher literary pretensions.
{vi}

Hence I have been induced to sketch at some length, though, I am aware,
very imperfectly, the rise of nonconformity in the East Anglian
counties,—a topic which deserves to be separately discussed, with the
aids of extensive knowledge and ample leisure.

The value of such a book as this greatly depends upon its accuracy and
fidelity.  At the same time it must be recollected, that general
inferences cannot be deduced from isolated facts.  The cause of
nonconformity, if it be the cause of truth, will not ultimately suffer
from the most candid development of its local history.

I do not know that what I have written can justly give offence to an
individual of any communion.  There is high ecclesiastical authority
{vii} for the sentiment, that “whatever moderation or charity we may owe
to men’s persons, we owe none at all to their errors, or to that frame
which is built on and supported by them.”

I must not omit to acknowledge the assistance I have received from
several ministers and other friends; especially the Rev. Edward Hickman,
of Denton, to whom I am indebted for material aid in compiling the
account of his intimate and lamented friend, Mr. Sloper.

My express thanks are also due to the Rev. Dr. Owen, Rector of Beccles,
for the readiness and courtesy with which he allowed me to inspect the
early parochial registers in his possession.

                                                                  S. W. R.

BECCLES,
_March_ 11_th_, 1837.



CHAPTER I.


Antiquity of dissent from state religions—Leading principles of modern
nonconformity: authority of Christ; sufficiency of the Scriptures; duty
of examining and privilege of interpreting their contents—Right of
private judgment claimed by its enemies—Position and duty of those by
whom it is conceded—Illustrations from English ecclesiastical
history—This right asserted by the first converts to Christianity; by the
reformers—Henry VIII.—Edward VI.—Mary; seeks support from Suffolk
protestants; promises toleration; practices persecution—East Anglian
counties abound with protestants; they petition the queen; are rebuked;
and remonstrate with her commissioners in vain.

IT has been remarked by Lord Bacon, that “those times are ancient when
the world is ancient, and not those we vulgarly account so, by counting
backwards: so that the present time is the real antiquity.”  Modern
institutions are not hastily to be rejected as impertinent or crude; for
they are frequently found to exhibit the successful result of a
protracted struggle between truth and error, or to imbody the accumulated
wisdom of many generations.  But if it be contended that, in speculations
relating to religion, “_quod verum_, _id antiquissimum_,” that antiquity
is the test of truth; they who claim to be free from all human authority
in religious affairs, need not shrink from the application of such a
principle.  The origin of dissent from “the commandments of men,” on such
subjects, must be sought at a period far more remote than the rise of
Independent Churches in England.  Under the Old Testament dispensation,
nonconformity, thus understood, was nobly exemplified and divinely
sanctioned in the instances of Daniel, and the three Hebrew youths.
During the apostolic times its course was distinctly marked.  It has
since mingled with the impurities, and has sometimes been almost lost
amid the intellectual and moral stagnation, of passing ages.  At length
opposing elements again brought it more conspicuously into notice:
obstruction augmented the rapidity of its current; and it will flow on
until it shall be lost in the ocean of piety and freedom, which is
destined to cover the whole earth.

The leading principle of nonconformity, as the term is now generally
employed, to signify a continued separation from the national church of
England, is, the _sole_ authority of Jesus Christ as the head and
lawgiver of his people.  This exclusive right he is alleged to have
claimed, when he cautioned his disciples against the assumption of
ecclesiastical power, emphatically reminding them that _One_ was their
master, “even Christ.” {3}  A sentiment, which, from the peculiar form of
its announcement, he appears to have intended that they should adopt as a
principle and quote as an axiom of his government.  All that _he_ taught
them, they were bound to obey; all that _he_ enjoined, they were to
practise; and he discharged them, by that brief and memorable sentence,
from all spiritual allegiance to each other, and to their fellow-men,
however exalted or wise.  Reason, persuasion, the evidence of the sacred
writings, “the effectual fervent prayer,” and the eloquence of a holy
life, these were the weapons he put into their hands, the only weapons
adapted to the genius of his religion and to the nature of man. {4}

From this view of Christ’s authority is derived another principle
scarcely less momentous,—the absolute sufficiency of the sacred
Scriptures, “the word of Christ,” to prescribe the faith and regulate the
practice of his followers.  A revelation inadequate to these purposes, it
is generally admitted, would be at once derogatory to God, and a cruel
mockery of erring man.  Nor can the perplexity arising out of contending
human powers, and conflicting articles of faith and rules of practice, be
avoided, but by submitting all to one criterion,—“to the law and to the
testimony,”—and by the consideration that “if they speak not according to
this word, it is because there is no light in them.” {5}

The Bible, possessing such claims, addresses itself to every rational
creature with an individuality which none can evade, and fixes upon each
a responsibility which cannot be delegated.  Hence there appears (at
least in the apprehension of a nonconformist) to devolve upon every one
to whom the page of revelation is accessible, the sacred and inalienable
right, or rather the imperious and solemn duty, of personally examining
its contents and submitting to its precepts.  Since its Author has
commissioned none to dictate its interpretation, he has, in effect,
granted to all a perfect freedom of inquiry and discussion.  Nor is it
less a duty than a privilege, to aid, as circumstances may allow, in
elucidating its doctrines and requirements, and in promoting the practice
and the promulgation of such views of religion and forms of worship as an
enlightened conscience may approve.  This right alone, it is urged, could
justify “Peter and the other apostles” when they openly disobeyed the
command of the high priest; and, without claiming any special exemption
in their own case, laid down as the ground of their conduct, the general
principle “we ought to obey God rather than men.” {7a}  They deduced
their duty from their convictions; and while their enemies “took counsel
to slay them,” they firmly resisted the interference of human authority
between their own consciences and that God who “seeketh such to worship
Him” as “worship Him in spirit and in truth.” {7b}  Unhappily there has
not always been found, among persecutors, a Gamaliel to point out the
propriety and the result of allowing the free publication of religious
opinions.  “Refrain,” said he, in terms, a due regard to which would have
saved mankind from an inconceivable amount of suffering; “refrain from
these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of
men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it;
lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” {7c}

Nonconformity, then, dates its existence from the time when the secular
power first infringed upon the liberty wherewith Christ had made his
disciples free.  It professes to be jealous of _his_ authority, and to
adhere to _his_ laws and institutions.  Though ever so palatable or ever
so bitter a draught be presented from another source, it still dares to
draw from the well-spring of truth the waters of everlasting life which
he came to dispense.  Whatever, in modes of faith or forms of worship,
may be enjoined by civil or ecclesiastical powers, it prefers “to keep
close to the college of fishermen, and to the doctrine of inspired
apostles; to a Scriptural creed and a spiritual worship.” {8}  It claims,
in a word, to be the only _true_ conformity.

The right of private judgment in religious matters, which follows
immediately from the first principles of dissent, has been too generally
denied by the rulers of this world to their subjects.  Nevertheless, its
enemies have frequently been constrained to bear a _practical_ testimony
in its favour.  Under varying circumstances in our own history, for
instance, this indestructible privilege has been assumed, alternately, by
the christian convert from paganism, by the protestant, and the papist,
again by the reformer, again by the Roman catholic, and, still more
recently, by the puritan, and the dissenter from protestant
establishments.  This is the moving power which has caused, and the
unfailing clew which has run through, all these changes, and will only
find its termination in the perfect concord and liberty of the universal
church.

To the truly liberal and candid, it must be a subject of profound regret,
that, for so many ages, no party duly appreciated, or heartily
countenanced, the liberty which each, in turn, asserted.  But in
proportion to the sorrow which such a view of ecclesiastical history
occasions, will be the joy, if a gradual though tardy approach to the
full recognition of the rights of conscience can be perceived; and
especially if it be discovered, that there has long existed a numerous
and intelligent portion of the christian world, among whom those rights
have not only been claimed, but generally conceded; not merely assumed to
serve a purpose, but watched and advocated as the invaluable and
inalienable birthright of man.  And although it will be admitted as a sad
evidence of human frailty, if intolerance be found lurking even among the
class of persons just referred to, yet, as a body, they ought never, on
that account, to be ranked with those whose principles would lead them to
enthral the conscience within creeds and formularies of man’s devising.
The characteristic views of congregational dissenters, containing the
very elements of freedom, rise up to condemn, with double energy, the
least departure from its laws in _them_.  They, assuredly, should be the
last to lord it over the consciences of their fellow-men, who,
themselves, acknowledge in religious affairs, no lawgiver but Christ, and
no directory but the Bible. {10}

A glance at some of the great religious alternations which have occurred
in England, will serve to illustrate the preceding remarks, and, at the
same time, furnish occasion to trace, imperfectly, the origin and
operation of dissenting principles in the locality to which the following
pages are especially devoted.  Perhaps it may be found that institutions
which, even by the candid and charitable, are sometimes supposed to have
their foundation in a morbid disaffection towards secular rulers, or at
best, in a too prurient scrupulousness, and to lead to anarchy and
infidelity, are based on nobler principles and tend to happier results.

In various parts of the Roman empire, multitudes were converted by the
instrumentality of the apostles and their successors, and many died in
testimony of their sincerity, and in defence of the right to deviate from
human authorities in their religious creed.  All the sanctions of
Christianity were addressed to the reason, the affections, the hopes, and
the fears, of the individual.  Appealing from human tribunals to the
commission she had received from the King of kings, she challenged the
soul as the province of her undisputed sway; and the sincere convert to
Jesus Christ felt that he dared not, and could not, had he dared, resign
his faith at the bidding of any mortal.

When Christianity was adopted as the religion of the empire, and the
clergy became wealthy and ambitious, the bishops of Rome assumed a
superiority over their brethren, and announced themselves as possessing
infallible authority in matters of faith.  A claim, which, in the
darkness of the middle ages, met with too ready a compliance, and has
strikingly exemplified the fearful consequences of departing from the
plain rules of the New Testament.

During the long reign of popery in England the general perusal of the
Scriptures was prohibited; the services of the sanctuary were enveloped
in a foreign language; a contribution towards the aggrandizement of the
papal see furnished the customary atonement for the worst crimes; and the
extermination of heretics was esteemed the brightest of virtues.

At length Wycliffe appeared;—he urged upon all the study of the
Scriptures as a book “full of authority.” {14}—Luther afterwards
announced himself a dissenter from the established faith.  The
reformation was begun in Germany; and the writings of the reformer were
disseminated at home.

Henry the Eighth, on his accession, vainly thought to arrest the growth
of “heresy” by a rigorous execution of penal statutes against the
Lollards or Wycliffites, while he unconsciously surrendered the principle
of infallibility, on which alone the attempt could be justified, by
entering the arena of controversy with Luther.  The pope declared that
the royal pen had been guided by inspiration, and rewarded Henry’s zeal
with the title “Defender of the Faith.”  So illustrious a controversy
naturally attracted notice; and some were even presuming to compare the
merits of the combatants, when the prince himself shook off the dominion
of the Roman pontiff.  But the privilege which, in so doing, he claimed
for himself, he was not prepared to grant to others, though demanded by
them on far worthier grounds.  He declared himself “head of the church of
England,” {15a} taking care to explain that office as including “full
power to visit and correct all heresies and other abuses.”  Seizing, with
a tyrant’s grasp, the torch which was destined to enlighten the moral
world, he employed it to guard his despotic sway and to kindle the fires
of persecution. {15b}  He dissolved the monasteries, whose existence was
inconsistent with the line of policy he had adopted, and whose wealth
furnished a powerful temptation.  The reading of the English Bible in
churches was prohibited, as well as its perusal by women, artificers, &c.
Spiritual persons maintaining any thing contrary to the king’s
instructions, were to recant or be burned.  Nearly all the leading
doctrines of the Romish faith were retained; and papists and protestants
went together to the stake, the former for denying the supremacy, the
latter for questioning the creed, of an arbitrary and vicious monarch.
{16}

On the death of Henry, a brighter era seemed to be dawning.  The Bible
had already been published in English, and had become the intelligent
study of many.  Edward the Sixth, who succeeded to the throne, and those
by whom his mind was chiefly influenced, were favourable to the
Reformation.  The right of private judgment, sanctioned alike by the
example of the prince and the subject, might reasonably have been
expected to receive encouragement, or at least protection.  Hence
numerous confessors who had fled to the continent, returned joyfully to
their native land, looking for ameliorated institutions, and perhaps
dreaming of entire liberty.

He who contemplates for the first time, this crisis of religious history,
imagines, like some of the early maritime adventurers, that he is about
to plant his foot upon the soil of truth and freedom; but he speedily
discovers that he is chasing a beautiful illusion, and that many days of
suffering and nights of darkness must intervene before the vision can be
realized.

Edward’s advisers loosened the reins of ecclesiastical authority: they
were unconscious that no mortal should have ever held them.  Some
statutes against the Lollards were repealed.  An act of parliament was
passed allowing the sacrament to be received by the laity in both kinds,
of bread and wine, whereas the cup had previously been confined to the
priests.  Prescribing an improved form of worship, though retaining much
of superstition in deference to the popish party, the legislature
enjoined uniformity in the services and sacraments of religion. {17}
Cranmer was directed to draw up articles, with the delusive expectation
of “rooting out the discord of opinions.”  This led to the imprisonment
of many, and even to the burning of some.  But Edward’s better judgment
and his tender heart revolted from the infliction of such a punishment.
He is said on one occasion, to have bedewed with tears the warrant which
he reluctantly signed for the execution of the law, and to have told the
archbishop “that if he did wrong, since it was in submission to his
authority, he should answer for it to God.” {18}  Among those who dared
to differ from the established faith, were Bonner and Gardiner; and Mary,
the king’s sister.  They were incited by protestant persecution, as well
as by their own intolerant principles, to the cruel course by which the
succeeding reign is proverbially distinguished.  The princess pronounced
in reply to Edward’s injunctions, at once her own apology and that of her
victims: “Her soul,” she said, “was God’s.”

Mary was at her manor of Keninghall in Norfolk, when consumption carried
off the young and promising king.  His regard for the cause of the
reformation had induced him to nominate as his successor the Lady Jane
Grey in preference to Mary, in whose mind the claims of the papacy had
been long identified with the rights of her mother Catharine of Arragon.
Finding her claim to the crown disputed by some of the leading nobles,
Mary sought to engage the commons in her cause.  With this view she
“speedeth herself secretly away” (to use the quaint but expressive
language of Fox) “into the North.”  She soon learned that the council had
sent out the Duke of Northumberland with an army in support of her rival,
and “tossed with much travel up and down, to work the surest way for her
best advantage, withdrew herself into the quarters of Northfolk and
Suffolk, where she understood the Duke’s name to be had in much hatred
for the service that had been done there of late, under King Edward, in
subduing the rebels; and there gathering to her such aid of the commons
on every side as she might, keeping [kept] herself close for a space
within _Fremingham Castle_. {19}  To whom, first of all, resorted the
Suffolk men; who being always forward in promoting the proceedings of the
gospel, promised her their aid and help, so that she would not attempt
the alteration of the religion which her brother King Edward had before
established, by laws and orders publicly enacted and received by the
consent of the whole realm in that behalf.  To make the matter short,”
adds the historian, “unto this condition she eftsoons {20a} agreed, with
such promise made unto them that no innovation should be made of
religion, as that no man would or could have misdoubted her. {20b}  Which
promise if she had as constantly kept as they did willingly preserve her
with their bodies and weapons, she had done a deed both worthy her blood,
and had also made her reign more stable to herself through future
tranquillity.  For though a man be never so puissant of power, yet breach
of promise is an evil upholder of quietness; fear is worse; but cruelty
is the worst of all.” {21a}

Mary no sooner found herself, by “the power of the gospellers,” firmly
seated on the throne, than she qualified the promises she had made them
in the hour of need, declaring, that she would not compel her subjects to
be of her religion, _till public order should be taken in it by common
consent_. {21b}  A parliament sufficiently obsequious was assembled; the
laws passed in the preceding reign, in favour of the reformation, were
repealed, the service and sacraments used at the close of the reign of
Henry the Eighth, restored, {22a} and the crown and realm of England
formally reconciled to the papal see.  A series of barbarities ensued,
under the alleged sanction of religion, at the recital of which humanity
shudders.  The persecutors had been taught in the school of their
victims, and neither party understood the principles of religious
liberty.  All the people were required to come to church, where the mass
was revived. {22b}  To deny the supremacy of the pope, was once more
become as heinous an offence as it had been to question that of Henry the
Eighth during the latter years of his reign.  The dungeon and the faggot
{22c} were the arguments by which erring judgments and tender consciences
were to be restored and comforted.  When some members of the convocation
declined subscribing to the doctrine of transubstantiation, the
discussion was terminated with the following conclusive reasoning:
“_You_,” said the prolocutor, “have the _word_, but _we_ have the
_sword_.” {23a}  An argument which has not unfrequently been employed in
behalf of a state religion in more enlightened times.

Rogers, the protomartyr of Mary’s short but frightfully sanguinary
career, died because he would acknowledge no head but Christ, of his
catholic church, and no authority above the word of God. {23b}  Saunders,
Hooper, Bradford, Latimer, Ridley, and the frail but afterwards repentant
and magnanimous Cranmer, with a multitude of less eminent but equally
honourable and worthy men, expired in the flames, to testify their
attachment to a faith which, three years earlier, their rulers had taught
them to admire and maintain.

Suffolk, and the adjacent maritime counties, had always been the
stronghold of protestantism.  Their geographical situation occasioned
considerable intercourse with the continent, where the reformation still
flourished, and whither many were self-exiled for conscience’ sake.  At a
much earlier period the Lollards appear to have been numerous in Norfolk;
they had been multiplied by persecution, and by a comparatively extensive
circulation of the writings of the reformers. {24a}  Undeterred by the
terrible examples of the queen’s severity, the protestants of Suffolk and
Essex met privately for religious worship. {24b}  Great numbers entirely
forsook the public authorized service.  At Stoke in Suffolk, there was a
congregation of protestants, so considerable in number and so united in
their views, that the bishops for some time hesitated to interfere.  And
at last, when the whole society was required to come to church, they
contrived to escape, leaving their angry diocesan first to suspend, and
then to excommunicate them. {24c}

Every where the protestants had to endure the anxiety attending an
exposure to the vengeance of their enemies, or the privations and
inconveniences of concealment.  Indescribably dreadful as the pains of
martyrdom must have been, they were brief in their duration, and their
very bitterness kindled the pity of the spectator and the fortitude of
the victim.  Perhaps the total amount of misery which they occasioned,
was overbalanced by the less agonizing, but more protracted and retired,
sufferings of the multitudes who “wandered in deserts, and in mountains,
and in dens, and in caves of the earth,” and “of whom” (with equal truth
it might be affirmed) “the world was not worthy.”  The following are,
probably, neither rare nor extreme instances.  In the parish of St.
James, near Bungay, there resided a family named Fisk.  Of six brothers,
three were protestants.  A pursuivant employed to apprehend one of them,
gave him, from motives of personal friendship, a private notice of the
intention to seize him.  Whereupon, the good man first called his family
to prayer, and then hastened away to hide himself in a ditch, with his
godly wife and her helpless babe.  Another of these brothers was, to
avoid burning, hid many months in a pile of wood; and afterwards, for
half a year, in a cellar, where he diligently employed himself in
profitable manufactures by candlelight; but his many hardships brought on
an excessive bleeding, which shortened his days, and added unto the cry
of the “souls under the altar.” {26a}

Calling to mind their own efforts and the queen’s promise, the Suffolk
protestants ventured to send a deputation to her to represent their
grievances.  But, “it was,” as Fox very justly remarks, “an heavy word
that she answered them: ‘Forasmuch,’ saith she, ‘as you, being but
members, desire to rule your head, you shall one day well perceive that
members must obey their head, and not look to bear rule over the same.’”
{26b}  One of the deputation having referred to the particular ground on
which they rested their claims, was put in the pillory three days, and
had his ears cut off.

When the queen and council sent commissioners to Norfolk and Suffolk “to
enquire into matters of religion,” a supplication was presented “by some
good and well disposed men dwelling about those parts,” {27} in which
they contended earnestly for the superiority of King Edward’s ritual.
“All our bodies, goods, lands, and lives,” say they, “are ready to do her
Grace faithful obedience and true service of all commandments that are
not against God and his word: but in things that import a denial of
Christ, and refusal of his word and holy communion, we cannot consent nor
agree unto it . . . We think it no true obedience unto the queen’s
highness or to any other magistrate ordained of God under her, to obey in
the things contrary to God’s word, although the same be never so straitly
charged in her Grace’s name . . . We think not good by any unlawful stir
or commotion, to seek remedy . . . But unto such ungodly bishoplike
commandments, as are against God, we answer with the apostles, _God must
be obeyed rather than man_.  If persecution shall ensue, (which some
threaten us with,) we desire the heavenly Father, according to his
promise, to look from heaven, to hear our cry, to judge between us and
our adversaries, and to give us faith, strength, and patience, to
continue faithful unto the end, and to shorten these evil days for his
chosen’s sake; and so we faithfully believe he will.”

The queen was alike deaf to reason and regardless of her promise.  She
answered the remonstrances of those who reverenced the Scriptures more
than her command, and valued conscience more than life, with the most
fearful torments bigotry and tyranny could inflict.  Suffolk furnished
its share of victims.  Amongst them were, Dr. Rowland Taylor of Hadleigh,
and three men who suffered in the town, to which the subsequent records
more immediately relate.



CHAPTER II.


Description of Beccles—modern improvements—probable state in the reign of
Mary; the scene of persecution—Fox’s account of the burning of three men;
their examination; sentence; articles against them; their conduct and
treatment at the stake—Remarks.

IN point of situation and general appearance, Beccles has been accounted
by some worthy to rank as the third town in Suffolk.  Towards the west it
is skirted by a cliff, once washed by the estuary which separated the
eastern parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. {29}  A portion of the most
elevated ground is occupied by the parish church and church-yard,
commanding a view somewhat more expanded and interesting than is common
in this part of the county.  It overlooks the valley of the appropriately
designated river Waveney.  The church is a handsome building, said to
have been erected about A.D. 1369.  Its south porch, of rather more
recent date, affords a fine specimen of highly ornamented Gothic
architecture. {30a}  A massive tower of freestone, erected early in the
sixteenth century, stands apart from the church.  The other principal
buildings, for public purposes, are, a town-hall; a spacious modern gaol;
a theatre; an assembly room, to which is attached an apartment used as a
public library; a free school for instruction in “writing, cyphering, and
learning,” and in the established religion; a meeting-house belonging to
the Society of Friends, appropriated to the purpose of an infant school
room; {30b} and the meeting-houses or chapels of the Independent,
Baptist, and Wesleyan denominations of christians.

The population of Beccles, as stated in the census of 1831, was 3862, and
is considered to be gradually increasing.  The town possesses the
commercial advantage of a communication by water with the sea at Yarmouth
and Lowestoft.  An extensive tract of marshes, formerly held by the abbot
of Bury St. Edmund’s, as part of the manor of Beccles, has long been
vested in incorporated trustees for the benefit of the inhabitants.
There are also other lands held for charitable uses.

It is probable, that long before the arm of the sea had retired within
the humble banks of the Waveney—while Yarmouth was yet a sand-bank, swept
by the ocean—the spot in question had become the settled abode of some
who found in the adjacent waters a ready means of subsistence. {31}  It
is generally supposed that the name, Beccles, was adopted with reference
to a church which had been built here at an early period. {32}  Possibly
Sigebert, king of the East Angles, and founder of a monastery at Bury,
might select this place, among others, for the establishment and
propagation of the Christian faith, which he had imbibed during a
voluntary exile in France. {33}  The manor and advowson of Beccles were
granted by King Edwy, about A.D. 956, to the monks of Bury, and remained
in their possession until the dissolution of the religious houses under
Henry the Eighth.

In most of its local features, as well as in its commercial, civil, and
moral interests, the town has, no doubt, greatly improved since the
period to which the close of the preceding chapter refers.  Navigation
and intercourse with other inland places have been facilitated; and
trade, adapting itself to existing circumstances, has been extended.
More efficient municipal regulations, and advancing civilization, have
contributed to the preservation of order, and led to an extension of
privileges to the inhabitants.  Considerable progress has been made
towards an improved system of prison discipline. {34}  Schools, public
and private, have, in some degree, tended to raise the tone of society,
to soften the obdurate, and to tame the rude.  The attachment to cruel,
sensual, and frivolous amusements has abated, and a regard to the
pursuits of literature and science has become perceptible.  Nor can it be
reasonably doubted that the exercise of an evangelical ministry in the
separate congregation of the Independents, for nearly two centuries, and
the labours of Christian ministers of other denominations, have been
productive of incalculable moral, intellectual, and religious advantages
to the town and neighbourhood.

The aspect of the place must have been very different when Mary succeeded
to the crown of England.  The parish church and its “beautiful gate,”
were then _more_ beautiful than at present.  The tower, still the
characteristic local feature of the town, was fresh and fair from the
hands of the architect.  Besides the wealthy abbey, there had been many
contributors to the erection of these buildings, who had evinced a zeal
in the completion of them worthy the imitation of protestants.  But there
is reason to believe that to those features a strong contrast was
presented in the generally mean appearance, the gross ignorance, and
moral deformity of the town.  Coarse rushes, produced by the common lands
with an abundance sufficiently indicative of an almost worthless soil,
furnished the carpet and the covering of most of the dwelling-houses.
{35a}  Superstition prevailed in the public services of the sanctuary.
The “men of wyrship” appear to have been greatly deficient in forbearance
and liberality, while a large portion of the inhabitants were
boisterously tenacious of civil rights, which they were scarcely
competent to manage. {35b}  The seal of the late corporation of Beccles
Fen bears such a representation of the gaol, existing in 1584, as leaves
no room to question the account of “one having _hewed_ himself out of
it.” {36}

Prodigal of human suffering as Mary was, it was nevertheless a part of
her usual policy to make each instance of capital punishment for heresy
_tell_ as extensively as possible.  Beccles, the centre of a rural
district in which the principles of protestantism had taken root, never
to be eradicated, was chosen to be the scene of the first martyrdom by
which her agents in the diocese of Norwich sought to terrify her subjects
into conformity.  The account given by Fox of the occurrence, must occupy
a place in these pages.  It is intimately connected with the history of
nonconformity in Beccles.

Such punishments for such offences, wherever they were inflicted, could
not fail to rouse a spirit of inquiry.  Men would naturally turn from a
spectacle so horrifying to investigate the basis of the institution it
was intended to support, and to search into the expediency of intrusting
the rule of faith with human beings, whose fallibility did not abate a
particle of their bigotry.  The more conspicuous the sufferings of the
martyrs were made, the more certainly and extensively did they tend to
the dissemination of truth and freedom.

The faithful historian, having recorded and done honour to the Christian
heroism of several “constant professors of Christ” who were burned at
Colchester, Stratford le Bow, Smithfield, and Gloucester, thus proceeds:—

                       “_Three burnt at Beckles_. {37}

    “After the death of these aboue rehearsed, were three menne burnt at
    Beckles in Suffolk, in one fire, about the 21 day of May, An. 1556,
    whose names are hereunder specified—

    “Thomas Spicer, of Winston, laborer,

    “John Deny, and Edmund Poole.

    “This Thomas Spicer was a single man, of the age of nineteene yeares,
    and by vocation a labourer, dwelling in Winston, the countie of
    Suffolke, and there taken in his maister’s house in summer, about or
    anone after the rising of the sunne, (being in his bed,) by James
    Ling and John Keretch of the same towne, and Wil. Dauies of Debnam,
    in the saide Countie.

    “The occasion of his taking was, for that he would not go to their
    popish church to heare masse, and receive their idoll at the
    commandement of Sir John Tirrell, Knight, of Gipping hall in
    Suffolke, and certaine other Justices there, whoe sent both him and
    them to Eye dungeon, in Suffolke, till at length they were all three
    togither brought before Dunning, then chancellor of Norwich, and M.
    Mings the Register, sitting at the town of Beckles, to be examined.

    “And there the said Chancellor perswading what he coulde to turn them
    from the truth, could by no meanes preuaile of his purpose.  Whereby
    minding in the ende to giue sentence on them, hee burst out in
    teares, intreating them to remember themselues, and to turne againe
    to the holie mother church, for that they were deceiued and out of
    the truth, and that they shold not wilfully cast awaie themselues,
    with such like words.

    “Now as he was thus labouring them and seemed very loth to read the
    sentence, (for they were the first that he condemned in that dioces,)
    the Register there sitting by, being weary, belike, of tarying, or
    else perceiuing the constant martyrs to bee at a point, called upon
    the chancellor in haste, to rid them out of the waie, and to make an
    ende.  At the which words the chancellor read the condemnation ouer
    them with teares, and deliuered them to the secular power.

                              “_Their Articles_.

    “The articles obiected to these, and commonlie to all other condemned
    in that diocesse by Doctor Hopton, Bishoppe of Norwich, and by
    Dunning his chancellor, were these:

    “1.  First, was articulate against them that they beleeued not the
    Pope of Rome to bee supreame head immediatelie under Christ in earth
    of the uniuersall catholike church.

    “2.  Item, that they beleeued not holie bread and holie water, ashes,
    palmes, and all other like ceremonies used in the church to bee good
    and laudable for stirring up the people to deuotion.

    “3.  Item, that they beleeued not, after the words of consecration
    spoken by the priest, the very naturall body of Christ, and no other
    substance of bread and wine to be in the sacrament of the altar.

    “4.  Item, that they beleeued it to be idolatry to worship Christ in
    the sacrament of the altar.

    “5.  Item, that they tooke bread and Wine in remembrance of Christ’s
    passion.

    “6.  Item, that they would not followe the crosse in procession, nor
    be confessed to a priest.

    “7.  Item, that they affirmed no mortall man to haue in himselfe free
    will to do good or euill. {40}

    “For this doctrine and articles aboue prefixed these three (as is
    aforesaid) were condemned by doctor Dunning, and committed to the
    secular power, Sir John Sylliard beinge the same time high sheriffe
    of Northfolke and Suffolke.

    “And the next day following uppon the same they were all burnt
    togither in the said towne of Beckles. {41a}  Whereupon it is to be
    thought that the writte _de comburendo_ was not yet come downe nor
    could not be, the Lord Chancellor, Bishoppe Heath, being the same
    time at London. {41b}  Which, if it bee true, then it is plaine, that
    both they went beyond their commission that were the executioners,
    and also the clergie, which were the instigatours thereof, cannot
    make good that they now pretend, saying that they did nothing but by
    a lawe.  But this let the Lord finde out when he seeth his time.

    “In the meane time, while these good men were at the stake, and had
    praied, they saide their beleefe; and when they came to the reciting
    of ‘the catholike church,’ Sir John Silliard spake to them; ‘That is
    well said, sirs, quoth he, I am glad to heare you saie you do beleeue
    the catholike church; that is the best word I heard of you yet.’

    “To which his sayings, Edmund Poole answered, thogh they beleeue the
    catholike church, yet doe they not beleeue in their popish church,
    which is no part of Christ’s catholike church, and therefore no part
    of their beliefe.

    “When they rose from praier, they all went ioyfullie to the stake,
    and being bound therto, and the fire burning about them, they praised
    God in such an audible voice, that it was wonderful to all those that
    stood by and heard them.

    “Then one Robert Bacon, dwelling in the saide Beckles, a very enemie
    to God’s truth, and a persecutor of his people, being there present
    within hearing thereof, willed the tormentors to throwe on faggots to
    stop the knaues’ breathes, as he tearmed them; so hot was his burning
    charitie.  But these good men, not regarding their malice, confessed
    the truth, and yeelded their lives to the death, for the testimonie
    of the same, very gloriouslie and ioyfullie.  The which their
    constancie, in the like cause, the Lord grant wee may imitate and
    followe unto the ende: whether it bee death or life, to glorifie the
    name of Christ.  Amen.”

These were the nonconformists of their day.  Ignominy and torture were,
in their estimation, preferable to the reproaches of an enslaved and
guilty soul.  But it is not for the purpose of indulging an acrimonious
feeling towards the immediate or remote perpetrators of a legalized
murder that this account has been introduced.  The severity of the
punishment is of minor importance, except as it places in a strong light
the fallacious and mischievous principle from which it originated.  The
question is not, whether these men ought in justice to have suffered less
than they did; whether, instead of being roasted amidst the scoffs of a
depraved and deluded rabble, they should have been burnt in the hand, or
branded on the forehead, or scourged and suffered to depart; or whether
there should have been substituted for the pangs of martyrdom, only the
deprivation of some civil rights, or the exaction of “a peppercorn rent”
in testimony that they had “an interest in the services” {44} of the
national church, and in acknowledgment of their spiritual allegiance to a
blood thirsty and despotic woman.  It is not whether on their submission
to such terms they should have been pitied on account of their errors,
and tolerated on the score of their sincerity and their peaceableness.
No.  The inquiry which presents itself is, whether the exaction of the
very smallest possible penalty, with whatsoever name it might have been
gilded over, would not have involved the violation of a principle of
incalculable moment to the interests of religion, of justice, and of
freedom.  The queen would still, if the grounds of modern nonconformity
be tenable, have outstepped her province, and have interfered with rights
derived from a source paramount to her own.

The charge brought against the Beccles martyrs was, in substance, that
their religious creed and observances differed from those of the Roman
Catholic church, which had been set forth, by public authority, for the
adoption of all.  It is deserving of notice, that of the seven articles
which constitute their accusation, four relate exclusively to an
erroneous _belief_.  Thus the very recesses of the heart were invaded.
The faith of the unfortunate man, who could not find the doctrines of
popery in his Bible, was extracted from him by interrogatories, and he
was compelled to expiate in the flames the crime of preserving “a
conscience void of offence towards God.”  The remaining allegations
relate to outward ceremonies which these individuals regarded as
unscriptural and even idolatrous; and the observance of which, by them,
must therefore have been an abomination to the Searcher of hearts. {45}
Him they refused to mock with a worse than formal service.  And for these
offences their fellow-creatures proceeded to “rid them out of the way.”

Such is bigotry in the most hideous aspect she assumes.  But if the
principle be admitted, that faith or practice in religion is a fit
subject for magisterial interference, it surely savours of harshness to
censure Mary for affording her patronage to the creed she had sincerely
imbibed, and to the rites she had been taught by maternal lips to hold
sacred.  Nor can there be any security that the supreme power in a state,
if invested with authority in matters of faith, shall not prefer the
licentious speculations of deism, or the delusions of the false prophet.
It is in vain to contend that the establishment of the true religion
alone is justifiable, for who is to solve the question, What is truth?
If the ruler; shall Henry, or Edward, or Mary, or Elizabeth decide?  Or
shall the prince be guided in his selection by the majority?  In England
the suffrages may be in favour of episcopacy; in Scotland of
presbyterianism; in Ireland and in Canada of Catholicism; in India of
polytheism.  Accordingly, with the exception of the last, these several
forms of religion are at present established under the authority of the
crown of Great Britain.  Why does not the majority prevail in Ireland or
in India?  Is the alleged idolatry of the sister island less tolerable
than that of the transatlantic colony? or are numbers of less account on
the banks of the Ganges than of the St. Lawrence?

But how multifarious and inconsistent a thing would thus be made of
religion!  How are its beauty tarnished, its name degraded, and its
influence neutralized, by this admixture of earthly elements, this rude
and needless effort to grasp and to uphold its etherial principles!  Is
truth thus mutable, or can it be thus bandied from hand to hand?

Whatever is established by the authority, should also be supported by the
sanctions of government.  And if gentle methods prove insufficient to
check an offence _cognizable by the magistrate_, it is his duty to
augment severity in proportion to the obstinacy of the offender.  If even
the dread of death fail to accomplish the desired reformation; to
mitigate the punishment is to exchange the character of a judge for that
of a tormentor, to lay aside the semblance of a wise and beneficent
discipline, and to indulge the gratification of a wanton and useless
cruelty. {48a}  It would be easier, in such a case, to justify the
infliction of superadded torture, than of the lightest penalty.

It is difficult to conceive that principles leading to such results will
ever again be allowed to prevail against the liberties and lives of
Englishmen.  But if, as some strangely apprehend it may, the Roman
Catholic faith should regain the ascendancy in this country, it would be
interesting and profitable to observe the course which would be adopted
by those who are at once enamoured of establishments, and at deadly feud
with popery.  Some would, no doubt, be prepared, with Archdeacon Balguy,
“to defend, not popery only, but paganism itself—every _established_
religion under heaven.” {48b}  But it may reasonably be supposed that
such a sentiment would, in the present day, be very generally discarded
as antiquated and untenable.  The following language of a contemporary
clergyman may, probably, be considered as indicating the views with which
the supposed event would be more generally met by protestant
episcopalians.  “If the presbyterians or papists were to-morrow the great
majority of the nation, and if the constituted authorities of the land,
king, lords, and commons, thinking either of these persuasions the best
religion, were to establish it by law, _I should then become a
dissenter_.  With my belief in the scriptural authority of episcopacy, I
could not conscientiously be a presbyterian; and with my knowledge of the
antiscriptural doctrines of the church of Rome, _I must separate_ from
her communion.” {49}  The intelligent, conscientious, and consistent
protestant would make his appeal, as did the martyrs, to the only supreme
authority.  Here, he would say, placing his hand upon the word of God,
here alone, is “the religion of protestants:”

   “_Here_ is the judge that stints the strife
      When men’s devices fail;
   Here is the bread that feeds the life
      That _death cannot_ assail.” {50}

By the light of reason and in the exercise of prayer for that better
illumination which cometh from above, he would commit himself to this
safe guide.  While he would value the protection, and conform to the
regulations, and discharge the imposts, of civil government, in reference
to things pertaining to its province; if for his religious profession he
endured suffering or privation, whatever its garb, its nature, or its
extent, he would resist with firmness; or succumb with reluctance, and
complain of persecution.  The absence of the faggot or the rack would not
be admitted to purge away the stain of injustice. {51a}  Whether debarred
of personal liberty, or of some minor privilege of citizenship; subject
to a legal slaughter, or to a legal tax; he would regard the champions of
established catholicism as trampling upon the just liberties of a
Christian man.  He could give them, at best, no more that the poor praise
of having learned to imitate the Italian assassins, who beat their
victims with satchels of sand: no blood is spilt and no bones are
broken—but the sufferer dies by the operation. {51b}

“_Any sort_ of punishment, disproportioned to the offence, or where there
is no fault at all, will always be severity, unjustifiable severity, and
will be thought so by the sufferers and bystanders.” {52a}  However
disguised, or modified, or attenuated may be the persecution, they will
regard it as persecution still, and will justly apply to its authors,
with whatever communion they may be connected, or whatever pretensions
they may set up, the language Milton puts into the lips of an archangel,
to whom many of the episcopal edifices are dedicated:—

             “What will they, then,
    But force the Spirit of grace itself, and bind
    His consort liberty?  What, but unbuild
    His living temples, built by faith to stand,
    _Their own faith_, _not another’s_?—for on earth
    Who, against faith and conscience, can be heard
    Infallible?” {52b}



CHAPTER III.


Queen Elizabeth, an intolerant protestant; her measures—Rise of the
puritans; their views and position; persecuted; instances in eastern
counties—Account of the “prophesyings;” suppressed by the queen—Continued
cruelty—Norfolk and Suffolk petitions—Whitgift’s articles—New commission
granted—Aylmer—Puritan clergy summoned to London—William Fleming, rector
of Beccles; his connexion with corporation differences; testimony to his
worth arising out of them; summoned; deprived of the living—Honourable
record of his interment—Justifiableness of his nonconformity.

THE accession of Elizabeth, once more, revived the hearts of the
reformers.  Her personal character, indeed, afforded no hope of her being
favourable to freedom, though her parentage and education led to the
reasonable expectation that she would encourage protestantism.  Of all
that was safe to be believed and fit to be practised, she deemed herself
the competent and supreme judge.  Regarding the privilege of dissenting
from the state religion as part of her prerogative, she exercised that
right herself, and then sternly denied it, alike to the learned and the
rude, the conscientious and the careless, among her subjects.  Her
proclamation prohibited all preaching, until consultation should be had
by parliament.  In that assembly she was no less absolute than elsewhere.
The supremacy of the church of England was again vested in the crown, and
a statute {54} passed which was designed to establish uniformity in
religion, and required all persons, having no lawful or reasonable
excuse, to resort to their parish churches, every Sunday, and on all
holidays.

Under the authority of the Act of Supremacy, a court was erected, called
the court of High Commission, which took cognizance of religious matters,
without the aid of a jury.  The liturgy was revised, and rendered more
palatable to the papists.  The clergy were required to comply with all
the queen’s injunctions, and at their entrance on their cures, publicly
to assent to a declaration of articles of religion, drawn up by the
bishops.

Previously to this period, the contest between catholicism and the
reformed faith had absorbed all minor differences of opinion.  But the
frequent changes of the national creed, induced many to consult the Bible
for themselves, in order to ascertain its testimony as to faith and
discipline.  It was impossible the humblest capacity should not perceive
that, had it been a part of Christian duty, to conform to the religion
patronised and established by the state, that duty had been equally
imperative in every successive reign.  He whose life had been spared for
half a century, must, unless there had been a strange vacillation in his
opinions, or, at least, in his professions, have been very fortunate to
have escaped the doom of an obstinate heretic.

The _exiles_ of previous reigns had awaked to the perception of the great
truth, that no human authority could deprive them of the right, or
discharge them from the obligation, of seeking after God and his true
worship.  Some of them, availing themselves of the liberty they enjoyed
upon the continent, had introduced what they deemed a purer, because a
more scriptural, form of worship, than had yet been used in England.
Returning to their native country on the accession of Elizabeth, they
found her little disposed to co-operate with them in carrying on the
reformation.  A large portion of the clergy desired that the services of
religion should be retained as near as possible to the popish form; and
those who were favourable to religious liberty, or contended for further
purification of the service book from the dregs of superstition, received
the contemptuous but honourable name of _puritans_.  These questioned not
the propriety of a secular establishment of Christianity; but they
objected to wearing the popish vestments, and to various ceremonies
derived from the same source. {56}  They disapproved of some things in
the public liturgy, of church festivals, pluralities, non-residence, and
lay patrons; they complained of the want of godly discipline, and desired
to bring both the faith and polity of the state religion to the test of
Scripture. {57}  They were eminent for piety and devotedness to the cause
of Christ.  To say that their views of religious liberty were confused
and inconsistent, and that they were themselves intolerant in their
temper and conduct, is only to admit that they did not shake off, at the
first effort, all the errors of the times in which they lived, and that
their course, if it was firm and daring, was not precipitate or
impetuous.  They were for going fearlessly as far in the path of
improvement as they could perceive that the inspired volume invited them:
and with a moral magnanimity of which their persecutors dreaded the
effect, they bared their souls before God, desiring to receive “ampler
communications and superior light.”

Puritanism constituted a sanctuary in which the sacred rights of
conscience were preserved and propagated, while the high church party had
forgotten and forsaken the ground on which alone a departure from the
papal authority could be maintained.  The puritans occupy an intermediate
position, between the first adherents to protestant popery, and the more
enlightened nonconformists of the succeeding century.

They were soon compelled to supply a test of their sincerity in the
sacrifices they made.  He who omitted _one_ of the most unimportant of
the enjoined ceremonies, was deemed “guilty of all.”  The most exemplary
ministers were silenced; while the profane and the unprincipled were
beneficed, upon the sole ground of their unqualified conformity.

Among many who were suspended in Norfolk and Suffolk, may be mentioned
Mr. Lawrence, an eminent divine, who had been beneficed in the latter
county.  When Mr. Calthorpe, “a gentleman of quality,” interposed in his
behalf, urging the great want the church had of such men as Mr. Lawrence,
whose fitness for his work, he said, the chief men of credit in the
county would certify, the bishop pleaded that the queen required him to
allow of no ministers but such as were perfectly conformable. {59a}

Dr. Crick and Mr. Sanderson, two learned and useful ministers in Norfolk,
and many others in the diocese of Norwich, refusing conformity, were
prosecuted in the ecclesiastical courts. {59b}

Some of the bishops, {59c} however, sanctioned their clergy in setting up
religious exercises among themselves, for the promotion of discipline and
the dissemination of scriptural knowledge.  These were called
_prophesyings_, from the apostolic sentiment, “Ye may all prophesy, one
by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” {59d}  They
furnish the original of similar discussions held, at a subsequent period,
among the Brownists, and of which some traces are found in the
Independent Church at Beccles soon after its formation.

The clergy who attended these meetings spoke in succession upon the
interpretation of a given passage of Scripture, and conferred respecting
sound doctrine and a good life.  Their names were written in a table, and
three took part in each exercise.  The first opened and closed the
meeting with prayer, and gave his explanation of the text.  The other two
added any further explanation of the subject and stated their objections.
At the close of each meeting, the next speaker was appointed and his
subject fixed upon.  Those who joined in these “prophesyings” signed, on
being admitted, a confession, to the effect that they believed the word
of God to be a perfect rule of faith and manners; that it ought to be
read and known by all; that its authority not only exceeded that of the
pope but of the church also; that they condemned, as a tyrannous yoke,
such articles of faith and fashions of serving God as men had enjoined
without the authority of his word.  “And to this word of God (said they)
we humbly submit ourselves and all our doings, willing and ready to be
judged, reformed, or further instructed thereby in all points of
religion.” {60}

The utility of these grave debates early introduced them into the eastern
counties, where they were encouraged by Bishop Parkhurst, till he
received a reprimand from the queen, who insisted upon their suppression
as “no better than seminaries of puritanism.”

Persecution never fails to foster and spread the principles it attempts
to exterminate.  Instead of ceasing altogether, the conferences of the
clergy assumed a more formidable aspect.  Not long afterwards there was
an assembly at Mr. Knewstub’s church at Cockfield, near Lavenham, in
Suffolk, of sixty clergymen of that county, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire.
The subjects for consideration were the Book of Common Prayer, and the
extent to which submission to the ecclesiastical authorities was
allowable.  After repeated adjournments they agreed, that although such
of the Articles as contained the sum of Christian faith and the doctrine
of the sacraments might properly be subscribed, neither the Common Prayer
Book, nor the rest of the Articles, ought; “no, though a man should be
deprived of his ministry for refusing it.” {62a}  They were desirous,
however, of introducing a reformation into the church, without separating
from it.

Archbishop Grindal and some other prelates endeavoured to regulate the
“prophesyings,” by enjoining the observance of strict order, and by
confining them to the conforming clergy. {62b}  But this renewed the
displeasure of the despotic woman in whose hand, by a fundamental and
fatal error, had been placed the supremacy of the church of England.  “By
means of these assemblies,” her Majesty observes, writing to the bishop
of London, “great numbers of our people, especially of the _vulgar sort_,
meet to be otherwise occupied with some honest labour for their living,
are brought to idleness, seduced, and in manners schismatically divided
among themselves into a variety of dangerous opinions.”  She commanded
that these “exercises” should be forthwith put down, adding an order for
the imprisonment of such as should refuse compliance, with a threat of
severer punishment, and closing her communication by an insolent menace
to the bishop himself. {63a}

Meanwhile, continued oppression induced the ministers of Norfolk to
present to the privy council a supplication, in which, after many
expressions of loyalty to the queen, they add, “Yet we desire that her
Majesty will not think us disobedient, seeing we suffer ourselves to be
displaced, rather than yield to some things required.  Our bodies and
goods, and all we have, are in her Majesty’s hands; _only our souls we
reserve to our God_, who alone is able to save us or condemn us.” {63b}

Slaves could not have sued for less; but this was far too extensive a
reservation to be allowed.  The pacific Bishop Parkhurst having been
succeeded by Dr. Freke, a man of very different spirit, seven ministers,
in or near Norwich, were soon afterwards suspended. {63c}

Subsequent years brought no mitigation.  Besides other instances of
ecclesiastical molestation in the East Anglian counties, Mathew Hammond,
a poor plough-wright at Hethersett, was condemned by the bishop as a
heretic, had his ears cut off, and after the lapse of a week, was
committed, in the castle ditch at Norwich, to the more agonizing torment
of the flames. {64a}

Many puritan ministers who had livings in Suffolk were prosecuted for
neglect or variations in the performance of the public service.  Upon
this some of the justices of the peace, and other gentry in that county,
made a complaint to the privy council; thus declaring their grievance:
“We see, right honourable, by too long and lamentable experience, that
the state of the church (_especially in our parts_) groweth every day
more sick than other; and they whom it most concerneth have been so
careless in providing the means, as the hope of her recovery waxeth
almost desperate . . . These towers of Zion, the painful pastors and
ministers of the word, by what malice we know not,—they are marshalled
with the worst malefactors, presented, indicted, arraigned, and
condemned, for matters, as we presume, of very slender moment.” {64b}
Valuable testimony, since it was borne by men who, nevertheless, avowed,
in the very same document, their detestation of the name and heresy of
puritanism.

The translation of Dr. Whitgift to the see of Canterbury, {65a} was the
signal for augmented rigour.  He was charged by the queen to restore
religious uniformity, which she confessed, notwithstanding all her
precautions, had “run out of square.” {65b}  Canute had rebuked the
profanity and folly of those who desired him to attempt the repression of
the flowing tide.  Elizabeth challenged to herself the right to bind,
with the fetters of a statute, the immortal spirit.  Losing sight of the
true nature of religion, and regarding it only as a piece of state
machinery, she sought to bend it to her despotic will, and wondered that
it continually escaped from her grasp, and scorned her fury.

His Grace forthwith furnished the bishops of his province with certain
articles for the government of their dioceses, by which all preaching,
catechising, and praying in private families, where any were present
besides the family, were prohibited; and it was required, that all
preachers should wear the habits prescribed, and that none should be
admitted to preach, or execute any part of the ecclesiastical function,
unless they subscribed the three following articles:—

“1.  That the queen hath and ought to have the sovereignty and rule over
all manner of persons born within her dominions, of what condition soever
they be; and that none other power or potentate hath or ought to have any
_power_, _ecclesiastical_ or civil, within her realms or dominions.

“2.  That the Book of Common Prayer, and of ordaining bishops, priests,
and deacons, _containeth nothing contrary to the word of God_, but may be
lawfully used, and that _he himself will use the same_, _and none other_,
in public prayer and administration of the sacraments.

“3.  That he alloweth the Book of Articles agreed upon in the convocation
holden at London in 1562, and set forth by her Majesty’s authority; and
he believeth _all the articles_ therein contained _to be agreeable to the
word of God_.” {67a}

These were called “Whitgift’s Articles,” as he was their principal
author.  Subscription to them was required, for many years, without the
warrant of any statute, or even of any canon.

On the archbishop’s primary metropolitan visitation, a hundred and
twenty-four clergymen in Norfolk and Suffolk were suspended in
consequence of the application of this test. {67b}  Petitions again
flowed in from Norwich and Norfolk, and from other counties.  But
Whitgift opposed every degree of relaxation, “lest the church should be
thought to have maintained an error;” and a new commission was granted
for the detection of nonconformity, against which even the privy council
remonstrated, as a copy of the Spanish Inquisition. {67c}

A conspicuous agent in this commission was Aylmer, bishop of London.  At
one visitation in Essex he suspended nearly forty ministers.  Those who
were brought before him, in his progress through the country, were loaded
with invective. {68a}

Others were summoned, from distant parts of the kingdom, to appear at St.
Paul’s, or at Lambeth. {68b}  The inconvenience and expense of travelling
at that period rendered their case particularly grievous.  They had to
answer, upon oath, a string of interrogatories with which they were
previously unacquainted, and which could not fail to convict the puritan
clergyman on his own testimony. {68c}  Too conscientious to conform in
all points, he scorned to avert the sword of persecution by the aid of
falsehood.  If he would have sacrificed his convictions at the shrine of
bigotry, and have signed his name where his reason refused assent, he
might have revelled in the emoluments of ecclesiastical preferment,
although he were

                “a sot, or dunce,
    Lascivious, headstrong, or all these at once.”

But it was enough to extort from him an admission that he had, in any
_one instance_, deviated in the slightest particular from the ceremonies;
or that he had said or written, publicly or privately, aught against the
Book of Common Prayer, or _any thing_ therein contained, as being
unscriptural or _inconvenient_;—and although he had evinced the laborious
zeal of Paul, displayed the eloquence of Apollos, and exemplified the
holy benevolence of John, still—he was a nonconformist—he was cast out.

                                * * * * *

Among those who were suspended for nonconformity at Archbishop Whitgift’s
first visitation, was WILLIAM FLEMING, rector of Beccles.

The information which has been preserved respecting him leads to the
conviction that he was a useful and an exemplary man, to a considerable
extent influential and beloved; and respected even by his enemies.  He
had enemies.  They who congratulate themselves on having none, have,
frequently, cause to inquire whether they are discharging the duties
incumbent upon them as members of society, with that high regard to
principle which characterized the puritans, and is as remote from the
meanness of indecision as from the rancour of mere party zeal.

During Mr. Fleming’s ministry in Beccles, a warm and long continued
dispute, occurred between the first grantees from the crown of the tract
of marshes already mentioned, {70a} and some of the inhabitants.  The
grant had been accompanied by extensive powers, which were employed with
little moderation.  This was naturally a source of dissatisfaction, and
led to animosities which ended in a surrender of the property in question
to the queen. {70b}  The incorporating of the “portreeve, surveyors, and
commonalty of the Fen of Beccles,” was the result; an arrangement which
met with considerable opposition, from a person named Harsault and
others.  The plan, however, was probably approved by the more judicious
inhabitants, as calculated, in the _then existing_ state of things, to
preclude the evils of either a narrower or a broader system of municipal
government.  Mr. Fleming appears to have lent his influence in support of
the new charter.

A commission was issued to Sir Robert Wingfield and others, to attempt an
arrangement of these differences.  The commissioners met accordingly, at
Beccles, and made a return, in which, after expressing their persuasion
that the government of the town was likely to proceed in peace, they add:
“And furder, whereas by vertue of the same yor ho: letters we are
directed to th’ examynac’on of certeyn trobles and molestac’ons brought
upon one Mr. Flemyng, the minister there; we fynde the man to be _of
verie good desert bothe concerning life and doctryne_, _and to have
p’fited the peple there verie greatly_, yet had he ben much trobled by
some sorrie instruments issueing from the same spring as we take it; for
having hym and them before us, they alledged no cause of offence, but
rather iustified the man, and reconciled themselves to hym, except one
Harsault, whome we fownde factious, and a man utterlie unworthye of eny
good allowance or regarde emongst his honest neighbors.” {72a}

There was, however, one offence of which Mr. Fleming was found guilty.
He did not conform in all points to the prescribed ritual.  Urged in
extenuation of this, the pains of a doubting or the convictions of a
settled judgment, the testimony of a good life and the profession of
sound doctrine, the attachment of his flock and the usefulness of his
ministry—were, in the estimation of the intolerant ecclesiastics, of no
value.  He was summoned to London {72b} to undergo the mockery of an
examination, and to sustain the costs of his journey, and the ultimate
loss of his preferment.

Mr. Fleming refused to subscribe Whitgift’s Articles; and the discipline
of the ecclesiastical courts having been employed in vain in his
correction, the bishop, on the 23rd of July, 1584, deprived him of his
living. {72c}  He continued to reside in Beccles, probably exercising
privately the most essential branches of a minister’s duty, if not, after
a time, officiating in the parish church through the connivance of those
who were conscious of his value. {74a}  He died in 1613; and his
interment, on the 8th of September in that year, is recorded in the
parochial register in terms which prove that time had not sullied the
reputation which persecution had failed to injure, and that when the
grave had closed over his remains, he was remembered as the benefactor of
his neighbours, and honoured as the founder of a new order of christian
ministers among them.  The entry, in the oldest register book now
preserved, stands thus:

    “Bury: Master William Fleming, our minister and faythfull teacher,
    the glory of our towne, & father of ye ministery round about us.”
    {74b}

From the terms in which the above entry is couched, it seems that Mr.
Fleming was the first clergyman in Beccles who had cordially embraced and
advocated the doctrines of the Reformation. {75}  He had carried out its
great principle to an extent which marks him as the father of the
protestant _dissenting_ ministry in that place.  What were the precise
objections made by him to the archbishop’s Articles, is unknown.  But the
nonconformity of Beccles will appear to have been justifiable in its
_origin_, if it be shown that those Articles embraced any point to which,
as an upright man, he could not unhesitatingly assent.

It will be recollected that by them he was required solemnly to
acknowledge the queen’s _ecclesiastical_ supremacy; and to declare that
the authorized ritual contained NOTHING contrary to the word of God; that
he would use it _and none other_ in the public service; and that he
believed ALL the Thirty-nine Articles to be agreeable to the word of God.
There was no room for evasion, no saving or qualifying clause.  However
trivial or indifferent the ceremony respecting which conscience paused,
still, as nothing is trivial when truth and conscience are concerned, he
could not with propriety subscribe.  His apparent worldly interest and
his desire for usefulness would naturally give him a bias towards
conformity, and he would lament that matters so unimportant should be
imposed as essential terms of preferment; but to have yielded, would have
been to have climbed into the fold of Christ over the barrier of truth,
to have held his living by the tenure of a solemn and deliberate
falsehood.

It is probable that he did not altogether deny the ecclesiastical
jurisdiction of the queen; though cruelty was already leading many to the
conviction that human authority had no proper place in the administration
of the kingdom of Christ.  But, like the puritans in general, he was, no
doubt, deeply impressed with the unscriptural character of popery, and
with the mischievous tendency of cherishing any remnant of its idolatrous
abominations.  The arguments employed against the ceremonies which had
been abolished, applied, with equal force, to some which had been
retained.  The sign of the cross in baptism, the use of the surplice,
bowing to the east, and kneeling before the table of the Lord, were as
devoid of warrant in the Bible, as the ceremony of following the cross in
procession, the use of holy water, ashes, and palms, or the worship of
the sacramental wafer.  The bishops in the earlier part of Elizabeth’s
reign, had looked upon the catholic rites, which had been allowed to
creep into the protestant church, as having been only tolerated for a
time, and as a blot upon the Reformation, to be wiped off as soon as
circumstances would admit. {77a}  On the contrary, they were now held up
as, each and all of them, essential to the uniformity of religion, and
indispensable to the authorized performance of her public services.  If
Mr. Fleming deemed any one of them contrary to Scripture, as not being
conducive to edification, but rather causing offence, {77b} he could not
honestly put his signature to the archbishop’s Articles.

Turning over, with anxiety and thoughtfulness, the pages of the Book of
Common Prayer, to which he was called upon to give so uncompromising an
approval, he may be supposed to have noticed such particulars as the
following.

The Creed attributed to Athanasius in effect declared it essential to
salvation, not only that the mysterious doctrines of the Trinity and the
incarnation of Christ should be believed, but that the _explanation_
therein attempted of those doctrines should be embraced as “the right
faith;” and it denounced the sentence of eternal condemnation against
those who did not “thus think,” with a peremptoriness and reiteration
amounting to a virtual claim of infallibility.  But if he could not
discover in the Sacred Records any such explanation of the doctrines in
question, nor, consequently, any such conditions of salvation, he might
hesitate to declare his belief that those harsh clauses were not at
variance with the word of God.

In the Baptism of Infants he would perceive that the priest was required
to declare the baptized child to be _regenerated_, and to return thanks
to God for so great a blessing.  And he might think the doctrine
obviously implied in that form, and plainly expressed in the catechism
which follows it, “contrary to the word of God,” which treats of
regeneration as a change of heart, such as no outward ceremony could
confer. {79a}

In the Catechism also, the Common Prayer Book taught that there were two
sacraments “generally _necessary_ to salvation,” whereas he might
conceive that it was “contrary to the word of God” to make such an
assertion respecting either of them, in any instance. {79b}

In the Order for the Visitation of the Sick, the priest was directed to
assume authority to “absolve” the penitent sinner: but while he was
required to subscribe, as perfectly scriptural, the volume containing
that formulary, conscience might be demanding, who can forgive sins but
God alone? {80a}

Perhaps Mr. Fleming might apprehend that it was “contrary to the word of
God,” which enjoins faithfulness in ministers, and sincerity in all,
{80b} to adopt indiscriminately, with reference to all who were not
unbaptized, excommunicated, or suicides, the form for the Burial of the
Dead.  He would gladly have availed himself, it may be, always of some
portions, and frequently, of the whole of that beautiful and impressive
service, if he might have been excused from expressing alike over the
saint and the reviler of holiness—over him who had embraced and him who
had denied the creed which all were required to receive as expounded by
the church on pain of eternal death—over him who had calmly died in the
well-grounded hope of acceptance at the bar of God, and him who had been
hurried to that bar from scenes of intemperance or brawling—the same
“_sure and certain_ hope” of the resurrection of the deceased to eternal
life; and if he had not been called upon, however depraved and hopeless
the character of the departed, or however irreparable the breach in
society occasioned by his removal, to give Almighty God thanks for taking
him to Himself—thanks which the lip must profess to be “hearty,” but to
which the heart, in the utmost stretch of charity in the one case, or of
self-denial in the other, could not respond.

The version of the Psalms incorporated with the Book of Common Prayer,
differed in many respects from that in the authorized version of the
Bible, and in one instance directly contradicted it. {81}  He, therefore,
who acknowledged the more recent version as the word of God, and had
noticed the discrepancy, could not, with strict truth, profess his
conviction that the Prayer Book contained _nothing_ contrary to the word
of God.

Again: one of the Thirty-nine Articles expressly affirmed that “Christ
went down into hell.”  If Mr. Fleming was not at liberty to assign to
this language a meaning such as the words, in the plain literal sense, do
not express, and such as the compilers did not intend to convey, he might
naturally feel some difficulty in admitting the statement to be
“agreeable to the word of God.”

Another of the Articles asserted that Christ rose from death, “and took
again his body with _flesh_, _bones_, and all things appertaining to the
perfection of man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there
sitteth _until_ he return _to judge_ all men at the last day.”  But a
contemplative mind, accustomed to bring all its speculations to the test
of holy writ, might be ready to assent to the proposition that there is a
sense in which the glorified body of Christ is identical with that in
which he tabernacled on earth, and yet might venture to doubt whether the
language of that Article was altogether “agreeable to the word of God,”
in which the distinction is so clearly marked between the “natural” and
the “spiritual” body; between that which is sown in corruption,
dishonour, and weakness, and that which is raised in incorruption, glory,
and power; and in which it is expressly asserted that “flesh and blood
cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” {83}  Nor could the concluding words
of this Article be regarded as having the warrant of Scripture, by any
who were looking for the millennial reign of Christ upon earth.

It is possible that the “penance,” prescribed by another of the Articles
as requisite to the restoration of an excommunicated person, would appear
to some, to be more consonant with the genius of popery, but less
“agreeable to the word of God,” than that _penitence_, without which the
garb or the posture of humiliation could avail nothing.

Or, (not to multiply instances further,) perhaps Mr. Fleming was an
admirer of instrumental music in public worship, and believed it to have
the warrant of Scripture.  But by the thirty-fifth Article it is declared
that the homilies contained “a godly and wholesome doctrine,” although
one branch of the doctrine comprised therein was, that “chaunting and
playing upon organs displeased God sore, and filthily defiled his holy
house.” {84}

In the above statement, no account has been taken of the invasion of
Christ’s authority and of his people’s freedom, implied in the
requirement of subscription to _any_ human formulary.  Nor is it intended
to rest the argument upon the most formidable objections to the Common
Prayer Book of the English church in particular.  Some of those
objections relate to doctrines so momentous, sanctioned under
circumstances so peculiarly solemn, as to relieve the dissentient
altogether from the suspicion of captious trifling.

But it is submitted to the consideration of the candid reader, whether
any hesitancy existing in the mind of a minister of the gospel, on any
one of these, or any similar point, would not be enough to justify his
declining, at whatever apparent sacrifice of usefulness or emolument, to
give his deliberate assent to the propositions contained in Whitgift’s
Articles.  The law of sincerity binds not to a partial but to a universal
obedience.  A deep reverence for truth, and a peculiarly tender
conscience, are obviously just the qualities most likely to have insured
a refusal.  Cruel and mischievous indeed must have been the policy which
thus demanded an unqualified acquiescence in so heterogeneous a mass of
propositions, holding out a premium to the temporizing and careless to
fritter away the eternal boundaries of right and wrong. {85}

If the separation which took place among the professed Christians of
Beccles at this early period may be designated a schism, the charge does
not attach to Mr. Fleming, and those who, probably, seceded with him, but
to the parties by whom they were rejected.  “Schism is a thing bad in
itself, bad in its very nature; separation may be bad or good according
to circumstances.”  Separation is not necessarily schism; “for while it
may be occasioned by crime, it may be occasioned by virtue; it may result
in those who depart from intolerance attempted, or intolerance sustained,
from the pride of faction, or the predominance of principle, attachment
to party, or attachment to truth.  A schismatic, in short, _must_ be a
sinner, on whichever side he stands; a separatist _may_ be more sinned
against than sinning.” {86}

Mr. Fleming was a separatist, he was so by compulsion; but he was not a
schismatic: and protestant dissent in Beccles was pure in its source; for
it must in justice be traced not to a factious disobedience to the higher
powers, but to an act of moral heroism, elicited by the despotism of
Queen Elizabeth and the severity of a protestant archbishop.



CHAPTER IV.


Rise of the Brownists; persecuted—James I.—Millenary petition; Brownists
imprisoned and exiled—Robinson; father of the Independents—Jacob
establishes the first English Independent church—Book of Sports—Bishop
Harsnet—Laud—Bishop Wren’s Articles of Visitation—William Bridge retires
to Holland—Returns on the change of affairs—Formation of Independent
churches at Yarmouth and Norwich—Cromwell.

THE early puritans, in general, were strongly attached to the principle
of a national established church.  But some of them were at length
prompted, by their sad experience of episcopal domination, openly to seek
the substitution of presbyterianism, as a form of church government which
promised to preserve the equality of christian ministers, while it
maintained their connexion and their authority.  Others conceived that if
episcopacy trampled on the scriptural rights of the clergy,
presbyterianism interfered with those of the laity, and that both invaded
the authority of Christ. {88a}  Convictions of this nature flashed across
the active mind of a young clergyman named Robert Brown.  In 1581, he
attracted the notice of Bishop Freke, as a teacher of “strange and
dangerous doctrine” at Bury St. Edmunds, where he received so much
encouragement, and his opinions were spreading so rapidly, as (in the
serious apprehension of the bishop) to “hazard the overthrow of all
religion.” {88b}

The Brownists differed little from the Church of England in their
doctrinal views; but they looked upon her discipline as popish and
antichristian, her sacraments and ordinances as invalid; and renounced
communion with every church that was not constituted on the same model as
their own.  They held that as the primitive faith was to be maintained,
so also the primitive institutions, as delineated in the New Testament,
were to be imitated; and that every congregation of believers was,
according to the Scriptures, a church in itself, having full power to
elect, ordain, and dismiss its own pastor and other officers; to admit or
exclude members; and to manage all its affairs, without being accountable
to any other human jurisdiction.  They discarded all forms of prayer.  As
they did not allow the priesthood to be a distinct order, the laity had
full liberty to “prophesy,” or exhort, in their assemblies, and it was
usual, after sermon, for some of the members to propose questions and
confer upon the doctrines that had been delivered. {89}  They were
careful respecting the religious character of those who united with them
in church fellowship.  Thus their views embraced the substance of those
entertained by the Independents of the present day.  But the Brownists
introduced into their “first rude sketch,” some opinions which have since
been modified by the steady hand of wisdom, and some practices which have
been expunged as unsanctioned by Scripture.  They lost sight, too, of
that which constituted the glory of their system, that its leading
principle forbad the assumption of infallibility, while it provided the
best security for the correction of whatever was erroneous in the scheme
they had adopted, and for the preservation of all that was according to
the will of God.

Brown took refuge from persecution at Middleburg, in Zealand; but soon
returned to England, and ultimately renounced those principles of
nonconformity, which he was better fitted to develope by his ardour, than
to recommend by his character.

The flame which he had kindled continued to burn with a purer, a
steadier, and a broader lustre.  In the parliament which met in February
1592–3, Sir Walter Raleigh said he feared there were near twenty thousand
Brownists divided into congregations in Norfolk and Essex and in the
neighbourhood of London. {90}  Even this enlightened statesman declared
that he deemed them “worthy to be rooted out of a commonwealth;” and the
parliament, which had often shown a disposition to favour the puritans,
consented, with a view to the extermination of the Brownists, to pass an
act characterized by consummate tyranny.  It consigned to prison all,
above sixteen years of age, who should forbear for a month to go to
church, or who should deny the queen’s ecclesiastical authority.  And in
case they refused to make a most degrading submission, they were to go
into perpetual banishment; and such as remained beyond the specified
time, or returned without license from the queen, were to suffer death as
felons. {91}

The Brownists felt the full weight of this cruel law.  The justices of
Suffolk who petitioned the council in favour of the puritan clergy, had
no mercy for such audacious heretics as these.  “We allow not” (said
they) “of the anabaptists and their communion; we allow not of Brown, the
overthrower of church and commonwealth; we abhor all these; we punish all
these.” {92a}  Many were imprisoned; some were hanged; multitudes were
driven to the protestant states on the continent.  Others remained at
home “fluctuating between the evasion and violation of the law,” and
casting a wistful glance towards the expected accession of a prince
educated in the presbyterian Kirk of Scotland. {92b}

They had formed an estimate of James’s character, of which it was
eminently undeserving.  When the demise of the queen brought him to the
English metropolis, he was met by a petition from the puritan clergy
(popularly called the _millenary_ petition) for the reformation of
ceremonies and abuses in the church.  The signatures to this document
were obtained in twenty-five counties of England.  They amounted to a
less number than the name implied, and Suffolk supplied _seventy-one_,
while the highest number from any other county was fifty-seven. {92c}
The petitioners learned the fate of their application, when at the
conclusion of a conference the king had appointed to be held at Hampton
Court, he declared that they should conform, or he would “hurry them out
of the kingdom, or do worse.”  James fell an easy prey to the adulation
of the English bishops, and was soon converted to a church of which he
found he could be “supreme head.”  While he thus revived and pronounced
the claim of infallibility, Whitgift echoed the language employed by the
pope on a former occasion, declaring that “undoubtedly his majesty spake
by the special assistance of God’s Spirit.”

The archbishop died soon after, and was succeeded by Dr. Richard
Bancroft, who “trod in the steps of his predecessor in all the iniquities
of persecution.” {93a}

In the second year of King James’s reign three hundred ministers were
deprived, imprisoned, or banished.  Persons were subjected to fine and
imprisonment, for barely repeating to their families, in the evening,
what they had heard at church, during the day, under the pretence that
this constituted the crime of irregular preaching. {93b}

Mr. Maunsell, minister of Yarmouth, and Mr. Lad, a merchant of the same
place, were cited before the High Commission at Lambeth, for holding a
supposed conventicle, and cast into prison.  Nicholas Fuller, a learned
bencher of Gray’s Inn, appeared as their counsel when they were brought
to the bar; for which crime he also was consigned to prison, where he lay
to the end of his days. {94}

Among those who were proscribed and exiled for professing the Brownist
tenets, were Mr. John Robinson, and Mr. Henry Jacob.

Mr. Robinson had been educated in the University of Cambridge, and
beneficed near Great Yarmouth, in which neighbourhood he had also a
separate congregation.  They assembled in private houses for seven or
eight years; but disturbance from the bishop’s officers, and ruinous
proceedings in the ecclesiastical courts, induced them to remove to the
continent.  Mr. Robinson settled at Leyden.  He had commenced his career
a rigid Brownist; but a more extensive acquaintance with the world, and
the conversation of learned men, particularly Dr. William Ames, an exile
also for religion, rendered him more charitable and moderate. {95a}  He
struck out a middle course between the Brownists and Presbyterians.
Maintaining the lawfulness of separation from the reformed churches, he
did not deny that they were true churches: and while he contended that
each christian society was invested with power to choose officers,
administer the gospel ordinances, and exercise all needful discipline
over its members, and that it was consequently _independent_ of all
classes and synods; he nevertheless admitted the expediency of grave
assemblies among the elders of churches for the purposes of mutual
friendly advice. {95b}  Mr. Robinson recommended his sentiments by a
character in which eminent faculties and attainments were crowned and
encircled by the predominating power of a solemn and affectionate piety.
{95c}  The Independents generally regard him as the father of their sect.
But since they claim for their sentiments a yet nobler origin, they have
preferred to be designated by the terms _Congregational_ or
_Independent_; as indicating the point of church government in which they
so materially differ from all who acknowledge the authority of bishops or
a presbytery.

Robinson, though distinguished by moderation, was not deficient in
vigilance.  After some years, his congregation began to be removed by
death, and their children to form connexions with Dutch families.  There
was ground to apprehend that their church, few in number, might gradually
be melted away into an irreligious population.  No encouragement was
afforded to return home; and after spending many days in solemn addresses
to Heaven for direction, they formed the sublime resolution of
transplanting themselves to the shores of America, “where they might
enjoy liberty of conscience” with a more cheering prospect of propagating
their principles.  It was arranged that a part of them should first
embark, and that their pastor and the rest should afterwards follow.  A
day of fasting and prayer was appointed; and Mr. Robinson preached,
concluding his discourse with an exhortation which breathes a spirit of
candour far in advance of the age in which he lived, and strenuously
enforces the principle upon which the religious system of the protestant
nonconformists is founded, and with which it must, ultimately, either
sink into oblivion, or win its way to universal prevalence.

    “Brethren,” said this truly venerable man, “we are now quickly to
    part from one another, and whether I may ever live to see your faces
    on earth any more the God of heaven only knows; {97} but whether the
    Lord has appointed that or no, I charge you before God and his
    blessed angels, that you follow me no farther than you have seen me
    follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

    “If God reveal any thing to you by any other instrument of his, be as
    ready to receive it, as ever you were to receive any truth by my
    ministry; for I am verily persuaded, I am very confident, the Lord
    has more truth yet to break out of his holy word . . . I beseech you,
    remember it, ’tis an article in your church covenant, that you be
    _ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the
    written word of God_.  Remember that, and every other article of your
    sacred covenant.  But I must here withal exhort you to take heed what
    you receive as truth.  Examine it; consider it; and compare it with
    other scriptures of truth, before you receive it; for ’tis not
    possible the christian world should come so lately out of
    antichristian darkness, and that perfection of knowledge should break
    forth at once.” {98a}

Mr. Robinson accompanied the adventurers to Delfthaven, and kneeling on
the sea-shore committed them, in fervent prayer, to the protection and
blessing of Heaven. {98b}

It is difficult to conceive of an expedition more truly noble and
momentous in its objects and results.

       “What sought they thus afar?
       Bright jewels of the mine?
    The wealth of seas? the spoils of war?—
       They sought a faith’s pure shrine.

       Aye, call it holy ground,
       The soil where first they trod;
    They have left unstained what there they found—
       FREEDOM TO WORSHIP GOD!” {99}

Mr. Jacob, who has been mentioned as another of the exiled Brownists, had
adopted their creed, without their uncharitableness; and during his
residence on the continent, embraced Mr. Robinson’s views, of church
government.  In 1616 he returned to London, and there planted the first
Independent church in England.  In this step he had the sanction of the
leading puritans of those times.

Several of his friends who were desirous of uniting in church fellowship
having assembled with him, a day of fasting and prayer for a blessing
upon their undertaking was observed; and each individual, towards the
close of the solemnity, made a public confession of his faith in Jesus
Christ.  Then standing together, they joined hands, and solemnly
covenanted with each other to walk together in all the ways and
ordinances God had already revealed or should further make known to them.
Mr. Jacob was chosen their pastor by the suffrage of the brotherhood, and
proper persons were appointed as deacons, with fasting and prayer, and
imposition of hands. {100}

The policy of the king, alike despotic, bigoted, and weak, continued to
expatriate many of the best of his subjects, and swelled the ranks of the
Independents at home.  By the advice of the bishops his Majesty issued
directions that none should be allowed to preach without perfect
conformity, and that no preacher should maintain any point of doctrine
not allowed in the church of England; a requirement utterly
irreconcileable with his subsequent patronage of the Arminian tenets.

By the millenary petition the puritans had prayed “that the Lord’s day be
not profaned;” and James, taking an atrocious advantage of their regard
to the sanctity of the sabbath, published, to prevent the spread of their
opinions, the “Declaration for sports on the Lord’s day,” commonly called
_The Book of Sports_.

This equally profane and ridiculous document originated, as his Majesty
declared, from the prohibition of Sunday recreations by some “puritans
and precise people;” from which “unlawful carriages” there flowed,
according to the royal doctrine, two main evils, the hindering the
conversion of many from popery, and the preventing the meaner sort of
people from using such exercises as would render their bodies fit for
war, when his Majesty might “have occasion to _use_ them.”  He therefore
announced his pleasure, that all the “puritans and precisians” should be
constrained to conform, or to leave the country; and that, after divine
service, the people should not be discouraged in any _lawful_ recreation,
such as dancing, archery, leaping; nor from May-games, Whitson-ales,
morris-dances, and the setting up May-poles, and other sports therewith
used. {101}

The clergy were required to publish this “Declaration” in all parish
churches.  Many who refused to do so were brought into the high
commission court, suspended and imprisoned. {102a}

Dr. Samuel Harsnet, who was translated in 1619 from the see of Chichester
to that of Norwich, was a zealous assertor of the ceremonies of the
church, {102b} and a bitter enemy to all “irregularities.”  Mr. Peck,
having catechised his family and sung a psalm in his own house when
several of his neighbours were present, the bishop required them all to
do penance and recant.  Those who refused were immediately
excommunicated, and condemned in heavy costs.  The citizens of Norwich
afterwards complained to parliament of this cruel oppression. {102c}

By the same prelate, an individual named Whiting, was prosecuted and
brought before the high commission, expecting to be deprived of
considerable estates; but the death of the king put an end to the
prosecution. {102d}

When Charles the first succeeded to the throne many of the descendants of
the early puritans still adhered to the established church, seeking only
the reduction of the inordinate power of the bishops, and the removal of
“popish ceremonies.”  But the injuries they received were constantly
stimulating their inquiries, and strengthening their objections to
episcopacy.  Dr. Laud, who was successively promoted from the bishopric
of Bath and Wells, to the see of London, {103a} and the archbishopric of
Canterbury, {103b} wielded the terrors of the star chamber and high
commission courts with redoubled cruelty.  New and more offensive rites
were introduced into the church.  The communion table was converted into
an altar, and all persons were commanded to bow to it on entering the
church. {103c}  All week-day lectures, and afternoon sermons on Sundays,
were abolished; and the king, “out of pious care for the service of God,
and for suppressing humours that oppose truth,” republished, by the
advice of his ecclesiastical favourite, the Book of Sports, with a
command that it should be read in all parish churches. {104a}  This the
puritan clergy refused, for which they felt the iron rod of their
oppressors.

Another grievance under which the puritans laboured at this period, arose
from the power assumed by the bishops, (in manifest dereliction both of
the canons of the church and the laws of the land,) of framing and
enforcing Articles of Visitation in their own names.  The Articles of Dr.
Matthew Wren, bishop of Norwich, were among the most remarkable.  They
consisted of nearly nine hundred questions, some very insignificant,
others highly tinctured with superstition, and several impossible to be
answered. {104b}  They appear to have been chiefly designed to detect
such ministers as were not “perfect” conformists—inquiring minutely into
the observance of the ceremonies, the reading of the Book of Sports, the
practice of conversing upon religion at table, and in families, &c.
{104c}  By his severities this prelate drove upwards of three thousand
persons to seek their bread in a foreign land. {104d}

Among many who refused to read the Book of Sports, and otherwise
disobeyed some of the bishop’s Articles, was Mr. William Bridge, who had
been a fellow of Emanuel College, Cambridge, and was parish chaplain of
St. George’s, Tombland, Norwich. {105a}  He was silenced, and afterwards
excommunicated.  The writ _de excommunicato capiendo_, having been issued
against him, he withdrew into Holland. {105b}  An Independent church of
English refugees, at Rotterdam, chose him as their pastor, and, during
his residence among them, he appears to have become firmly attached to
the Congregational mode of church government. {105c}

The forbearance of the English nation at last broke beneath the despotism
of a king, who, not content with governing by a parliament, desired to
rule without one, and the cruelty of a hierarchy which had become a
hideous contrast to the church of the “holy, harmless, and undefiled”
Redeemer.  On the assembling of the long parliament in 1640, a storm of
righteous retribution fell upon the authors of the ecclesiastical
oppressions.  The people assailed the parliament with complaints; the
parliament presented their grievances to the king; and the deluded
monarch replied by a proclamation, requiring an exact conformity to the
established religion!  But tyranny had already reached its height, and
the torrent had set in an opposite direction.

The Independents, who had assembled in private, and shifted from house to
house for many years, took courage and showed themselves in public.  The
same promising appearances induced Mr. Bridge to return to England in
1642.  Many families of refugees accompanied him, some of whom settled in
Yarmouth, and others went to reside at Norwich.  All of them appear to
have been warmly attached to Mr. Bridge, and very desirous of continuing
under his pastoral care.  This however was highly inconvenient, and it
was at length agreed that the seat of his church should be at Yarmouth,
and that the residents at Norwich, with some other serious persons there,
should form themselves into a separate communion.  This was done June
10th, 1644, several of the Yarmouth brethren signifying their consent
with expressions of the most tender and endeared affection, as having
been, many of them, “companions together in the patience of our Lord
Jesus, in their own, and in a strange land, and having long enjoyed sweet
communion together in divine ordinances.” {107}

Mr. Bridge may be regarded as the founder of the Independent churches in
the East Anglian counties.  A constant intercourse had been maintained
between those counties and the opposite coast of Holland, from whence
they were not too remote to catch the spirit of religious freedom which
had actuated the conduct, and which constituted the reward of the exiled
Christians.  A district so situated—the scene of Robinson’s usefulness
and sufferings, and which had given birth to Goodwin and Ames, and was
receiving back into its bosom the champions of liberty and
truth—presented an encouraging field for disseminating the principles of
Independency.  Hence they were rapidly and extensively embraced in this
part of the kingdom.  Dr. Calamy intimates that, some years after Mr.
Bridge’s return, “most professors of religion” in these counties
“inclined to the Congregational way.” {108a}

It was not, however, till after the monarchy had given place to the
military usurpation of Cromwell, that those who were favourable to
Congregational sentiments ventured to form themselves into churches in
provincial places,—always doubly exposed to the inspection of
ill-designing curiosity. {108b}

Though it is doubtful whether Cromwell really embraced the sentiments of
the Independents, yet he certainly countenanced them, by selecting his
chaplains, and supplying vacancies in the universities, from amongst the
members of their communion; and by recognising in his public acts the
right of private judgment. {109}  The instrument of government which he
framed, declared that none should be compelled to conform to the public
religion, by penalties or otherwise; and that such as professed faith in
God by Jesus Christ, though differing in judgment from the doctrine,
worship, or discipline, publicly held forth, should not be restrained
from, but should be protected in, the profession of their faith and
exercise of their religion, so as they abused not that liberty to the
civil injury of others, and to the actual disturbance of the public
peace. {110}

An exception was made to the prejudice of “popery” and “prelacy,” which
would be generally regarded, by the Independents of the present day, as
equally unjustifiable and needless.



CHAPTER V.


Formation of the Independent church at Beccles—Probable covenant—Earliest
members—John Clarke—Baptists—Robert Ottee; made pastor—Deacons
chosen—First administration of the Lord’s supper and baptism—Prudential
arrangements—Day of thanksgiving—Singing introduced—Prophesyings—Savoy
conference—Interruption of the record—Act of Uniformity—Mr. Ottee
continues his ministry; his death; posthumous work; opinions and
character—Meeting-house—Communion plate.

THE formation of an Independent church at Beccles naturally followed from
the course of events sketched in the preceding chapters.  The sufferings
of the martyrs, the puritans, and the Brownists, had preserved the leaven
of christian freedom; and the political circumstances of the times
combined with the fostering aid of the Norwich and Yarmouth churches, to
encourage its manifestation, and to promote its diffusion.  Upon those
models several christian societies were formed, in various towns of
Norfolk and Suffolk, during the years 1652 and 1653. {112a}  Beccles took
the lead.  The church book opens with the following record:—

     “The 6th day of ye fifth month, com’only called July, 1652.” {112b}

    “The names of such persons whoe have covenanted togither to walke ye
    of Christ according to Gospell Order, wth an account of such matters
    as haue occurred in ye Church att Beccles.

    “In ye day & yeare above written, these following p’sons joyned in
    covenant {112c} togither under ye visible Regiment {113} of Christ,
    according to ye Gospell, vz. Joh. Clarke, James King, jun Robt.
    Ottey, Edm. Nevill, Joh. Morse, Willm. Cutlove, Edm. Artis, Robt.
    Horne, Joh. Botswaine.”

Although this mutual engagement was all that was essential to the
formation of a church of Christ, yet on an occasion so deeply
interesting, and fraught with consequences so momentous, it was natural
that the brethren elsewhere should be requested to add their approval,
their counsel, and their prayers.  In the Congregational church book at
Norwich, a letter is stated to have been “received from the Christians at
Beckles, by which they signified their intention to gather into church
fellowship,” and desired that church would “send messengers to be there
upon the 23. of July, 1652.”  Daniel Bradford, James Gooding, and Samuel
Clarke, were selected for this service.

The first of these three individuals had been “employed in the army,”
when the Yarmouth church was formed, and was afterwards a deacon at
Norwich.  The other two appear to have been among Mr. Bridge’s companions
in exile, and to have returned with him. {114a}  Doubtless they were men
whose zeal was chastened by experience and discretion, and whose piety
had stood the tests of time and persecution.

It was usual with the early Independents, at the formation of their
churches, to sign an agreement, or covenant, expressive of their objects
in thus associating, and pledging themselves to the faithful performance
of the duties devolving upon them as church members. {114b}  On the
formation of their first church at Norwich, their _covenant_ was read
aloud by one, and then subscribed by all the brethren.

That document, since it is highly probable that, at least in substance,
it was adopted on the gathering of the church at Beccles, shall now be
laid before the reader.  It displays a noble solemnity and simplicity,
connected with a candour and sense of fallibility, which have been justly
described as “extremely graceful and evangelical.” {115}

    “It is manifest by God’s word, that God alwaies was pleased to walke
    in a way of couenant with his people knitt together in a visible
    church estate, He promising to be their God, and they promising to be
    his people, separated from the world and the pollutions thereof as
    may appeare therein.

    “Wee therefore, whose names are subscribed, being desirous (in the
    feare of God) to worship and serve Him according to his reuealed
    will, and beleeving it to be our duty to walke in a way of church
    couenant, doe freely and solemnly couenant with the Lord and one
    another, in the presence of his saints and angells—

    “1.  That we will forever acknowledge and avouch the Lord to be our
    God in Christ Jesus, giuing up ourselves to Him, to be his people.

    “2.  That we will alwaies endeuour, through the grace of God
    assisting us, to walke in all his waies and ordinances, _according to
    his written word_, _which is the onely sufficient rule of __good life
    for euery man_.  Neither will we suffer ourselues to be polluted by
    any sinfull waies, either publike or priuate, but endeauour to
    abstaine from the uery appearance of euill, giuing no offence to the
    Jew or gentile, or the churches of Christ.

    “3.  That we will humbly and willingly submit ourselues to the
    gouernment of Christ in this church, in the administration of the
    word, the seales, and discipline.

    “4.  That we will, in all loue, improve our com’union as brethren, by
    watching ouer one another, and (as need shalbe) counsell, admonish,
    reproue, comfort, releeve, assist, and beare with one another,
    seruing one another in loue.

    “5.  Lastly, we doe not couenant or promise these things in our owne,
    but in Christ’s strength; neither doe we confine ourselues to the
    words of this couenant, _but shall at all tymes account it our duty
    to embrace any further light or trueth which shalbe reuealed to us
    out of God’s word_.” {116}

Such was the spirit, if not the letter, of the mutual engagement into
which they entered, who introduced into the town of Beccles the
Independent form of church government.

Within twelve months from the formation of the church, twenty-one other
persons had joined.  The first of these was Mr. Joseph Cutlove, who
appears to have been, at the same time, portreeve of the Corporation of
Beccles, and to have had some influential friends among the members of
the long parliament. {117}  Amongst the names is also that of “Humphry
Brewster,” one of the truly honourable family to whom belonged the hall
and manors of Wrentham, and who, for many years, greatly encouraged and
supported the dissenting interest there. {118a}  And “Francis Hayloucke,”
subsequently a deacon of the church.

During the above period there was no recognised pastor.  But in the year
1653, occurs this memorandum:—

                      “29 d. 5 m. com’only called July.

    A pastor was chosen.”

Who this was is rather uncertain; perhaps MR. JOHN CLARK.

He seems to have been a minister in the established church, for in the
parochial register, under the years 1647 and 1648, are recorded the
baptisms of two sons of “John Clark, minister, and of Ann his wife.”
{118b}  It is also observable that his name is the first enrolled on the
list of members of the Independent church.  And among the individuals
subsequently admitted, was “Anna” his wife; which serves to identify him
with the person mentioned in the parish register.

He does not appear to have engaged fully in the performance of pastoral
duties.  Perhaps he had a lingering preference for the establishment,
although the peculiar circumstances of the times, after the death of
Charles the first, induced him to unite with other serious persons in
church fellowship.  Dr. Walker states that he got possession of the
living of Beccles in 1655. {119}  This he might be enabled to accomplish
when Cromwell, in order that the Presbyterians might not fill all the
livings with persons of their persuasion, appointed, by an ordinance in
council, commissioners, partly selected from the Independent
denomination, to examine all persons seeking admission to benefices.
{120}

                                * * * * *

It was to be expected that the possession of religious liberty, in a
degree before unequalled, would occasion the propagation of many opinions
previously unknown or concealed through fear.  The Baptists, especially,
now became a distinct and important denomination.  They were the objects
of bitter scorn and invective from the Presbyterian party, who had gained
the ascendancy, and were treated with less kindness by the Independents
than might reasonably have been expected.  In 1656, two persons who had
been members of the Independent church at Beccles, received adult
baptism, and in so doing were considered to have given “offence” to the
church, and desired to appear and “give an account of their practices.”

There are some subsequent instances of a similar kind.  It was natural
that, entertaining peculiar opinions as to the mode and objects of
christian baptism, they should unite with societies professing the same
sentiments.  Greatly is it to be lamented that uncharitableness should
ever have intruded where intolerance would have been deprecated; that
fellow-christians should have allowed these minor differences of
sentiment to create even an apparent separation of heart, or

    —“Let the basin and the flood
    Divide the purchase of that blood,
       Where _all_ must plunge or die.”

The next pastor, and the transactions connected with his ministry will
require a more extended notice.

ROBERT OTTEE was a native of Great Yarmouth, where his father carried on
the business of a boddice-maker. {121}  The son appears to have received
such an education as, in some measure, fitted him for the more elevated
and responsible situation he was destined to occupy.  He was kept at the
Latin school till he was old enough to be employed in his father’s trade,
at which he worked several years.  It does not appear that at this early
period of his life, he had any view to the ministry; but his inclination
towards mental pursuits was so decided, that nothing but a deep sense of
filial duty would have reconciled him to the manual occupation in which
he found himself engaged.  He had already imbibed a conviction of the
supreme importance of religion, and while he laboured with his hands, his
Bible generally lay open before him.

Prompted by his serious impressions he attended the meetings of some
Christians in his native town, held for united, earnest prayer, and other
religious exercises.  On one occasion an individual whose assistance was
mainly depended upon, was prevented from being present.  Mr. Ottee was
induced to pray and expound a passage of Scripture; and he acquitted
himself so well, as to call forth the admiration of the most intelligent
persons present.  Some of them applied to Mr. Bridge, desiring that he
would encourage so promising a young man to devote himself to the
christian ministry.

But Mr. Ottee evinced the same prudence which distinguished him through
life, and a diffidence as to his qualifications, which is the frequent
attendant on intellectual or religious attainments of a superior order.
There were some who had previously received encouragement from Mr.
Bridge, but who, not having been favoured with similar advantages of
education, had not altogether fulfilled the sanguine expectations of
their friends.  He determined, therefore, not to yield to Mr. Bridge’s
suggestions, till he had consulted Mr. Brinsley, the exemplary and
persecuted parish minister of Yarmouth. {123a}  That grave, but urbane
man, had repeated conversations with him on the subject, and was so fully
satisfied as to his knowledge of the Scriptures, his gifts, his
seriousness of spirit, and holiness of conversation, as to join cordially
in recommending him to apply himself to the great duties of a minister of
the gospel. {123b}

His sense of the immense responsibility connected with the ministry would
not allow him to think of blending with it the pursuits of trade.  He had
imbibed a settled conviction that, to use his own expression, _the work
of the gospel was __sufficient for one man_.  “There is nothing,” says
he, in one of his sermons, “more plain in Scripture than this, that those
whom God hath set [apart] to the work of the ministry are exempted from
other worldly trades and callings.  It hath been an abuse, in this
nation, to think that men may trade, and buy, and sell, and run into all
worldly business, and yet undertake the preaching of the gospel: yea,
some there are, called the regular clergy, yet give themselves too much
to farming, buying, and selling, and secular employments; this doth come
short of their calling; for mind what the apostle saith to Timothy, in 1
Tim. iv. 13, ‘Till I come, give thyself to reading, to exhortation, to
doctrine.’” {124a}

Mr. Ottee appears to have been residing in Beccles when the Independent
church was formed.  In the year 1656, he accepted the pastoral charge of
the people with whom he had long “held sweet counsel.” {124b}  The
circumstance is thus briefly recorded in the church book.

    “12th No. 56.

    Mr. Otty made paster by ye church.”

This has been supposed to refer to his ordination, and the memorandum
occurring 29th July, 1653, to his election.  But a delay of more than
three years between the choice and settlement of a pastor scarcely admits
of a satisfactory explanation.  The expression, “_made pastor_ by the
church,” moreover, raises a strong presumption that the occurrence
included, if it did not refer solely to, the _election_ of a pastor.
That expression would scarcely have been used with reference to the mere
ordination of an individual, previously elected to the pastoral office.
{125}

With Mr. Ottee’s pastorate commenced the appointment of such other
officers as are sanctioned by the holy Scriptures, and the regular
administration of christian ordinances to his flock.  With reference to
these subjects, the church book contains some memoranda, which will be
perused with interest by those connected with the church or congregation.

                    “December 29th, 1656.  Deacons chosen.

    Wm. Cutlove & Edmond Artis, were sett ap’te to attend ye office of
    Deacons: & from ye Lord’s day next ther is to be a weekely collec’ion
    putt into ther hands for ye supply of ye Lord’s table, & the table of
    ye (godly) poore of ye church.

                             “December 29th, 1656

    It was then agreed that ye Lord’s Supper be administred upon ye 18th
    day of January next, & yt ye Thursday before be kept by ye church by
    fastinge & prayer, in order to a p’paration unto yt ordinance: wch
    was accordingely observed.  The p’paration day kept at or brother
    Artises, Jan. 15th, and ye supper celebrated at Mr. Clearke’s house,
    upon the Lord’s day, Jan. 18th, 1656, wch was ye first tyme of
    administration of yt ordinance amongst us.

                   “Baptisme first administred amongst us.

    At our monthly meetinge, being 28th of January, 1656, {127a} kept at
    or pastour’s house, the sacrament of baptisme was first administred
    amongst us by or pastour, Mr. Ottye.” {127b}

The deacons were evidently, according to the examples recorded in the New
Testament, “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,”
chosen by the brethren, and set apart to serve the table of the Lord, and
that of the poor members; to take charge, in a word, of the secular
affairs of the church, while the pastor gave himself “continually to
prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” {128a}  They found no
description of the deacon’s office, as a gradation in the christian
ministry, or as preliminary to it; or as continuing “for the space of a
whole year;” or as including the administration of baptism and the duty
of preaching, subject to the approbation of a bishop.  They discarded
these human inventions, and found their highest satisfaction in an
adherence to the precedents of the New Testament.

The mode of administering the Lord’s supper was that which had been, long
before, adopted by the Brownists {128b}—that which the apostolic account,
{128c} and the nature and design of the institution, alike indicated as
the most appropriate.  They who had openly professed their love and
allegiance to Jesus Christ, commemorated his death in obedience to his
command, enjoyed communion with Him and with one another in the sacred
feast and, with grateful joy, found themselves delivered from the
imposition of a posture, which had been the natural accompaniment and
indication of a belief in transubstantiation, which was unsuited to the
ordinance, and had no warrant in the word of God.

Baptism was administered to the children of believers, as a sign of the
gracious covenant God had made with the parents, and as an occasion for
parental dedication and the solemn promise of christian instruction.  But
the use of sponsors was discarded, as alike unscriptural and unnatural;
the sign of the cross was omitted, as a departure from the simplicity of
the gospel, implying a proportionate approach to superstition; and the
doctrine of baptismal regeneration was rejected, as calculated to produce
and nourish a fatal delusion.

It is essential to the efficient existence of every society, whether
secular or religious, that some regulations should be adopted with regard
to the admission of its members.  But the distinction cannot be too
carefully noticed, between arrangements of this nature assented to by
persons voluntarily associated for religious purposes, and terms of
church fellowship enforced by authority, under civil penalties, directly
or indirectly attaching to nonconformity.  The former are consistent with
unlimited toleration; the latter involve the very essence of intolerance.

Mr. Ottee appears to have exercised a very commendable prudence in the
admission of members into his church.  Some of the brethren were usually
appointed to confer with the candidates, “in order to the church’s
satisfaction.”  And repeated instances are recorded in which the society
suspended its decision, until they could “give further satisfaction,” and
should again apply for admission.

At a church meeting, held 25th February, 1656, the following resolution
was recorded, apparently referring to Mr. Ottee’s recent settlement.

    “It was likewise agreed upon, that this day fortnett, being the
    eleventh day of March, begininge at eleven of the clocke, be spent by
    the church in thanksgivinge unto God, for his gracious returneinge
    unto us in a way of mercye, for or settlement after those many
    shakeinges we have bene under, in refference to or present church
    state, & yt the Lord hath bene pleased both to give us to have the
    priviledges of his people administred unto us, & to oure children; &
    alsoe that we then seeke unto him by ernest supplication, for further
    grace, wisdome, & assistance, to walke in his house, as those who are
    priviledged wth such mercye—this meetinge to be at or brother Edmond
    Artis his house.”

Hearts thus attuned to praise, sought its expression in “psalms and
hymns, and spiritual songs.”  Singing would have exposed the puritans to
considerable peril, while they were obliged to meet in secret that they
might evade the fang of persecution.  But now “had the churches rest;”
and they joyfully availed themselves of a privilege, at once permitted
and prompted by their improved circumstances.  At the next meeting the
subject was brought under consideration.

    “Att the monthly meeting of the church, upon the 25th day of the
    first month, called March, [1657].

    “It was agreed by the church, that they doe put in practice the
    ordinance of singinge, in the publiq upon the forenoone and
    afternoone on the Lord’s daies, and that it be betweene praier and
    sermon; and also it was agreed that the New England translation of
    the Psallmes be made use of by the church, at their times of breaking
    of bread: and it was agreed that the next Lord’s day seventh-night be
    the day to enter upon the work of singinge in publiq.”

The metrical version of the Psalms, alluded to in the above extract, was
published in 1640.  The pilgrim fathers, “though they blessed God for the
religious endeavours of those who translated the Psalms into the metre
usually annexed at the end of the Bible,” yet observed in that
translation so many variations, not only from the text, but from the very
sense of the Psalmist, that “it was an offence unto them.”  Each of their
chief divines took a portion to translate, and the whole was afterwards
revised by Mr. Henry Dunster, President of Harvard College.  They claimed
the merit of a close adherence to the Hebrew, but were conscious that
their versification was, by no means, free from imperfections.  “We have
respected,” said they, “rather a plain translation, than to smooth our
verses with the sweetness of any paraphrase.  We have attended conscience
rather than elegance, fidelity rather than ingenuity; that so we may sing
in Zion the Lord’s songs of praise, according unto his own will, until he
bid us enter into our Master’s joy, to sing eternal hallelujahs.” {133}

Whatever might be the comparative claims of a version of the Psalms
composed two hundred years ago, it would grate upon ears accustomed to
the more majestic flow of modern poetry.  It has been the privilege—the
almost exclusive privilege of nonconformity, to have derived the benefit
of progressing refinement, and to have retained poetry as the permanent
handmaid of devotion, while in the national churches the uncouth doggerel
of the sixteenth century is still cherished as a thing which it were
sacrilege to touch.

                                * * * * *

The Independents never introduced into their assemblies that unbounded
liberty of teaching, which had been the mark and the bane of the Brownist
churches. {134}  But they desired, under the prudent, constant, and
salutary superintendence of a ministry invested, if not with more
extensive powers, with a more commanding moral influence, to retain the
advantages of an open discussion of topics connected with their religious
system and spiritual prosperity.  The following extracts from the church
book, show that something of this kind was attempted at Beccles.  The
reader will regret, that no account of the questions discussed, or of the
manner in which they were treated, has been preserved.

    “It was likewise” (at the meeting, held 25th March, 1657) further
    “agreed, that upon the next monthly meeting, the church doe take in
    considerac’on ye bretherens’ prophesying, {135} or speaking to a
    question.”

    “At a meetinge of the church upon the 3rd day of the month, com’only
    called June, 1657, it was agreed upon and condesended unto, that two
    of these bretheren hereunder written be appoynted in ther order to
    speake unto the questions wch shall be hereafter p’pounded, to be
    answered in our publiq church meeteinges; and our pastour or Mr.
    Clearke, one of them, be desired constantly to conclude the meetinge:

Edmond Artis & John Morse.          Francis Haylocke & Richard
                                    Heasell.
Edmond Nevill & Robert Horne.       Wm. Cutlove & Richard Shildrake.”

Then follows:

    “The order of bretheren to find ther questions wch they are desired
    to acquaynt eyther our present pastor with, or or brother Mr.
    Clearke, to this end yt upon the conclusion of eyther days of these
    exercises, the question next to be spoken unto may be p’pounded unto
    the bretheren, who are desired to stay a little space, every
    meetinge, after the rest of the company who attend these meeteinges
    beside the church have withdrawen themselves, to the end yt they may
    know wt & whose question is next in order to be considered; and that
    one of them be desired to give out the question.

    “Brother Thomas Onge,” &c. &c. [eleven other names.]

    “It was likewise further agreed upon yt after the next meeteinge of
    this nature be p’formed upon the second day of the weeke, publiq
    notyse be given at yt meeting that from thenceforth it is intended yt
    the exercise of this nature shall be kept in the usual place, upon
    the 3rd day of the week, to begin at the houres of two of the clocke
    in the afternoone in sum’er tyme, & at one in the winter.”

Sept. 20th, 1658, occurs the following:

    “At a meetinge then of the church, beinge occasioned by a letter sent
    from diverse churches touchinge a generall meetinge of the severall
    Congregationall churches at London, by ther pastors or others,
    bretheren, at the Savoye, upon the 29th of September next, it was
    agreed by the church that our pastour, Mr. Ottie, should goe to that
    meeteinge on the behalf of this church, and yt ye charge of the
    jorneye should be mutually borne by the bretheren of the socyetye.”

Previously to the death of Oliver Cromwell the Independents had
petitioned for liberty to hold this synod.  They had acquired, especially
in Suffolk and Norfolk, considerable importance by their numbers, and by
the accession of many opulent persons.  But they had been (to use their
own expressions) like so many ships launched singly, and sailing apart
and alone in the vast ocean of those tumultuous times, exposed to every
wind of doctrine, under no other conduct than the word and Spirit, and
their particular elders and principal brethren, without associations
among themselves, or so much as holding out a common light to others
whereby to know where they were. {137}  It is a circumstance which
strikingly distinguishes the Independents from the Brownists, that while
they strenuously contended against the exercise of any spiritual
authority, even by the gravest and wisest assemblies of men, they desired
“that there might be a correspondence between their churches, in city and
country, for counsel and mutual edification,” and that the world might
know to what extent they, “being many,” were “one body.”

The meeting at the Savoy consisted of ministers and messengers from above
a hundred Congregational churches, and was graced by the presence of
Howe, then chaplain to the young Protector, and of other eminent divines.
The synod was opened by a day of fasting and prayer; and a committee of
six divines, including Mr. Bridge of Yarmouth, was appointed to draw up a
confession.  On the 12th of October, the assembly agreed upon “a
declaration of the faith and order owned and practised in the
Congregational churches in England.”  As its basis they adopted the
confession drawn up in 1643, by the Westminster assembly of divines,
omitting, however, all that related to the _power_ of synods and
councils, and of the civil magistrate in religious matters.  They added a
chapter on the proper magnitude of sacred societies, as properly
congregational, though not so isolated as to preclude mutual counsel; the
proper subjects of church-membership, namely, those who in the judgment
of charity are sanctified persons; the commencement of the church
relationship by the free choice of the individuals, and not by accidental
dwelling in a particular civil district; the requisiteness, however, of
the associating of believers who reside in the same city, town, or
neighbourhood; the right of the members at large to be consulted, and the
necessity of the concurrence of a majority of them, in all important
transactions of the society; and the propriety of receiving into their
communion those of different sentiments, so far as consistent with their
own principles. {139a}  They concluded with an expression of gratitude to
their governors for the liberty of conscience they enjoyed, and that this
liberty was established by law, so long as they disturbed not the public
peace. {139b}

On the 2nd of March, 1658, a meeting of the church was held at Flixton,
(seven miles from Beccles,) for the purpose of administering the
ordinance of baptism to several children.

Another church meeting was held 3rd March, 1659.  The detailed account of
the proceedings of the society then abruptly terminates.

                                * * * * *

The death of Cromwell, and the resignation of his upright but unaspiring
son, involved the national affairs in new difficulty.  The hour of
comparative sunshine which religion had enjoyed had well nigh passed
away.  The restoration of the monarchy was indeed spoken of as an event
calculated to unite all the jarring elements of the state;—a glowing
hope, resembling the intense fervour of sunshine which precedes and
foretells the renewal of the storm.

In 1662, was passed the Act of Uniformity, than which no chapter of the
Statute Book has obtained, in the estimation of just and liberal men, a
more ignominious notoriety.  It demanded a perfect conformity to the Book
of Common Prayer, and the rites and ceremonies of the established church.
The 5th September (O. S.) 1662, on which day it came into operation, was
properly denominated the _black_ Bartholomew-day.  “That Bartholomew-day”
(says Locke) “was fatal to our church and religion, by throwing out a
very great number of worthy, learned, pious, and orthodox divines.”  By
this statute nearly two thousand five hundred ministers were silenced.
And it is affirmed that, upon a moderate calculation, it procured the
untimely death of three thousand nonconformists, and the ruin of sixty
thousand families. {141}

This proceeding, however, was witnessed by the dissenting body more in
sorrow than in anger.  One of the leading Independents in Suffolk thus
expressed himself.  “About this time was the breaking up of the ministry;
which sad dispensation I was very sensible of, and much bewailed in my
own spirit, and in secret mourning for the sin and misery of England that
had undone itself and declared itself unworthy of the gospel: writing
_Ichabod_ upon all my enjoyments, whilst the glory was departed; calling
to mind my own iniquity that helped on this sad judgment.” {142}

The Act of Uniformity had, according to Dr. Calamy, the immediate effect
of silencing both Mr. John Clark and Mr. Ottee.  Of the former, no
further account has been handed down.  The latter appears to have been
soon enabled, by his own prudence, and through the respect which a holy
and benevolent character often receives even from the worldly and
narrow-minded, to continue the more private exercise of his ministry.

Notwithstanding the passing of the Conventicle Act and the Five Mile Act,
designed more effectually to crush the dissenting congregations and
separate their pastors from them, he appears to have gone on, through the
remaining years of the Stuart dynasty, preaching the gospel to his people
in Beccles.  “And God continued” (says Dr. Calamy) “to bless his labours
among them to the end of his days.”  He presided over his church with
remarkable prudence and fidelity.  His preaching was as solid and useful
as it was plain, and “met with approbation, both from ministers and
private Christians of all denominations.”  The following testimony by Mr.
Bidbanck of Denton, is equally strong.  “He was, as is well known, an
interpreter one of a thousand, Job xxxiii. 23; an Apollos, mighty in the
Scriptures, Acts xviii. 24.” {144a}  If he preached five or six sermons
without hearing of any good effect, he was greatly dejected and very
fervent in prayer for more abundant success.

Towards the close of his life, he had, as he told Mr. Bidbanck, “many
warnings of putting off his tabernacle.”  With a view to his own
consolation under those circumstances, and to the edification of his
flock, he preached, in the mornings of the Lord’s days, a course of
sermons upon the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.  These
were amongst his last discourses.  They were heard with deep and
affectionate interest, and having been taken down in shorthand from the
lips of the preacher, were published soon after his decease. {144b}

This little book was introduced to the christian world, by a short
preface from the pen of Mr. Martin Finch, the minister of the Independent
church at Norwich, {145} and dedicated to the deceased pastor’s bereaved
flock, by Mr. Bidbanck.  In these discourses, Mr. Ottee enlarged upon the
parallel drawn by the apostle between the priesthood of Melchisedec and
that of Jesus Christ, in an expository style, discovering much energy of
thought combined with deep piety and an ardent desire for usefulness.

Mr. Ottee was, emphatically, a _protestant nonconformist_.  With him
personal piety was, indeed, the first, the absorbing consideration.  But
protestantism held scarcely an inferior place in his esteem.  On this
subject his style, even through the mutilating medium of shorthand, rises
to animation.  “What prophet, or what apostle,” he exclaims, “said any
thing for the worshipping of images? or what apostle, or what prophet,
said any thing to warrant the praying in an unknown tongue?  What
prophet, or apostle, or penman of Scripture, hath said any thing
concerning the sacrifice of the mass, for the living and the dead?  Oh,
filthy trash!  What prophet, or apostle, or penman of the Scripture, hath
said any thing concerning praying souls out of purgatory, or of having
mass read for them?  What prophet, or apostle, or Christ himself, said
any thing of purgatory, or crossing themselves, or their childish crosses
and beads?  Of these popish superstitions God hath said nothing in all
his word.  And therefore the people of God must never meddle with these
things; and if you be tempted or solicited to any ceremony, ask the
question, Have Moses, or the prophets, or Christ, or his apostles, said
any thing to this matter that you are so zealous for?  O, search the
Scripture; and what you find there, you are to practise in faith and in
the fear of God.  ‘_To the law and to the testimony_, _if they speak not
__according to this word_, _it is because there is no light in them_.’”
{147a}

Nor did he hesitate to avow his objections to a church which retained any
traces of the superstitions of popery.  “As for us that have the reformed
religion, how many amongst us delight to worship God after the law of a
carnal commandment!  Are there not too many amongst us which are more for
old, abrogated ceremonies than they are for a gospel worship?  Bewail and
lament the apostasy of this generation.” {147b}  “If all the Mosaical
rites and ceremonies were weak and imperfect, and God, for that reason,
abolished them, because they could not reach the main end of man’s
happiness; then, here you may see the folly of those men that set up
these rites and ceremonies and human inventions, in part of their
worship.  If God’s own institutions were weak and unprofitable, what are
men’s inventions?  Are their priestly vestments profitable? their crosses
and cringings, profitable?  What profit is there in bowing the knee at
the word ‘Jesus’? . . .  But some will say, these are ornaments of the
church of God.  To that I answer, so is a painted glass an ornament to
the house, yet it shuts out the light more than a plain glass . . .
These painted and carnal ceremonies do shut out the light of the gospel;
for the light of the gospel shines out more pure and clear in the plain
administration of the gospel; and therefore all those things that carnal
men so magnifie, are unprofitable.” {148a}

Mr. Ottee was _congregational_ in his judgment; but he held his opinions
in combination with so much modesty and moderation, as to win the esteem
and affection of those who differed from him.  In particular, he enjoyed
the intimate friendship of Dr. John Collinges, the learned, pious, and
eminent minister of St. Stephen’s church, Norwich. {148b}

The discourses already quoted, contain ample evidence of the orthodox
character of Mr. Ottee’s views.  They indicate his belief in the doctrine
of original sin; {149a} of the consequent moral inability of man to
effect his own salvation; {149b} of the indispensable importance of the
change called the new birth; {149c} of the Trinity; {149d} of the union
of the divine and human natures in the person of the Son of God; {149e}
of the atonement made by him for sin; {149f} of the obligation resting
upon all men to apply themselves to the exercise of prayer, and to lead a
life of personal holiness; {149g} and the vanity of trusting to the mere
mercy of God, irrespectively of the channel through which he has revealed
his willingness to bestow it. {149h}

There is another topic to which this excellent man adverted in his
published sermons, which must not be passed unnoticed.  This was, the
duty of believers to provide for the support of a succession of christian
ministers.  In connexion with the statement of the sacred writer, that
Abraham gave Melchisedec a tenth part of the spoil of the four kings, he
remarks,—“I know it hath been long a dispute whether tenths or tithes
ought to be continued any longer, or any more than altars and sacrifices,
in a reformed christian church: I shall not determine that; but this we
may all be assured of, that if tithes or tenths be of the ceremonial law,
and so are abolished, yet the moral equity is to abide to the end of the
world,—that those that minister at God’s altar, should have honourable
and comfortable maintenance.” {150}

And referring to the mortality of the priesthood, he says, “We ought to
pray that there may never want a succession of men to carry on the work
of God.  And this ought to be our care also, as far as in us lies, that
there may be a generation brought up for the service of God, when another
goes away.  When Abraham died, his son Isaac succeeded him.  When Aaron
died, Eleazar succeeded, and took up the work of God that his father had
laid down.  So it would be the happiness of families, that children would
take up the work that their fathers have laid down by reason of death.
We live in an age wherein there is a great decay of godly ministers: the
old generation wearing off, and many gone to the dust, and but few come
in, that have the same spirit, the same grace, and shine with the same
light as their fathers did, who are dead and gone.  We ought, all of us,
to pray, as our Saviour saith, that, as the harvest is great, the Lord
would send forth labourers into his harvest.  A good succession speaks a
great favour of God, to families, churches, and nations.  See how careful
Moses was in that.  When God had told him that he must die, (in Numb,
xxvii. 16,) ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man
over the congregation.’  And truly, so should all godly parents and godly
ministers say, Let the God of the spirits of all flesh bring in some to
my family that may go out and in before my family; and let the God of the
spirits of all flesh bring in some to his church, to guide them and to
teach them.” {151}

Mr. Ottee closed his useful career about the end of April, 1689, {152a} a
few days before the Toleration Act laid a basis for the gradual
attainment of religious liberty. {152b}

                                * * * * *

In May, 1687, a part of the site of the present meeting-house had been
purchased by the deacons, Edmund Artis and Francis Haylouck, probably
with a view to the erection of a building for public worship.

It will be observed that this was immediately after the first declaration
for liberty of conscience was issued by James II. {153}  The hollowness
of the king’s professions was probably discovered before any further
measures had been taken: for there appears to have been some delay in the
completion of the building.

                                * * * * *

The deacons just mentioned survived their excellent pastor.  Two of the
silver cups still used by the church in the celebration of the Lord’s
supper, had been marked, at an earlier date, with a faint, perhaps with a
trembling hand,—

    “FOR YE CH: A. H.  E. F R.”

This somewhat enigmatical inscription was afterwards interpreted by
adding in deeply cut letters, upon one of the cups,

    “_To the use of the Church_.  _Francis Haylock_, _Deacon_, 1690.”
    {154a}

and upon the other,

    “_To the use of the Church_.  _Edmund Artist_, _Deacon_, 1690.”
    {154b}



CHAPTER VI.


Subjection of events to the designs of Providence—Joseph Tate—Death of
Augustine Gregory—John Killinghall—“Mr. Green”—Members received—William
Nokes—Edmund Spencer—Deacons ordained—Thomas Tingey—William Lincoln—John
Hurrion—Nicholas Phené—John Fell—Baxter (?) Cole—Declining state of the
interest.

THE wisdom of Providence is often exemplified in the disappointment of
hopes, in themselves worthy to be indulged.  He who turns the devices of
his enemies to the accomplishment of his will, thus teaches his servants
the insufficiency of all that they can do, independently of his aid and
guidance, for the promotion of his glory.  God does not forsake the work
of his own hands; but he retains to himself the high prerogative, to
choose the period and the instruments of its accomplishment.  This
consideration should reconcile the Christian to alternations of
prosperity and adversity in the history of the churches, and should cheer
the heart, and invigorate the hand, under circumstances the most
discouraging.

For a long series of years after Mr. Ottee’s death the church and
congregation at Beccles were, from a variety of causes, in a declining
state.  It will be well, if the contemplation of this period lead to a
grateful feeling of mind under present prosperity, and induce, for the
future, watchfulness against all departures from the faith and practice
of the gospel, by which alone a church of Christ can be really injured.

On the 26th of October, 1691, MR. JOSEPH TATE, having previously been
received into the church, was solemnly set apart to the office of its
pastor.

In the year 1693, the congregation sustained the loss of a promising, and
apparently robust, young man, named _Augustine Gregory_, who had been
designed for the ministry, but was carried off by consumption in his
seventeenth year.  An interesting letter has been preserved, which was
addressed to him a short time before his death, by his intimate friend,
Mr. Josiah Baker, one of the excellent family at Wattisfield, to whom a
reference has been already made. {157}

                                      “_Wattisfield_, _Sept._ 7_th_, 1693.

    “Dying friend,

    “Your present condition directs me to this epithet, which, though in
    itself it might seem harsh and grating, yet I hope your daily
    conversing with death will take off whatever of that nature may be in
    it absolutely considered.

    “The great probability that there appears to be that we shall never
    meet again in this world, is an argument with me to trouble you with
    a few lines as a testimony of my truest affection, and to bid you
    farewell till we meet in a better world.

    . . . . . .

    “It behoves you to see that the foundation of a good work be laid in
    deep humiliation for sin, both original and actual, that there be not
    only a partial, but a thorough change wrought in you; that there be
    an unreserved resignation of yourself to a whole Christ, and a fixed
    reliance upon him alone for salvation; and all this joined with a
    filial submission to a Father’s rod, in your present condition.

    . . . . . .

    “The sweet in-comes which I hope you find under this rod, may greatly
    reconcile you to your present condition; and the forethoughts of the
    glory to come, and uninterrupted communion above, may beget in you a
    longing after the future state.  God in his infinite wisdom, does
    generally give more fellowship and communion with himself, under
    affliction, than at other times, both for the comfort and peace of
    the afflicted, and to show that He is all, _without_ all, as well as
    _in_ all ordinances.  And this should reconcile us to the sharpest
    affliction, even to death itself; if we may have His presence, his
    rod and his staff, to comfort us.  The Lord’s end, in affliction, is
    to take away sin; and if it be his will that we should not come back
    into a sinful world, but be removed into a sinless state above, we
    have no reason to be unwilling to put off our rags of mortality, that
    we may put on robes of immortality, and to go to that place, where
    all tears of conviction, humiliation, and affliction, shall be wiped
    off, and all sin and sorrow shall flee away.

    “You are made a singular example to all spectators about you, and
    especially to all young persons.  It is eminently verified in you,
    that all flesh is grass, and as the flower in the field, so it fades
    and withers.  And when I see so green grass withered, and so fair a
    flower faded, it teacheth me that the young man is not to glory in
    his strength.  I’m sure there is a peculiar voice to myself in this
    affliction.  The Lord grant I may hear that instruction which he
    intends by it, and that it may be sealed by his Spirit upon my heart!

    . . . . . .

    “Farewell, my dear friend.  The Lord bless you, and make his face to
    shine upon you, and lift up the light of his countenance upon your
    soul.  The Lord give you that assurance of his favour which you wait
    for, that joy and peace in believing, that may give you an abundant
    entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
    Christ, where, I hope, at the glorious resurrection, you shall meet
    with

                                                    Your most affectionate
                                                  and sympathizing friend,
                                                     “JOSIAH BAKER.” {160}

During Mr. Tate’s ministry at Beccles, upwards of thirty persons joined
the church.  But on the 28th November, 1694, he resigned his pastoral
office, by a memorandum under his hand, in the church book; and his
dismissal was testified by the signatures of “Edmund Artis,” and “Fran.
Haylouck,” the deacons.

In the same year Mr. Tate became pastor of the Independent church then
assembling at Girdler’s Hall, London, where he succeeded Mr. George
Griffith, an eminent preacher during the interregnum, and a principal
manager in the synod held by the Independents in 1658.  The afternoon
service at Girdler’s Hall was conducted by Mr. Tate for twelve or
thirteen years, but of his subsequent history there are no traces.  That
church afterwards became scattered among other societies.  Many of them
joined in communion under the celebrated Dr. Isaac Watts. {161a}

                                * * * * *

The church at Beccles remained without a settled pastor for nearly three
years after Mr. Tate’s resignation.

In the interval, John Primrose and Nathaniel Newton were ordained
deacons. {161b}  It is most likely that the first meeting-house in
Beccles was erected at this period; for on the 11th January, 1696, (O.
S.) the ground which had been purchased some years earlier, together with
“_a house thereupon newly built_,” was conveyed to trustees, {161c} and
the intention of the parties was declared, by a schedule annexed to the
deed, that the house should be employed as a place of public worship for
such protestants inhabiting in Beccles and the neighbouring towns, as
could not conform to the established religion. {162}

On the 28th July, 1697, MR. JOHN KILLINGHALL was admitted a member, and
on the 13th of the following October, he was set apart to the office of
pastor.

He was an excellent preacher, and for some time highly esteemed here.
But in September 1699, the pleasing prospect became clouded by an
incorrectness of conduct calling for the severest discipline of the
church. {163}  There was no attempt to palliate sin, though it had gained
a temporary victory over one, whose degradation could not fail to bring
discredit upon the christian profession.  The church proceeded with awful
firmness, though not without full proof and a due weighing of all
circumstances, to show their obedience to Christ’s institutions, by
excluding the offender from their communion.  It has been said that some
persons of the establishment considered him to have been too severely
treated: it does not appear that he ever thought so himself.  Deeply
penitent, not only that he had “wronged his own soul,” but also that he
had caused the good of others to be evil spoken of, he applied for some
time to secular business, demeaning himself with great modesty and
becoming remorse.  These circumstances, combined with a desire on the
part of the church to evince the utmost allowable tenderness towards an
erring brother, led to his re-admission after the lapse of some months.

These circumstances have long since been made public.  Historical justice
forbids their suppression.  Nor is there any sufficient reason for
adopting such a course.  The individual himself has joined the assembly
above, among whom “there is joy over a sinner that repenteth.”  None who
have any pretensions to justice or candour, will deny that occurrences
like that in question are rare among the ranks of the dissenting
ministry; and none that value the respect of reasonable and unprejudiced
men, will turn the failings of an individual to the disparagement of a
party, much less of its principles.  “There are too many faults” (to
adopt the language of one distinguished by a truly catholic spirit)
“among all parties; but God knows it is fitter for us all to mend than to
recriminate.  ‘Yea, but the party we are of, professes not so much
strictness.’  No?  What party should you be of, that professes less
strictness?  What more lax rule of morals have you than other Christians?
Do you not profess subjection to the known rules of the Bible concerning
christian and civil conversation?  You do not, sure, profess rebellion
and hostility against the Lord that bought you?  Doth not your baptismal
covenant, which you are supposed to avow, bind you to as much strictness
as any other Christian? . . .  We that think we stand should take heed
lest we fall.  It is a costly admonition that is given us in such
instances.” {165}

Mr. Killinghall did not again occupy the pulpit at Beccles; but about the
year 1702 he was chosen pastor of a numerous and flourishing Independent
church at Southwark.  The expectations of those who had been inclined to
think favourably of him were not disappointed.  He continued with that
society nearly forty years.  He was one of the first six ministers chosen
to preach the Horselydown Lecture for the support of a charity school
instituted in 1715.  His name is also on the list of subscribing members
at the Salters’ Hall synod in 1719.  He died in the month of January,
1740.

                                * * * * *

In the interval between Mr. Killinghall’s departure and the settlement of
the next pastor, the congregation was probably supplied by various
ministers.  In July 1701, the ordinance of baptism was administered by
“Mr. Green,” most likely the venerable pastor of the church at Tunstead,
in Norfolk;—and a visit from so experienced and amiable a Christian, must
have been peculiarly cheering and consolatory. {166}

Among other persons admitted to church fellowship on the 2nd of February,
1703–4, were “Mr. Richard Playters,” and “Mr. John Crispe.”  The former
surname is now remembered in the neighbourhood of Beccles, principally in
connexion with the mansion and estate of Sotterley; the latter is well
known, as borne by a widely extended family circle, who, having been yet
more honourably distinguished as “the children of the covenant, for four
or five generations,” have not suffered “the entail to be cut off.”
{167a}  The record adds, “Mr. Crispe was baptized before his receiving
in.”

                                * * * * *

The next pastor was MR. WILLIAM NOKES.  In the spring of 1688, he was at
the University of Utrecht, surrounded by a constellation of men
afterwards distinguished by their talents and usefulness; and in a
situation to avail himself of the academical instructions of Witsius, and
other eminent professors of divinity. {167b}  The eloquent Saurin was at
that time officiating in the French church at Utrecht.  But the students
from this country had less dainty fare on the Lord’s day, the minister of
the English church being a Dutchman, who spoke the language very
imperfectly, and who, though an honest and good man, was an indifferent
preacher.  Dr. Calamy mentions this circumstance, as well as the Dutch
and French examples of laxity with reference to the sabbath, and the want
of discipline in the University, as “very disadvantageous to the moral
character and mental improvement of the English students.” {168a}

It does not appear that Mr. Nokes had the charge of a congregation prior
to his coming to Beccles.  Nor is the exact date of that event known.
{168b}  It is not unlikely that he previously resided for some time in
London, for he enjoyed at this period of his life the friendship of Mr.
(afterwards Dr.) Isaac Watts. {168c}  To that truly great, and profoundly
humble, man, he told (what is seldom told, but in the patient ear of
intimate friendship) the tale of the “days of darkness,” which had
clouded his spirit.  A description of the state of his mind on religious
subjects, which he committed to blank verse, Watts revised and amplified,
and has preserved among his Lyric Poems.  It is thus introduced: “The
substance of the following copy, and many of the lines, were sent me by
_an esteemed friend_, Mr. W. Nokes, with a desire that I would form them
into a Pindaric ode; but I retained his measures, lest I should too much
alter his sense.”  The style of poetry is such as fully authorizes the
conclusion, that friendship must have furnished the chief inducement to
Watts to bestow his pains upon it.  The following passages will afford a
specimen.



“A SIGHT OF CHRIST. {169}


    . . . . . . . . .

    Once I beheld his face, when beams divine
    Broke from his eyelids, and unusual light
    Wrapt me at once in glory and surprise.
    My joyful heart, high leaping in my breast,
    With transport cried, ‘This is the Christ of God:’
    Then threw my arms around in sweet embrace,
    And clasp’d, and bow’d, adoring low, till I was lost in him.

    . . . . . .

    But the bright shine and presence soon withdrew;
    I sought him whom I love, but found him not.
    I felt his absence, and with strongest cries
    Proclaimed, ‘Where Jesus is not, all is vain.’

    . . . . . .

    Oh that the day, the joyful day, were come,
    When the first Adam from his ancient dust
    Crown’d with new honours, shall revive, and see
    Jesus his Son and Lord; while shouting saints
    Surround their King, and God’s eternal Son
    Shines in the midst . . .

       Death and the tempter, and the man of sin,
    Now at the bar arraign’d, in judgment cast,
    Shall vex the saints no more; but perfect love
    And loudest praises, perfect joy create,
    While ever-circling years proclaim the blissful state.”

In the same year in which Watts accepted the pastoral office, he
addressed to Mr. Nokes the subjoined lines.  The allusion to the sympathy
of minds overwhelmed with floods of sorrow, renders it probable that Mr.
Nokes had already been the subject of some deep affliction, while his
subsequent history induces the supposition that it might he somewhat
similar to that, which for so many years deprived Watts’s church of his
public services.



“TO MR. WILLIAM NOKES.
_Friendship_.
1702. {171}


       “Friendship! thou charmer of the mind,
       Thou sweet deluding ill,
    The brightest minute mortals find,
       And sharpest hour we feel.

       “Fate has divided all our shares
       Of pleasure and of pain;
    In love the comforts and the cares
       Are mix’d and join’d again.

       “But whilst in floods our sorrow rolls
       And drops of joy are few,
    This dear delight of mingling souls
       Serves but to swell our woe.

       “Oh, why should bliss depart in haste,
       And friendship stay to moan?
    Why the fond passion cling so fast,
       When every joy is gone?

       “Yet never let our hearts divide,
       Nor death dissolve the chain:
    For love and joy were once allied,
       And must be joined again.”

For several years the ministry of Mr. Nokes, at Beccles, was attended
with success.

In the early part of 1710, however, there were some things in him of
which his people disapproved; chiefly, it has been supposed, his
disposition to conform.  But he was not hastily or harshly dismissed.
The case was submitted to the ministers of the neighbouring churches in
Norfolk and Suffolk, for their advice. {172}  The result was, however, a
determination, recorded in the church book and signed by the deacons and
several other members, to withdraw their communion from him, with a
renewed resolution stedfastly “to adhere to their church covenant, and
pursue the common interest of Christ among them.”

Mr. Nokes did not, as has been imagined, immediately conform.  In the
same year in which he left Beccles, he undertook the charge of the
congregation at Ropemaker’s Alley, London, which had been for many years
under the pastoral care of Mr. Walter Cross, a minister of considerable
attainments. {173a}

In 1712, Mr. Nokes had a good living given him in the Church of England,
{173b} which he accepted.  Little more is known of him.  Mr. Harmer says,
“he was afterwards disordered in his mind, and died in one of the streets
of London;—some think, on the steps of St. Andrew’s church, Holborn.”
{174}

                                * * * * *

For about a year the church was without a pastor.  On the 16th May, 1711,
MR. EDMUND SPENCER was received into communion with them, preparatory to
his assuming that office.  They seem to have been very happy with him for
many years.  But growing old and infirm, he received a good deal of
uneasiness from a part of the congregation, who wished him to resign.
The mischief was greatly aggravated through the undue influence exercised
by an individual who introduced some preachers from a distance.  These
occupied the pulpit, while the aged pastor consented to continue
preaching in a private house.  The most eminent ministers of Norfolk and
Suffolk evinced the greatest respect for Mr. Spencer, and expressed their
disapprobation of what they regarded as a sad violation of Christian
tenderness.  Mr. Spencer was pastor at Beccles nearly twenty-five years,
and died there about 1736.  His remains were carried to Norwich, and
deposited in the Congregational meeting-house, St. Clement’s,—several of
his own people attending.

He left one daughter, who, some time before his death, was married to a
Mr. Pougher, a gentleman of fortune, educated for the ministry, but who,
being blind, lived in a private capacity.  He was a remarkable example of
that beautiful provision of nature, by which the sense of feeling is
improved to such exquisite acuteness, as almost to compensate for the
loss of sight. {175a}

At a meeting held 13th March, 1722–3, John Utting and Philip Lefabuer
were ordained to the office of deacons “without imposition of hands.”

                                * * * * *

Mr. Spencer was succeeded by MR. THOMAS TINGEY, a son of Mr. Tingey,
first of Northampton, afterwards of Fetter-lane, London. {175b}  He had
pursued his studies at the academy in London, under Dr. Ridgley.

Mr. Tingey, the subject of this notice, preached his first sermon “in Mr.
Russell’s place,” from Jerem. i. 6, “Then said I, Ah, Lord God; behold I
cannot speak, for I am a child.”  On which occasion he “gave uncommon
content and satisfaction,” and his friends were encouraged to look
forward with sanguine expectations of his future instrumentality in
promoting the glory of God, and the salvation of souls. {176a}

About 1730, he settled with the congregation at Lower Rotherhithe, as
successor to Mr. Thomas Masters.  He is described as possessing at that
time good pulpit talents, combined with too much self-esteem and
instability of character. {176b}  But he was a young man, and there was
reason to hope that time and experience would correct these failings.

On the 27th August, 1736, he was united to the church at Beccles; and on
the 8th of the following month was ordained as its pastor, with the
laying on of hands.

Mr. Nathaniel Newton, who appears to have been an active deacon nearly
forty-four years, died 12th June, 1739, and was buried in the
meeting-house.

Mr. Tingey married in March, 1738, and continued at Beccles till his
death, but the congregation declined in numbers under his ministry, and
some who had adopted antipædo-baptist sentiments withdrew, and formed a
distinct church. {177}

Mr. Tingey was generally considered a good preacher; but during the last
few years of his life he was induced to involve himself in secular
business, which tended to lower him in the esteem of the professing
world.

He died about October, 1749, {178a} and was interred in the burial-ground
adjoining the meeting-house.  A stone was erected to his memory, the
inscription upon which, so far as it is now legible, is as follows:—

                             HERE LIETH THE BODY
                              OF THOMS. TINGEY,
                            PASTOR OF THIS CHURCH
                                  13 YEARS,
                            WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
                              . . . 1749, {178b}
                                    . . .

From that time to Midsummer, 1757, the congregation was supplied by MR.
WILLIAM LINCOLN.  He had become a student in the academy at Northampton
under Dr. Doddridge, in 1745, and came from thence to Beccles.
Afterwards he removed to Bury St. Edmunds; was ordained pastor of the
congregation assembling in Churchgate street in that town, September 7th,
1757; and died there April 22nd, 1792, at the age of sixty-four. {179a}

                                * * * * *

After Mr. Lincoln left Beccles, various ministers occupied the pulpit
some months; particularly MR. JOHN HURRION, a grandson of Mr. Hurrion,
first of Denton, and afterwards of Harecourt, London, and son of Mr.
Samuel Hurrion, of Guestwick. {179b}  He became, in August, 1761, pastor
of the Independent church at Southwold, where he died much respected,
March 13th, 1793, aged fifty-six.

                                * * * * *

In the autumn of 1758, MR. NICHOLAS PHENÉ, who had been a student in the
Hoxton Academy, came to Beccles.  He continued here as a supply for about
two years, and then went to Rendham, in Suffolk, where he was ordained
June 6th, 1761.  He again removed in 1764, to Gloucester, and afterwards
to Bradford, Wiltshire, and died in 1773.

                                * * * * *

For many months subsequent to the Michaelmas of 1760, occasional
ministers were engaged at Beccles.  During several succeeding years, the
pulpit was occupied by an individual whose talents and writings have
rendered him eminent in the dissenting community.  This was MR. JOHN
FELL.

He was born at Cockermouth, in Cumberland, August 22nd, 1735.  From his
father, a pious schoolmaster, he received an education suitable for the
station of a humble tradesman, for which he was intended.  But the son
afforded an example of natural talent, and indefatigable industry,
combining with providential circumstances, to surmount all the
difficulties which lie in the path to useful and honourable distinction.
Removing to London that he might improve in his business, he happily
connected himself with a master who could appreciate his solid abilities
and literary taste.  It was soon discovered that his highest ambition was
to become a christian minister; and with the assistance of some gentlemen
of wealth and philanthropy, he was placed at the Independent academy at
Mile-end.  He there applied to study with such incessant diligence, that
his progress soon excited the admiration of his tutors and
fellow-students.  Quitting the academy with an unusual share of
attainments, but having no immediate prospect of settling with a
congregation, Mr. Fell became assistant in a school at Norwich.  There he
probably remained until he was invited, in 1762, to remove to Beccles to
supply the vacant pulpit.  He found the congregation few in number, but
affectionate in private, and serious and attentive in public.

During his residence in Beccles, he was cordially received into what is
termed “the best society.”  He evinced the greatest charity and candour
towards those whose views of religion he could not approve; and while he
associated with the advocates of the Established church, he never
hesitated to avow his ardent and unalterable attachment to the interests
of civil and religious liberty.  His manners were frank, easy, and
unaffected, and his conversation cheerful, interesting, and instructive.
He did not allow his quick penetration and his readiness of utterance to
betray him into dogmatism or parade: and he knew how to defend himself,
with point and humour, from such an imputation.  Falling accidentally
into company with Dr. King of Harecourt, London, that serious, but
cheerful minister rallied him upon his alleged sprightliness of wit and
acuteness of criticism.  “Well, young man,” said he, “I hear you are a
critic;—pray, sir, how do you define a critic?”  “Doctor,” replied Mr.
Fell, “I never did define a critic; but if I were to attempt it, I think
I should say, he is one who labours to make _easy_ things _difficult_.”
An answer which is said to have occasioned some amusement at the expense
of the aggressor.

Mr. Fell had a lively, energetic delivery; and his sermons, though always
the result of hard study, were extempore.  He received an invitation to
become the settled pastor of the congregation at Beccles.  But as they
had long been without any regular church government, were few in number,
and the prospect of an increase not, at that time, very encouraging, he
declined the proposal.

In May, 1770, he visited, with a view to the pastoral charge, the
Independent congregation at Thaxted, in Essex.  There he was ordained in
the following October, and soon made himself useful and beloved.  But he
was calculated for a sphere of usefulness wider, or at least more
difficult to fill, than the charge of a country congregation.  After
several years’ residence at Thaxted, he was prevailed on to become the
resident classical tutor at the academy in which he had been educated for
the ministry, and which had been removed, in 1770, to Homerton.  He had
not been long there, before a misunderstanding occurred which terminated
in his dismissal.  In this affair, the conduct of his adversaries appears
to have been not unmingled with severity.  Several highly respectable
persons who were of this opinion, raised an annual stipend of £100, for
which he was to deliver a course of twelve lectures on the evidences of
Christianity.  He entered zealously upon this task in the year 1797, but
had only delivered four lectures, when death interfered with the
completion of the plan.  He expired on the 6th, and was interred in
Bunhillfields on the 15th September in that year, his remains being
followed by a train of fourteen mourning coaches and several carriages.

Besides the four lectures before mentioned, (which were continued by Dr.
Henry Hunter,) and several other publications, he was the author of
answers to the Rev. Hugh Farmer’s Essays on the Demoniacs and on the
Idolatry of Greece and Rome; in which productions he displayed much
acuteness and learning. {184}

After Mr. Fell’s removal to Thaxted, Mr. Newton of Norwich, Mr. Harmer of
Wattisfield, and other ministers; continued to preach at Beccles; and the
congregation had for rather more than half a year preceding midsummer,
1771, the services of a Mr. Cole.  It is surmised that this must have
been the learned BAXTER COLE, who, prior to 1765, was morning preacher to
the congregation in Rope-makers’ alley, London, of which the Rev. Thomas
Towle was pastor.  In that year he went to Wymondham, in Norfolk, where
he preached till May, 1766.  He never undertook any pastoral charge; but
was a close student, and superintended the printing of an edition of Dr.
Lardner’s Works.  He also revised some of the publications of the truly
great Howard.  Mr. Cole died at Sible Hedingham, in Essex, his native
county, Oct. 13th, 1794, at an advanced age.  He was a firm dissenter and
Independent, a strenuous assertor of civil and religious liberty; and a
man of considerable attainments, of the strictest integrity, and true
piety. {185}

But although the preaching of the gospel had been maintained with little
intermission during the long period which had elapsed from Mr. Tingey’s
decease, the church had suffered much for want of a stated pastor.
Member after member had been removed by death, and none were added.  In
the meeting-house, where the remnant of the people usually worshipped,
the Lord’s supper had not been administered for more than twenty years.
No regular discipline had been kept up; and the interest itself seemed on
the point of expiring.  But it pleased God in answer to many prayers, to
shine upon the decaying cause, and to unfold a new and more cheering era
of its history.—“Happy assembly above, which knows no diminution, but
rejoices in perpetual accessions to its numbers, perhaps in continual
additions to its knowledge and consolations too!” {186}



CHAPTER VII.


Joseph Heptinstall—Early life—Settles at Beccles—His ministerial
usefulness and character—His death—Isaac Sloper—Residence at
Cheltenham—Acquaintance with Rev. Cornelius Winter—Studies for the
ministry—Accepts the pastoral office at Beccles—His
ordination—Afflicted—Visits his distant friends—Death of Mr.
Winter—Meditation and prayer at the beginning of a year—Acquaintance with
Mrs. Siddons.

JOSEPH HEPTINSTALL, pastor of the Independent church at Beccles from 1773
to 1802, was born at Walsall, in Staffordshire, January 26th, 1742.  He
was blessed with a pious and tender mother, who often took him into her
closet, and on her knees prayed fervently to God on his behalf.  Her
supplications were not immediately answered.  At the early age of twelve
years, her son manifested the depravity of his nature, by avowing himself
an atheist.  But being providentially led to contemplate a flower in his
father’s garden, he was convinced that its beautiful structure must have
been the work of a First Cause, that created and sustains all things.
Conscience, in conjunction with the sacred Scriptures, impressively
taught him that this Being was holy and just, and therefore would approve
and reward holiness, and abhor and punish sin.  These convictions led him
to seek salvation “by the works of the law;” but he mentions that about
this time, he read Law’s “Christian Perfection,” and imbibed more correct
views of the purity and spirituality of the divine commands.  Comparing
his conduct with them, he was convinced of the awful state to which sin
had reduced him, and greatly alarmed at the consequences of rebelling
against God.  With a mind thus depressed and agitated, he repaired to the
throne of grace, imploring the mercy of God, and pleading his promises
through the Mediator.  He derived much consolation from that important
passage of Scripture, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt
be saved.”  Being enabled by the Holy Spirit to receive the gospel, he
enjoyed peace with God, and the happiness of those to whom iniquity is
not imputed.  He now began to consider how he might best glorify God, and
serve him in the world; and determined, in the strength of God, to devote
himself to the christian ministry.  This resolution met with the warmest
approbation of his parents.  They were zealous advocates of the religious
establishment of this country, and had the means of amply providing for
their son within its pale, through an aunt, who readily promised him a
living of which she had the patronage.

With these views he commenced a preparatory course of study for the
University of Oxford, where at the age of seventeen he was to have been
admitted.  Meanwhile he wisely examined the Thirty-nine Articles, which
he would have been called upon to subscribe.  He appears to have
hesitated with regard to that “Of Predestination and Election;” and he
was unwilling to recognise as a part of his creed, a doctrine which, at
that time, was not so in reality.  On the other hand he was much
distressed at the idea of relinquishing his intention to become a
minister; and, in his estimation, to abandon the church of England was
the same, for hitherto nothing had ever induced him to cross the
threshold of a dissenting meeting-house.

In this unsettled state of mind he was introduced to an aged gentleman,
to whom he imparted his feelings, and who was the means of removing not
only his objections to the doctrine of election, but also his prejudices
against dissent.  In consequence of this conversation he relinquished all
thoughts of Oxford, and after a short time entered the Independent
academy at Mile-end, afterwards at Homerton, {190a} in which he remained
upwards of seven years. {190b}

About midsummer, 1771, having finished his studies, he visited Beccles,
by the advice of his friend the Rev. Thomas Towle, with the hope of being
instrumental in reviving and re-organizing the almost expiring interest.
There remained of Mr. Tingey’s church only four members, one of whom was
his widow.  Another who was residing at Bury, communicated, through Mr.
Harmer of Wattisfield, his acquiescence in the arrangements of his
brethren.

On the 8th May, 1772, the Rev. Thomas Bocking of Denton, with two
messengers from the church under his care, attended at Beccles; and in
their presence, three persons, {191} on a profession of their faith in
Christ, were admitted to a participation with the small remnant of the
church in the privileges of christian fellowship.  On the following day
Mr. Bocking administered to them the Lord’s supper, when also another
member was admitted, under a testimonial from the church of Scotland.

On the 15th May, 1773, Mr. Heptinstall received a unanimous invitation
from the church and congregation, to become their pastor, which he
accepted; and on the 27th July he was ordained over them, “to the great
consolation of the neighbouring churches and ministers.”

The services were introduced by Mr. Bocking. {192}  Referring to the
interest evinced by the elders of other religious societies on this
occasion, he disclaimed on their behalf any pretensions to ecclesiastical
authority.  “In truth,” said he, “there is no power in the church but
what is ministerial; which, as it comes from Jesus Christ, is revealed in
the Scriptures, and there stands as a directory both of faith and
manners.  We deny that the ‘church hath power to decree rites or
ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith,’ most heartily
adhering to this description, that ‘the visible church of Christ is a
congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached,
and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in
all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.’” . . .
“Happy will it be,” he added, “if former neglects and untoward
circumstances should be improved for greater diligence, and the lamp
which was just out, should so revive, as to burn with a steady and
persevering flame.”

These anticipations were mercifully realized.  In 1779 the number of
communicants was augmented to thirty-six, and in 1785 to forty-six; and
Mr. Heptinstall had the happiness to preside over an increasing and
harmonious church to the end of his days.

He had a fine clear voice, and his general delivery was unaffected and
impressive.  It was his object, in all his sermons, to pour contempt on
human pride, that in every case self might be disclaimed and Christ alone
exalted.  He was a Calvinist from conviction, and wherever he addressed a
congregation, he never failed to declare salvation to be entirely of
grace,—the unmerited gift of God.

He was firm in his attachment to religious liberty, and ready, on proper
occasions, with gratitude and animation, to point out its value to
others.

But while he was decided in his own sentiments, he was distinguished by
his candour, moderation, and benevolence, towards those who differed from
him.  His example served, in a great measure, to diffuse the same spirit
through his own congregation, and to promote a friendly intercourse with
persons of other denominations.

He possessed much generosity of disposition towards the poor.  But he was
far from regarding this manifestation of christian principle as the
ground of his acceptance in the sight of God.  On the contrary, his mind
was constantly impressed with the deepest sense of his personal guilt, so
that it might be said of him, that he abhorred himself, and daily
repented in dust and ashes.

The late venerable pastor of the neighbouring Congregational church at
Bungay, the Rev. Robert Shufflebottom, who knew him long and intimately,
always mentioned him as a brother greatly beloved. {194}  He lived many
years under the fear that, in his conflict with the last enemy, he should
dishonour the cause of his Lord and Master.  This state of mind was
probably aggravated by profuse bleedings at the nose, which weakened his
frame and broke his spirits.  It was his earnest wish not to remain
longer in the body, than he could preach the glad tidings of salvation to
perishing sinners.  More than once he expressed a wish to die either in
the pulpit or soon after leaving it.

This desire was granted.  On the morning of the Lord’s day, August 29th,
1802, he arose in his usual health, and performed the public service with
his accustomed energy.  But on leaving the pulpit he complained of
violent headache, which after dinner had increased to such a degree, as
to be attended almost with loss of sight.  In vain were expostulations
used with him not to attempt the afternoon service.  Thinking he should
feel better after he had begun preaching, he again ascended the pulpit,
read a chapter with evident difficulty, and took for his text that
memorable passage, John i. 29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away
the sin of the world!”  His impaired vision preventing the use of his
notes, he preached extempore about half an hour, and closed the public
worship of the day with the most impressive prayer his congregation had
ever heard from his lips.  A few minutes only had elapsed before his
recollection failed.  After he was taken home, he spoke only once,
referring to the pain in his head and begging for assistance.  He
continued in a state of stupor till about seven o’clock in the evening,
when he gave signs of returning reason, by pressing the hand of his
afflicted partner.  About ten o’clock he closed his earthly sabbath, by
entering upon that which is eternal. {196}

On the following sunday afternoon, the Rev. H. W. Gardiner of Southwold
delivered an impressive discourse upon the occasion, from Phil. ii. 16,
“Holding forth the word of life, that I may rejoice in the day of Christ,
that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

His remains were interred in the church-yard of Mutford, near those of
his wife’s relatives.  A small monument was erected in the meeting-house
to his memory.  It describes him as having laboured “in the christian
ministry with fidelity and success.”  The inscription upon his
grave-stone is as follows:

                                    SACRED
                             TO THE MEMORY OF THE
                           REV. JOSEPH HEPTINSTALL,
                        PASTOR OF THE CONGREGATION OF
                         PROTESTANT DISSENTERS IN THE
                               TOWN OF BECCLES,
                        WHICH OFFICE HE FAITHFULLY AND
                           ZEALOUSLY DISCHARGED FOR
                              TWENTY-NINE YEARS;
                           AND DIED ON THE EVENING
                              OF THE LORD’S DAY
                            AUGUST THE 29TH, 1802,
                                 AGED SIXTY.

The sudden removal of their excellent minister was deeply felt by the
church and congregation, and earnest prayer was presented, that the
dispensation might be sanctified, and the stroke healed.  In the month of
November, God was pleased to introduce among them their late admirable
pastor.

                                * * * * *

ISAAC SLOPER was born at Devizes, in Wiltshire, May 30th, 1779, and was
baptized soon after, by the Rev. Rowland Hill.  His parents, though not
distinguished by rank or riches, were endowed with those honours which
come from above, and died in the well-founded hope of the “crown of glory
which fadeth not away.”  He received his early instructions under the
Rev. J. L. Fenner, the Presbyterian minister at Devizes, afterwards of
Taunton, in Somersetshire, where he died in 1834, greatly advanced in
life.

In April, 1794, Mr. Sloper left his father’s house, and was placed as a
clerk in the office of Mr. Richard Pruen, an attorney at Cheltenham.  Of
this period of life his private papers contain the following interesting
account.

    “During my residence at Cheltenham the serious impressions which I
    had acquired from the example, instruction, and prayers of my
    parents, were almost entirely destroyed.  Though I verified the
    assertion of the wise man, ‘The way of transgressors is hard,’ in
    process of time my conscience would more easily permit me to neglect
    prayer and the Scriptures, think lightly of the sabbath, and prefer
    the society of the gay and dissipated to that of persons religions
    and grave.  To the brink of ruin was I hurried . . .  But my
    destruction was prevented by an omnipotent arm, and sovereign grace.
    By reflection and a serious train of thought, I was convinced of my
    excessive folly and irreligious conduct.  I was enabled to betake
    myself to prayer, and to pay a diligent regard to the other means of
    grace.  At first my convictions were attended with much dejection of
    mind, and fears concerning the important matters of my soul, of death
    and eternity.  But the God of all grace soon permitted me to
    experience that the ways of true religion are ‘ways of pleasantness,’
    and that all ‘her paths are peace.’

    “Brought to see the evil of sin, and to feel the importance of true
    religion for the present life, and for a future state, I possessed a
    strong desire to devote myself to the solemn and arduous work of the
    christian ministry, that I might labour to convince my
    fellow-creatures of their danger, and invite them to receive the
    grace of the blessed Redeemer, and seek the honours, riches, and
    happiness of eternity.”

Under these impressions, Mr. Sloper turned his thoughts towards one who
was ever the willing, affectionate, and judicious adviser of pious
youth,—the truly Reverend Cornelius Winter, of Painswick.  While he was
expressing, in a letter to this excellent man, his views and
inclinations, Mr. Winter went to Cheltenham on a visit to Sir Richard
Hill.  He favoured Mr. Sloper with several interviews; and at one of them
introduced, in the course of conversation, the very subject which was
uppermost in the mind of his young friend.  When informed of the purport
of the letter which Mr. Sloper had partly written to him, he was struck
with the singularity of the circumstance, and proposed corresponding on
the subject in question.  Several letters were exchanged.  The value of
the advice which Mr. Sloper had secured, and its probable influence upon
his future character, conduct, and circumstances, will be best estimated
from the following extracts.

    “My ever dear Isaac,

    “If you had not been peculiarly near to me, I could not have spared a
    moment for you to-day.  Your desire has more weight with me than a
    command would have from many of your superiors.  I therefore drop you
    a hasty line, to exhort you to give yourself unto prayer; to watch
    and wait for the openings of providence; and to be fully satisfied,
    upon the strictest and narrowest examination, that you stand prepared
    for all the difficulties of the gospel ministry, as well as to be
    disposed to promise yourself all the comforts it affords, in
    conjunction with the improvement preparatory to it.  I am truly glad
    you can lay yourself unreservedly open to _Him_ who seeth and knoweth
    all things, even the secret recesses of the soul, and the spring and
    motive of every action.

    “I see you will find some difficulty to get disengaged from Mr. P.  I
    need not say, behave handsomely upon the occasion; and while you are
    firm in your resolution, be prudent.  You remind me of the great
    difficulty I was under when a young man; how sanguine, and
    consequently, how restless to carry my point.  Though, in fact, it
    was God’s point I could not move in my own time, nor in my own way.
    {202}  Your line is drawn, and you will be that which God would have
    you.  Maintain communion with him, and when he hides his face, beg
    him to show you the cause, that your humiliation may be in proportion
    to the sin he means to resent.  Remember, my dear fellow, that there
    are seasons wherein faith must be called into exercise, that when you
    talk of faith, you may talk by experience.  At all times look unto
    Jesus; and when you cannot look immediately to him, look after him.
    Resist that enemy, stedfast in the faith, who is permitted to buffet
    you; and every blow he gives you will recoil upon himself.

    “You may be sure I will keep the object in view.  I am praying for
    direction, and as directed, will act . . .

    “I can add no more than a heart full of good wishes, and my constant
    prayers.  You are interested in these, because I am, my ever dear
    Isaac,

                                                Yours very affectionately,
                                                   in our dear Lord Jesus,
                                                        CORNELIUS WINTER.”

    “PAINSWICK,
    _Jan._ 21, 1797.”

Again in the month of April of the same year: “What a mercy we have a
God, such a God, to whom we can commit ourselves.  My dearest Isaac, let
him be your God for ever and ever.  Serve him as a real Christian while
you live, though you should never serve him as a minister in his church.
Watch the footsteps of his providence, and let him have the disposal of
you.  He can do nothing wrong.  He has all his plans before him, and he
is very wise and exact in the execution of them.”

                                * * * * *

It was at length determined that Mr. Sloper should apply for admittance
into the academy at Homerton; and in October, 1797, he was received into
that institution.  There were then fourteen students, and the tutors were
Dr. Fisher and the Rev. John Berry.

Early in the summer of 1798, Mr. Sloper was admitted a member of the
church at Stepney, under the pastoral care of the Rev. George Ford, whose
ministry proved truly beneficial to him.

Towards the close of the year 1799, Mr. Berry resigned his office as
resident tutor, and was succeeded by Mr. (now Dr.) John Pye Smith, to
whose invaluable instructions and uniform friendship Mr. Sloper felt
himself under the greatest obligations.

His conduct as a student was truly exemplary, and, as may generally be
observed, laid a foundation for that high respectability of character
which he manifested in his future life.

At the close of his preparatory studies, he was requested, through the
Rev. Samuel Newton of Norwich, to spend a few probationary weeks at
Beccles.  Accordingly, Nov. 5th, 1802, he left London for that purpose,
and delivered his first sermon at Beccles on Sunday, Nov. 7th.  After
preaching to the people six sabbath days, he was requested to return to
them for a longer season, with a view to becoming their stated minister.
In the month of February, 1803, he consequently came again to Beccles,
and in the following April an invitation from the church was presented to
him to become their pastor, which was accepted by Mr. Sloper, on Sunday,
8th May, and was followed on the 7th July by his public and solemn
ordination.

On that occasion, Mr. Sheppard of Wrentham, commenced the service with
prayer and reading of the Scriptures.  Mr. Walford of Yarmouth, delivered
an introductory discourse, on ordination, as practised among protestant
dissenters; asked the usual questions of the minister; and received his
confession of faith.  Mr. Newton of Norwich, offered up the ordination
prayer, which was unaccompanied by imposition of hands.  Mr. Ford of
Stepney, gave the charge, from Col. iv. 17.  Mr. Ray of Sudbury, preached
to the people, from 1 Cor. xvi. 10.  Mr. Shufflebottom of Bungay, Mr.
Gardiner of Southwold, and Mr. Craig of Bocking, engaged in other parts
of the service; and Mr. Atkinson of Ipswich, preached in the evening.
More than twenty ministers were present. {206}

The important union thus formed and recognised, was, on the 16th of
August, in the same year, followed by Mr. Sloper’s marriage; and both
events were productive of felicity, for which, to his very last days, he
constantly blessed God.

After his ordination his ministry created considerable attention; the
congregation gradually increased; and through the divine blessing, his
preaching was rendered effectual to the conversion of some, and to the
improvement and comfort of many.

Previously to Mr. Sloper’s pastorate, it was usual in this, as in many
other Congregational churches, for persons desiring to unite with the
society, to send in a written account of their christian experience.  And
it was also customary to hold three church meetings before the reception
of a candidate.  In December, 1803, as prudence did not appear to require
a rigid adherence to these regulations, it was agreed, at a church
meeting, that the writing a paper should be left to the inclination of
the candidates, and that they should in future be proposed at one
meeting, and received, or rejected, at the next. {207a}

In 1804, a secession of a few members took place.  They formed the
nucleus of the Baptist church which has since existed in Beccles. {207b}

Mr. Sloper was visited in the same year with an indisposition, which
occasioned his absence for six weeks.  During this affliction he had
ample proof of the affection of his people.  Prayer-meetings were held
for the special purpose of imploring the blessing of God on the means
employed for his recovery, and upon his ministry when he should resume
it.  These supplications were graciously regarded, and he was enabled
again to preach very frequently, and with much success, till October,
1806, when it pleased God to afflict him with typhus fever.  This illness
lasted till the middle of December, and at times was attended with
considerable danger.  He observes, “It produced a great dejection of
spirits, and dread of death; but goodness and mercy attended me every
moment.  My affliction excited in the minds of my people, and
fellow-townsmen, general concern; and, I believe, was the means of
strengthening the mutual affection that exists between my charge and
their minister.  The kindness of my congregation and friends on this
occasion, I trust, will not soon be erased from my recollection, or my
heart.”  He makes no allusion to the cause of his illness.  It originated
from his attention to an afflicted individual.  The house of sickness and
mourning was never forsaken by him; and there was a tenderness of
sympathy in his manner, and a glowing affection in his heart, which were
very soothing to the afflicted.  He regarded visiting the sick as an
important duty, and expressly consulted his friend, Mr. Winter, on the
best mode of discharging it.  “I generally,” said that excellent man in
his reply, “endeavour to be very serious in prayer;” {209} and Mr. Sloper
did not fail to profit by this suggestion.  His prayers in seasons of
trial were peculiarly touching and appropriate.

In the summer of 1807, he took a journey for the purpose of visiting his
distant relations and friends.  He met again, at that time, his early and
venerated friend, Mr. Winter.  The tie which connected them had been
doubled by Mr. Sloper’s alliance with one who in early life had been much
with that holy and benevolent man—one of his numerous “children by
adoption and kindness.”  About two months previous to the attack which
terminated his useful life, he wrote to her as follows:

    “My very dear daughter,

    I sit down purposely to write something to you.  I wish it may be
    something profitable; for otherwise a letter is nothing worth . . .

    I am disappointed at not seeing more genuine religion produced by my
    labours.  Some I hope fear God, and walk before him, but many are so
    irregular in their walk, that I fear for them.  I hope matters are
    different at Beccles.  I find the short time since I was there has
    produced changes.  Some have quitted the stage of life, and left
    vacant seats in the house of God; . . . yet our dear friend has a
    considerable number by which his hands are strengthened.  Oh that
    they may be his present joy, and his future crown of rejoicing! . . .
    I need not say, consecrate yourselves to God; keep the mind
    heavenwards; let your friends see that you live upon the suburbs of
    the heavenly kingdom.  Do not let the world engross you in any
    degree.  Whether it smile or frown, be alike indifferent to it.
    Conceive of it as it is, fleeting and uncertain.  Take the
    refreshments provided for and suited to the pilgrim; but do not set
    up your rest where you should only bait.  Prepare to meet your God. .
    . .  My good wife is as well as may be expected, and so is Mrs.
    Tyler, to whom we are much indebted for her kind exertions.  They
    unite in salutations to you and my son, from whom I shall ever be
    glad to receive a line.  If he will commission you to use his pen,
    and you will accept the commission, it will be equally and very
    acceptable to

                                                    My ever dear daughter,
                                            Your very affectionate father,
                                                  CORNELIUS WINTER.” {211}

    “PAINSWICK,
    _Oct._ 16, 1807.”

To the death of this greatly esteemed friend, Mr. Sloper thus tenderly
refers in his private papers.  “January 10th, 1808, that excellent man,
that eminent Christian and minister, Rev. Cornelius Winter, was removed
by death to his eternal home.  His decease seriously impressed my mind,
and drew from me the tear of selfish regret, that I should receive no
more instruction from his lips, nor ever more be delighted with his pious
conversation, fervent prayers, and affectionate intercourse.  Oh may the
son who now writes concerning his honoured father and friend, possess a
measure of his spirit and imitate his holy example.  His image is
impressed upon the hearts of all who knew him; and his heavenly portrait,
painted by the hand of his adopted son, the worthy and eloquent Mr. Jay,
will be held up for the admiration and regard of succeeding generations.”

The following interesting reflections and solemn prayer, found among the
same papers, under the date of January 3rd, 1809, deserve to be
introduced here.

    “By the grace of God I am spared to the commencement of another year.
    I would begin it with serious reflection on the past, and with humble
    prayer as it concerns futurity.

    “Many of my fellow-creatures have commenced this year in the world of
    spirits.  They have done with time and with all its concerns.  Their
    season for gaining and doing good is closed for ever.  But God has
    prolonged my existence, and, during the past year, distinguished me
    with his goodness and mercy.  Upon the whole my health this year has
    been much improved: as a minister, I have been enabled to exert
    myself considerably in the preaching of the gospel: the congregation
    has been large; and a few, the fruit of my ministry, have been added
    to the church.

    “My domestic comforts have been great.  My house has been the seat of
    _health_, _affection_, and _peace_.  Here I would raise my
    Ebenezer,—‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped me,’—and turn my reflections
    into prayer to the great Preserver of my being.

    “O thou God of grace, in whom I live and move continually, help thy
    servant to prostrate himself before thy throne; and hear the faithful
    acknowledgments which he desires to offer.

    “I thank thee for all thy favours which thou hast bestowed upon me
    ever since I came into the world: for preservation in the midst of
    dangers; for restoration from sickness to health; but, above all, for
    a religious education; for the wise conduct of thy superintending
    providence, and for thy distinguishing grace in calling me from the
    follies of the world into the family of thy children, and into the
    ministry of thy dear Son.  I thank thee, O God, for all the
    privileges of the past year, for all my exemption from affliction and
    pain, for the strength which I have possessed for the performance of
    every duty as the head of a family, and as the minister of a
    congregation.  I thank thee, O Lord, for the happiness I enjoy at
    home, and for the peace that prevails among the people of my charge.

    “But whilst thou art worthy to receive the warmest returns of
    gratitude for thy goodness towards me, I would, on a recollection of
    my conduct, with contrition humble myself before thee.  Merciful God!
    forgive my pride and vanity of heart; forgive my levity of speech and
    behaviour, my lukewarmness in thy service, and every error and defect
    which have been found in the exercises I have performed.  From a
    consciousness of my many imperfections I would throw myself entirely
    on thy compassion, praying with the publican, ‘God be merciful to me
    a sinner!’

    “Shouldst thou spare me, O God, through the year upon which I have
    entered, O spare me for the benefit of my own soul, for the good of
    others, and for thy glory.  Enable me to read thy word, and to study
    it with attention and delight: help me to maintain the spirit and
    practice of devotion in my closet, in my family, and in the public
    assembly: assist me to deal faithfully with the souls of my people
    when conversing with them in friendly intercourse, and when
    addressing them from thy holy word.  May I be instant in season and
    out of season for the conversion of the irreligious, and for the
    comfort of those that already believe.  May the people committed to
    my charge be preserved from every error in sentiment, and
    irregularity in conduct, injurious to themselves and dishonourable to
    thee.  May many be added to the church, and may great prosperity
    attend us.

    “Shouldst thou, in thy infinite wisdom, see fit to afflict me in my
    own person, family, or friends, enable me to meet the visitation with
    a full dependence on thy all-wise providence, and with humble
    resignation to thy righteous will.  And shouldst thou call me from
    time into the eternal world before the close of the present year, Oh
    may I die in the faith of that gospel which I preach to perishing
    sinners, and in the possession and enjoyment of that hope which I
    have recommended to others, which has heaven for its glorious object,
    and the atonement and intercession of thy Son Jesus Christ for its
    firm foundation.  Amen.”

In the autumn of 1810, Mr. Sloper spent some time at Lowestoft, a
distance from home, which allowed him the enjoyment and advantage of the
sea air, without seriously interfering with the performance of his
pastoral duties.  There he became acquainted with the celebrated Mrs.
Siddons, who had escaped from the excitement of public life, to the
unmolested retirement and invigorating breezes of the same
watering-place.  That extraordinary woman had a _talent_, rather than a
_taste_, for the vocation she pursued.  Her natural character was marked
by extreme diffidence, and a “benignant singleness of mind.”  What was
said of her, could have been said, even in poetry, of few actresses:

    “Behold, dividing still the palm of fame,
    Her radiant science, and her spotless life.” {217a}

She had already passed the zenith of her celebrity.  Providence had
repeatedly and recently, called her to tread, in domestic life, the “path
of sorrow,” and her religious advantages, however few, had taught her
that

                “_That_ path alone
    Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.”

“Sweet sometimes,” said she, “are the uses of adversity.  It not only
strengthens family affection, but teaches us all to walk humbly with our
God.” {217b}  It is not surprising that she was disposed to cultivate the
society of those who could blend piety with cheerfulness, and with whom
she might be on friendly terms without ceremony.  Such acquaintances she
found in Mr. Sloper’s family.  Mrs. Siddons, with unassuming kindness,
contributed to their amusement by specimens of her powerful reading.  She
joined willingly in the worship of the family, and maintained the same
invaluable practice at her own lodgings.

Just at that time Mr. Sloper was requested to preach a sermon to his own
people, {218} on an affecting and mournful occasion—the death of a
suicide.  Though he keenly felt the delicacy and difficulty of the task,
a sense of duty and the possibility of usefulness overcame his scruples.
He selected as his text, the impressive sentiment of the apostle, “_The
sorrow of the world worketh death_.”—2 Cor. vii. 10.  Mrs. Siddons was
one of his auditors.  She who had been the honoured guest of royalty, who
had been enthroned as the Tragic Muse, and whose voice had charmed
applauding multitudes—was seen, in the humble dissenting meeting-house at
Beccles, shedding abundant and unaffected tears at the plain and faithful
exhibition of religious truth!

Mr. Sloper’s preaching was as powerfully recommended to her by the
delightful illustration of christian principles, exhibited in his private
character, as by the intrinsic importance of those principles and the
simple gravity and penetrating earnestness with which they were announced
from his lips.  He afterwards procured for her, at her request, a copy of
Scott’s admirable “Commentary on the Bible,” which he accompanied with a
letter, warmly urging upon her attention the great realities her
profession had so manifest a tendency to exclude from her contemplations.

Mrs. Siddons more than once expressed her gratitude for the interest Mr.
Sloper had evinced in her eternal welfare; she thanked him, in writing,
for the advice he had given her, adding an emphatic wish that “God might
enable her to follow it”—a wish which her pious and amiable correspondent
echoed with all the fervour of his heart.  She returned into the glare of
popularity: but a hope may surely be indulged, that the pressure of
subsequent relative afflictions, and of old age, were not permitted to
come upon her, unaccompanied by the impressions and consolations of true
religion.  Her elegant biographer, Mr. Campbell, draws a veil over the
state of her mind during her last hours, which it would be deeply
interesting to penetrate.  Would she not _then_, if reason were undimmed,
reflect upon the faithful counsel she received with Scott’s Bible, as
being of infinitely greater value than the applause of myriads or the
fame of ages?



CHAPTER VIII.


Meeting-house rebuilt—Daniel Delf—Formation of the Beccles District
Missionary Society—Bible meetings—Association Sermon—Meetings of
ministers—Samuel Archer—Illness of Mr. Sloper—Attacked with
paralysis—Letter to the Treasurer of the Suffolk Missionary
Society—Second attack—Rev. John Flower—Mr. Sloper resigns—His
character—Ordination of Mr. Flower—Death of Mr. Sloper—Tablet to his
memory—William Crisp—Enlargement of the chapel—Conclusion.

THE dilapidated state of the meeting-house, as well as its inadequacy to
the accommodation of increasing numbers, gave rise, in the year 1809, to
the design of erecting a more substantial and commodious place of
worship.  This was accomplished in 1812, at an expense, including the
purchase of a small piece of ground, of £2140 18_s._ 4_d._  Besides a
regular periodical subscription, repeated efforts were made, by those who
felt an interest in the work, to liquidate this debt.  It was not,
however, till 1829, that there appeared a balance in hand.  To a society
who, as a body, could not boast of opulence, this was naturally a subject
of much pleasure.  The pecuniary and personal aid of their benevolent
minister, had been rendered with cheerfulness and alacrity; and he
heartily sympathized with them in the final accomplishment of their
design.  It was a fit occasion for the exercise of the best social
feelings.  Mutual congratulations were blended with ardent thankfulness
to God; and the account of the various donations and subscriptions were
closed with the following memorandum.

    “Be it remembered with gratitude to the Giver of all good, that the
    debt of £2140 18_s._ 4_d._, contracted in the erection of the chapel,
    in the year of our Lord 1812, after sixteen years’ persevering
    exertion, was this year entirely discharged; in commemoration of
    which, forty-four of the subscribers dined together at the King’s
    Head Inn, and in evidence of which the minister and deacons have
    hereto subscribed their names, this 16th day of February, 1829.

                                                     ISAAC SLOPER, Pastor.

                                                            WILLIAM CRISP,
                                                               JOHN CRISP,
                                                            SAMUEL TOVELL,
                                                              JOHN MAYHEW,
                                                                 Deacons.”

In the margin of the entry a reference is made to a passage of Scripture,
which indicates the character of the joy and the proper object of the
thankfulness thus manifested.  1 Chron. xxix. 16, “O Lord, our God, all
this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy
name, cometh of thy hand, and is all thine own.”

                                * * * * *

While the new chapel was building, this christian society was deprived by
death of a member whose character and usefulness, as a man and as a
Christian, are entitled to be recorded here—_Mr. Daniel Delf_.  He was
favoured in early life with the religious training of a pious mother, and
the public ministry of Mr. Bocking.  Settling at Beccles, he soon became
a member of Mr. Heptinstall’s church; and in 1792, on account of his
excellent spirit and character, he was chosen a deacon.  In that office
he exerted himself continually to promote the peace and prosperity of the
church, and to strengthen the hands of his minister.  Every member found
in him an example to stimulate, a friend to advise, and an advocate
before the throne of God.  While his particular attention was devoted to
the “household of faith,” he habitually laboured to do good unto all men,
and was ever ready to alleviate suffering humanity at the expense of
self-denial.  Hence he was admired and respected by all who knew him.
Some who despised his piety, perceived the benefits of it; and while they
could ridicule the saint, revered the man.  Such an individual his
friends could have wished to retain for ever; but in the spring of 1812,
repeated invasions of disease warned them of the loss they were soon to
sustain.  He went to Lowestoft, to try a change of air and scene; but
returned after a few weeks.  Passing slowly near the building he had been
zealous to raise for God, he directed his eye towards the work, and burst
into tears.  He wept when he thought of the place of worship he should
never enter, and of the society he was about to leave: but he soon
resumed his fortitude, for he was in a few days to enter the glorious
temple of God, that “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

The chamber of this dying saint exhibited a scene fraught with
instruction.  Surrounded by relatives and friends in unutterable anguish,
_he_ was serene, possessing “the peace of God which passeth
understanding.”  “Remember,” said he to his sorrowing partner in life, “I
shall not take _the promises_ with me.”  His medical attendant coming in
shortly before he expired, he said, “If you can give me any thing whereby
I may glorify God more, do it.”  But nature was exhausted, and he fell
asleep in death.

A numerous congregation attentively heard his funeral sermon, from Psal.
xii. 1, “Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail
from among the children of men.” {225}

His memory, is still cherished by all classes of his neighbours with a
vividness and a regard, which speak the justice of the inscription
compiled by his beloved pastor and placed upon his grave.

                              BENEATH THIS STONE
                          LIE THE MORTAL REMAINS OF
                                 DANIEL DELF,
                          WHO AFTER SUSTAINING IN AN
                       EXEMPLARY MANNER THE CHARACTERS
                       OF HUSBAND, PARENT, FRIEND, AND
                        DEACON OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH,
                       WITH UNSHAKEN CONFIDENCE IN THE
                     REDEEMER, PASSED THROUGH THE VALLEY
                        OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, TO HIS
                              EVERLASTING REST,
                               JUNE 7TH, 1812,
                         IN THE 55TH YEAR OF HIS AGE.

    Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience
                     inherit the promises.  Heb. vi. 12.

Mr. Sloper had the happiness in 1814, to witness the formation of the
Beccles District Society in aid of Missions, which was soon extended to
the whole county of Suffolk.  In September of that year, a meeting of the
neighbouring ministers was held at his house, in consequence of some
previous conversation on the subject with two of his brethren in a
friendly visit.  His whole soul entered into the cause of missions; and
when the county society was formed, every eye was directed towards him as
the proper person to act as its secretary, an office which he filled with
great wisdom and unabated zeal, till his last and long-continued
affliction compelled him to relinquish all active service.  The days of
the missionary meetings were among the most happy of his life; and never
was he absent, except when sickness compelled that absence.

About this time, also, he began to take a very active part in all the
meetings of the Bible Society within twelve or fourteen miles of his
residence.  His great love to the holy Scriptures, and consequently to
all the means of disseminating them, rendered him a willing helper.
Probably no individual in the county of Suffolk attended more of the
meetings of the Society.  And though at those meetings he always took a
leading part, yet none could accuse him of a forwardness disgraceful to
him that manifests it, and injurious to the cause which he professes to
serve.

Indeed, the excellent pastor of the Congregational church at Beccles, was
so highly and so universally respected and beloved by his brethren in the
ministry, and by the members of neighbouring churches, that there were
few occasions of interest to them on which his presence and assistance
were not sought.  They felt that in him they could present to the most
numerous and mixed assemblies, a picture of the judicious, faithful,
practical christian minister, which the heavenly-minded would admire, and
which the profane would find it impossible to despise.  He was the
counterpart of Cowper’s “pastor,”

             “Simple, grave, sincere;
    In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain,
    And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste,
    And natural in gesture; much impress’d
    Himself, as conscious of his awful charge,
    And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds
    May feel it too: affectionate in look,
    And tender in address, as well became
    A messenger of grace to guilty men.”

It would be difficult, and is unnecessary, to enumerate all the instances
in which Mr. Sloper was engaged at ordinations, at the opening of places
of worship, and in the service of societies formed for promoting the
interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom.

On the 23rd April, 1816, he delivered at Needham Market, before the
half-yearly association of the Suffolk Independent churches, a discourse,
which he published at their request, and which speedily went into a
second edition.  It is founded on 1 Thess. ii. 19, 20, “For what is our
hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? are not even ye, in the presence of
our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?  For ye are our glory and joy.”
This sermon affords a specimen of that sober evenness of style, supported
by solidity of sentiment, and adorned by dignified yet affectionate
earnestness, which characterized Mr. Sloper’s pulpit exercises.  He
points out in what respects christian churches are the glory and joy of
their ministers; and urges a devout regard to the objects of their union.
The following passage, with which he closes his discussion of the former
of these topics, will at once illustrate his manner of preaching, and the
value he attached to the intercessions of his people.

    “Christian affection, my brethren, sweetens the intercourse of life;
    it is the comfort of the church on earth, and the element of the
    church in heaven; and in the exercise of this celestial virtue, you
    will promote each other’s welfare, and fill your pastors’ hearts with
    gratitude and joy; you will receive their admonitions with meekness,
    listen to their instructions with a proper temper, cover their
    infirmities and not expose them, and be ready by your words and
    actions to strengthen their hands.

    “Ministers are greatly encouraged by the pious and constant prayers
    of their people.  Ah! my friends, we need your prayers: we are frail
    creatures, and men of like passions with yourselves.  Whatever be our
    feelings, we must perform the solemn duties of our office.  Our work
    is arduous; our responsibility awful; and even an apostle says,
    ‘Brethren, pray for us;’ and _we_, you may rest assured, cannot
    dispense with your supplications, or be happy without them.  We are
    relieved, in all our labours and afflictions, by the persuasion that
    the people of our care are a godly and praying people.  How
    refreshing is the thought, that while we are studying the Scriptures,
    and preparing for the exercises of the sabbath, our christian friends
    are imploring the aid of God’s grace and Spirit, to preserve us from
    error, and to render us faithful to the solemn trust assigned us!
    With what pleasure do we enter the pulpit, when we can believe that
    our hearers have been praying for a blessing on our souls, and on the
    labours of our ministry!  We are animated to proceed in our
    exertions, when the hearts of our friends ascend in supplication to
    God, that the word of his grace may be applied with power to their
    own minds, and be the means of leading others to the Saviour and to
    the kingdom of heaven.  If you come to the house of God with a
    devotional spirit, and bear your ministers and their great work upon
    your hearts, it is more than probable that a disposition to cavil and
    to censure will be destroyed, and as new-born babes, you will
    “receive the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby;”
    while, in a sense that rises in importance with the progress of time,
    you will be the ‘joy and crown of rejoicing,’ of those who have taken
    the oversight among you in the Lord . . .

    “If you are true Christians, and firmly hold the sublime and holy
    doctrines of the gospel of Christ; if you improve under the ministry
    of the word, and bear the fruits of righteousness, to the honour of
    divine grace; if the important duties of social religion be
    conscientiously and steadily performed; if your desires, prayers, and
    efforts are employed for the comfort, encouragement, and success of
    your ministers; and if all your conduct as Christians and members of
    churches, be directed to the glory of the great Head of the church;
    you are indeed most honourable societies; you are a credit to your
    profession, the ‘hope’ of your pastors, and will meet them as their
    ‘joy and crown of rejoicing’ at the resurrection of the just.” {232}

A society of a private nature for friendly intercourse among a few
neighbouring ministers, was formed at Mr. Sloper’s house in 1822.  The
occasional interchange of counsel and sympathy thus secured, afforded him
much unmingled satisfaction; and even during his last illness he joined
in one of these meetings, and prayed with great fervency and affection.

In 1824 Mr. Sloper published an account of Samuel Markham Archer, a
little boy who died at Beccles, May 1st, in that year.  It is an
interesting narrative, beautifully illustrating the power and value of
religion operating upon the mind of a child.  This tract reached a third
edition, and was stereotyped in the following year.

In the spring of 1825, Mr. Sloper was again the subject of severe
affliction, and for several Lord’s days his people were deprived of his
public services.  It was his great anxiety that they might continue to be
fed with the bread of life.  His brethren in the ministry readily lent
their aid; and on the first sabbath in May he was again permitted to
unite with his flock in sweet communion at the table of the Lord.

For several subsequent years he continued to labour with much acceptance,
and to enjoy the unmingled respect and affection due to a truly upright,
holy, and amiable deportment.

In the autumn of 1832, the awful ravages of the cholera occasioned
special meetings for prayer, in almost all christian societies.  At the
suggestion of Mr. Sloper, such a meeting was held at the Independent
chapel, Beccles, on the evening of Wednesday, September 5th.  It was
numerously attended.  A solemnity equally free from formality and
enthusiasm prevailed in the assembly and characterized the service.
Several leading members of the church prayed appropriately and fervently.
The psalms selected for singing, were suited to the particular occasion,
and were afterwards remembered with a sad impression of their almost
prophetic strain, with reference to the mysterious event which was about
to be disclosed in the providence of God.  The faithful and beloved
pastor himself read, from the pulpit he had so long occupied,—

    “Death, like an overflowing stream,
    Sweeps us away; our life’s a dream,
    An empty tale, a morning flower,
    Cut down, and wither’d in an hour!”

He delivered an address, pointing out the peculiar propriety of prayer
under the circumstances of that affecting period; and with solemn
supplication and the apostolic benediction closed the service.  While the
congregation were withdrawing he was observed in the act of descending
with extreme difficulty from the pulpit.  It had pleased the Sovereign
Disposer of all events to afflict him with paralysis, so severely, that
the most painful apprehensions were felt as to the result.

Such an occurrence, under these circumstances, was singularly affecting.
Mr. Sloper had entertained a presentiment that his labours would not be
extended to a much longer period than those of his immediate predecessor.
On the sabbath which completed the twenty-ninth year of his pastorate,
his mind had been much occupied with this apprehension; and though he
knew in whose hands his “times” were, it was not till he had made one
unsuccessful effort that he could so far overcome his feelings as to
commence his public address in the afternoon of that day.  It was now
perceived that his fears were about to be realized.  But the juncture had
arrived at which a faithful minister might well receive with humble
thankfulness and patient acquiescence, the summons to his great account.
He was “found” in the exercise of watchfulness, and in the very act of
prayer, labouring “out of season” to render the judgments of God
subservient to the best interests of his flock, with his “loins girt
about, and his lamp burning.”

This event excited the deepest interest and sympathy, not only in the
congregation, but throughout the town and neighbourhood.  Special
prayer-meetings to implore the divine mercy in the restoration of the
smitten shepherd, and the influence of the Holy Spirit to direct the
church in their critical affairs, were held; and temporary measures were
resorted to for supplying the pulpit.

For about two months the congregation availed itself of the services of
Mr. Russ, who had just then terminated an engagement at Gorleston.  From
the middle of November 1832, to the beginning of the subsequent July, the
Rev. Thomas Morell, jun. (nephew of the eminent principal of Coward
College, London,) laboured here.

In the spring of 1833, Mr. Sloper’s indisposition was so far alleviated,
that he was enabled, in the seclusion of his own house, to employ his
mind upon topics and objects still dear to him.  He had always been
accustomed, as secretary of the Suffolk Society in aid of Missions, to
prepare its Report.  The annual meeting drew near; and he felt his
incapacity for the wonted task.  But he wrote, at intervals, a letter to
the treasurer, Mr. Shepherd Bay, which was read at the meeting, and
printed in lieu of the sixteenth Report of the Society.  Never had he
furnished a report which was heard with deeper interest.

                                              _Beccles_, _April_ 26, 1833.

    “My dear Friend,

    The approaching anniversary of the Suffolk Society in aid of
    Missions, awakens feelings of no ordinary character in my mind.
    Gladly should I, as on many former occasions, meet you in the
    performance of official duties, and in the enjoyment of some of the
    highest privileges of the Christian, had not the all-wise providence
    of God incapacitated me for meeting my brethren and friends, except
    at a throne of grace, where, notwithstanding the distance of forty
    miles, we can cherish the same feelings of benevolence towards the
    perishing heathen, and exercise christian love one towards another .
    . . Gratefully I desire to acknowledge the kindness of my dear
    brethren and friends, personally shown to me as their secretary
    during past years, and especially their kind letters of condolence
    and fervent prayers since my affliction, which has made me the Lord’s
    prisoner for nearly eight months.  I rejoice in their personal and
    relative peace and prosperity; and with you, my friend, do I share in
    the satisfaction that our county Society exhibits pleasing signs of
    christian union and hopeful efficiency, and that the desire of our
    hearts, as its sincerely devoted servants, promises to be
    increasingly and ultimately accomplished.

    “I trust this anniversary will be distinguished by every thing that
    increases the dignity of the christian character; that promotes the
    cause of social religion at home; that gives a holy impulse to the
    soul in seeking the prosperity of our churches, the best interests of
    our country, and the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom throughout
    every part of the habitable world.  May the great Head of the church
    pour out his Holy Spirit on your assembly!—that the young may be
    enlisted into the blessed service in which the fathers of many have
    been so honourably and happily employed; that christian zeal may be
    reanimated; that devotion and liberality may be abundantly increased;
    and that the coming year may be rendered the most prosperous and
    encouraging of all that have passed away since the formation of the
    Society within the venerable walls where you will, on Tuesday, be
    assembled.

    . . . . . . .

    “Continue, my dear friend, to pray for me; and the same request I
    would make to all who may meet you in the sanctuary on the delightful
    occasion, that the awful dispensation with which I have been visited
    may be sanctified to me and to all with whom I am connected: and
    should the Father of mercies realize my hopes of ultimate recovery, I
    trust the cause of the blessed Saviour will continue to lie near my
    heart, and that I shall renew my humble efforts with you to advance,
    as God’s honoured instruments, the best interests of the Suffolk
    Society in aid of Missions.  To be, for years to come, your
    fellow-labourer in the service of our Association, will continue to
    be one of the chief enjoyments of my pilgrimage; and to die an
    undisgraced servant in the cause which the Society was formed to
    promote, will contribute to comfort my departing spirit when, from
    scenes of duty and means of grace, I shall pass to my final account,
    and return no more for my own advantage, or that of my fellow-men
    upon earth.

                                                     I am, my dear friend,
                                             Yours with sincere affection,
                                                          and best wishes,
                                                            ISAAC SLOPER.”

About two months after the above letter was written, Mr. Sloper had a
second attack of so serious a description, as to preclude all hope of his
ever again returning even to the partial discharge of his pastoral
duties.

An application was consequently made to the directors of Highbury College
for further supplies, and on September 15th, 1833, MR. JOHN FLOWER, jun.
first officiated at Beccles.  He had come down as a supply for a month
only; but that time had not expired before all hearts seemed to be united
in his favour.  A special prayer-meeting was held, the afflicted pastor
of the church consulted, his approval decidedly expressed, and on October
13th Mr. Flower was invited to take the oversight of this people.  The
church expressed their humble hope that as they had sought divine
direction, the result would be their own growth in holiness, the
conversion of many sinners unto God, and the enlarged manifestation of
the divine glory.  Mr. Flower accepted the invitation, proposing, as he
had not completed his studies in the college, the last sabbath in the
following February for the commencement of his pastoral duties.

Meanwhile the public services of the congregation continued to be
conducted by a variety of ministers.

Prior to Mr. Flower’s entering upon his office, Mr. Sloper sent in his
written resignation in the following humble and affectionate terms:

                                          “_Beccles_, _Feb._ 13_th_, 1834.

    “My dear friends,

    After labouring among you for upwards of thirty years, I am brought
    to the painful necessity of resigning my connexion with you as your
    minister and pastor.  I resign with humility, acknowledging my
    unworthiness, and craving the mercy of our Lord Jesus at his second
    coming.

    “If I have offended any of our friends I ask their forgiveness, and
    commend them all to the divine mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto
    life eternal.  It is a comfort to me that, while I feel imperiously
    required by my imperfections to resign my pastoral relation, I can
    commend to you my dear friend and brother Flower, to take the
    oversight of you in the Lord: and this I do with sincere affection,
    and with earnest prayer that the divine blessing may remain with you
    for ever.

    “Begging my affectionate regards to all classes of my friends—to the
    aged, the poor, and the young—I am

                                  Yours with the most affectionate regard,
                                                 and most earnest prayers,
                                                            ISAAC SLOPER.”

    “To MR. JOHN CRISP,
    and the other Deacons, &c. &c.”

The best testimony to Mr. Sloper’s ministerial character and exertions,
is the _effect_ of his devoted services.  It is sufficient to point to a
church remarkable for its numbers—to a congregation constant and
attentive, and comprising many who had not formally joined the church,
but were the friends of Christ—and to prayer-meetings, and other week-day
services, regularly and well attended:—a minister of the gospel needs no
other commendation.

Some intimations of Mr. Sloper’s personal character have appeared in the
previous pages.  It was formed from an assemblage of those attractive and
useful, though unobtrusive, qualities, which are not the best adapted for
elaborate description, but are peculiarly conducive to the respectability
of the individual and the happiness of society.  His predominant quality
was _benevolence_, ennobled and directed by deep and abiding piety.  With
him it was not a sickly sentimentalism exhausted upon objects of no
moment, nor a heated enthusiasm aiming at projects of extravagance; but a
principle which could expand to the great interests of humanity, or
contract itself to the minute charities of domestic life.  It guided his
energies to the work of evangelizing heathen millions, and pervaded his
ordinary intercourse with friends and neighbours.  Those who occasionally
saw him were struck with the urbanity of his manners; those who were
favoured with his intimate friendship knew that his heart was all
kindness.  He rejoiced with those that rejoiced, and wept with those that
wept.  Much of his happiness consisted in making others happy.  Once
speaking of a servant visiting her friends, he observed with true
generosity, “It is right she should go; she has the same feelings with
ourselves.”

No one was more free from the unamiable passions.  Although he never
deemed it necessary to merge the citizen in the saint, or forgot how
inseparably blended are the interests of civil and religious liberty, he
was unstained by political animosity.  The avowal of his opinions was
never unaccompanied by candour and charity towards those who differed
from him.  By his explanatory and conciliatory addresses on various
suitable occasions, there is reason to believe that he contributed in no
slight degree to prepare the minds of those within the circle of his
influence, for the more cordial reception of the great legislative
changes of which he lived to witness the consummation.

If ever he was betrayed into a warm expression, he was remarkably candid
and placable: once convinced that he was wrong, he _made haste_ with
kindness and compunction in his heart, and frankness on his tongue, to
repair the momentary error.  Nor was he less ready to forgive.  Some
years ago a vexatious injury was committed in his garden.  He remarked
respecting it, “I wish the man a better heart.”  It is in matters of such
comparatively trivial importance that character exhibits its true
features.

Even when affliction had partially obscured his mental powers, and his
faith and patience were called into constant exercise, the holy love of
the Christian still burst through the cloud, and irradiated the long
evening of his pilgrimage.

It is not to be wondered at that he was greatly beloved, not only by his
immediate friends, but by persons of all ages, classes, and callings,
wherever he was known.  “I was present,” says one of his most esteemed
brethren in the ministry, “at his ordination; I was present at his
interment; I enjoyed a large share of his friendship in the long interval
between the two events; and I never witnessed his approach without
gladness, or parted from him without regret.”

                                * * * * *

Mr. Flower’s ordination took place June 5th, 1834.  The Rev. Wm. Ward, of
Stowmarket, delivered the introductory discourse, on the scriptural
character of a christian church.  The usual questions to the deacons and
the new minister were put by the Rev. John Dennant, of Halesworth.
Prayer was offered by the Rev. Andrew Ritchie, of Wrentham; and the
charge to Mr. Flower was given by his father, the Rev. John Flower, of
Titchfield, Hants.  On the evening of the day, the Rev. John Alexander,
of Norwich, addressed to the church and congregation an affectionate and
excellent discourse.

About five weeks after the above event, Mr. Flower was visited with a
painful and alarming affliction, which laid him aside from his public
duties until the 7th June following.

During those months, the public services of the congregation were
conducted by a succession of ministers.

                                * * * * *

On the 23rd November, 1835, Mr. Sloper’s protracted affliction was
terminated by death.  Although he had been long lost to society, the
event was a subject of general and sincere lamentation.  The chapel was
thronged with those who came to witness his interment at the foot of the
pulpit from which he had dispensed the words of eternal life.

His death was improved on the following Lord’s-day afternoon, by Mr.
Creak, of Yarmouth, from 2 Pet. i. 12–15.  The young people of the
congregation have since gratified their feelings of veneration for one
who ever manifested the tenderest regard for their best interests, by
placing in the meeting-house a neat marble tablet, with the following
inscription:

                                 IN MEMORY OF
                           THE REVD. ISAAC SLOPER,
               FOR THIRTY YEARS PASTOR OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
                          ASSEMBLING IN THIS PLACE;
            IN WHOM BENEVOLENCE AND CANDOUR WERE SO CONSPICUOUSLY
                    BLENDED WITH FIDELITY AND UPRIGHTNESS,
           AS TO SECURE TO HIM, IN AN EMINENT DEGREE, THE AFFECTION
             AND CONFIDENCE OF HIS FLOCK, AND THE ESTEEM OF ALL.
                 HE RECEIVED, ON THE 5TH OF SEPTEMBER, 1832,
              WHILE DISCHARGING THE DUTIES OF HIS SACRED OFFICE,
               A SOLEMN WARNING OF HIS APPROACHING DISSOLUTION,
                  AND WAS DISMISSED TO HIS EVERLASTING REST
                        ON THE 23RD OF NOVEMBER, 1835,
                         IN THE 57TH YEAR OF HIS AGE.

                 “Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when
                       he cometh, shall find so doing.”

These records ought not to be closed without a brief reference to the
truly honourable life and peaceful death of _Mr. William Crisp_.

He became a member of this church on the 4th June, 1802, and was some
years afterwards chosen a deacon.  In both relations, he acted with
uniform candour, kindness, meekness, and generosity.  He was a liberal
pecuniary contributor to the support of the cause; the friend of minister
and people, and the benefactor of the poor.

He sustained, as a merchant, a reputation against which slander never
ventured to direct a shaft; and his whole deportment imparted, in the eye
of the world, a weight and dignity to the christian community to which he
belonged.  The declaration of holy writ was manifestly verified in
reference to him: “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children
are blessed after him,” Prov. xx. 7.  He lived to witness the departure
into the eternal world, of five of his children, who all died in the
faith and hope of the gospel.  Two only survive—they have risen up to
“call him blessed,” and one of them fills an important station in the
Baptist Academy at Bristol.

Mr. Crisp died on the 18th January, 1836, in the 80th year of his age.
{250}

                                * * * * *

After Mr. Flower’s restoration to health, an increasing eagerness to hear
the gospel was manifested, and the duty of providing additional
accommodation in the chapel became a subject of serious consideration.
Early in the last year (1836) an extensive alteration and enlargement was
determined upon; the greater part of the requisite funds were furnished
by the cheerful contributions of many, and the very liberal assistance of
some; and the work has since been accomplished.  A sketch of the building
in its improved form is prefixed to this little volume.

                                * * * * *

The expense of erecting and enlarging places of worship is far more
serious to dissenters than to members of the Established Church, since
independently of receiving no direct aid from government, the former are
subject to the duty upon the materials used, from which burden the latter
are exempt.  Nearly allied to this tax upon nonconformity, are the stamp
duties upon the conveyances, and deeds for renewing trusts, of chapels,
and the charges for enrolment.

These form a heavy item in the balance of justice which remains due to
the dissenting portion of the community, or rather, to the interests of
religion itself.  Its liquidation is not demanded merely as an act of
justice; but as a step towards the total disenthralment of Christianity
from the paralyzing grasp of state patronage.  The religious world,
taught by principle and by example, is discovering that it must look to
the voluntary efforts of benevolence, impelled by christian principles
and crowned with the divine blessing, for the evangelization of the
people.

For a long period after the revolution, the nonconformists, bleeding with
the persecution of ages, sank into a premature and too protracted
slumber.  But they have gradually aroused themselves, and are engaging in
the assertion of their rights with increasing vigour.  Nor will their
claims cease to be reiterated, till in the affairs of the soul, “ABSOLUTE
LIBERTY, JUST AND TRUE LIBERTY, EQUAL AND IMPARTIAL LIBERTY,” shall have
become the possession of every British subject.



SUMMARY OF MINISTERS.

                            PASTORS.        SUPPLIES.
John Clarke (?)         1653–1656
Robert Ottee            1656–1689
Joseph Tate             1691–1694
John Killinghall        1697–1699
William Nokes           1703(?)–1710
Edmund Spencer          1711–1736(?)
Thomas Tingey           1736–1749
William Lincoln                           1749–1757
John Hurrion                              1757–1758
Nicholas Phené                            1758–1760
John Fell                                 1762–1770
Baxter (?) Cole                           1771
Joseph Heptinstall      1773–1802         1771–1773
Isaac Sloper            1803–1834         1802–1803
Thomas Morell                             1832–1833
John Flower             1834–

INDEX.


ABBOT, 102.

Adkins, 10.

After, 73.

Archer, 233.

Articles, 4, 66, 75, 84, 104.

Artis, 126, 153, 160.

Association, 229.

Asty, 124.

Athanasius, 78.

Aylmer, 67.

                                * * * * *

Baker, 142, 157.

Bancroft, 93.

Baptism, 78, 127, 129, 167.

Baptists, 120, 177, 207.

Beccles, 29, 32, 111.

Bible-meetings, 227.

Bidbanck, 144.

Bocking, 191, 192.

Body, 82.

Bradfield, 112.

Brewster, 118.

Bridge, 105, 106, 122, 138.

Brinsley, 123.

Brodie, 11.

Brougham, 12.

Brownists, 88.

Burial, 80.

Bury, 33, 179.

                                * * * * *

Carter, 194.

Catechism, 79.

Ceremonies, 56, 76, 103, 147.

Charles I. 103, 105.

Clark, 113, 118, 143.

Cole, 185.

Collinges, 148.

Common Prayer, 66, 75, 77.

Congregationalism, 89, 138.

Corporation, 31, 70.

Corporation Act, 117.

Covenant, 112, 114.

Cranmer, 17, 23.

Crick, 59.

Crisp, 167, 248.

Cromwell, 109, 119, 140.

Cutlove, 117, 126.

                                * * * * *

Deacons, 126, 127, 161, 175.

Declaration, 100, 138.

Delf, 223.

Denton, 112, 144.

Doddridge, 172.

Dunning, 38, 39, 73.

                                * * * * *

Ebbs, 191.

Edgefield, 112.

Edward VI., 16.

Edwy, 33.

Elizabeth, 53, 65.

Exiles, 55.

Experience, 206.

                                * * * * *

Fell, 180.

Fenner, 198.

Finch, 145.

Fishery, 31.

Fisk, 25, 26.

Fleming, 69, 86.

Flixton, 140.

Flower, 241, 246.

Framlingham, 19.

Freke, 63.

Friends, 112.

Friendship, 171.

Fuller, 94.

                                * * * * *

Girdler’s-hall, 160.

Godwick, 112.

Gravestones, 178.

Green, 166.

Gregory, 156.

Gresham, 73.

Grindal, 62.

Guestwick, 112.

                                * * * * *

Hammond, 63.

Harsnet, 102.

Haylouck, 153, 160.

Heath, 41.

Hell, 81.

Henry VIII, 14.

Heptinstall, 187.

High Commission, 54, 67.

Homilies, 83.

Hopton, 39, 73.

Howard, 34, 185.

Hupton, 207.

Hurrion, J., 179.

Hurrion, S., 179.

Hutchinson, 11.

                                * * * * *

Independents, 89, 95, 99, 162.

Ingham, 112.

                                * * * * *

Jacob, 94, 99.

James I, 92, 100.

James II, 153.

Justices, 64, 91.

                                * * * * *

Killinghall, 163.

King, 12.

                                * * * * *

Lad, 94.

Laud, 103.

Lawrence, 58.

Letters, 157, 201, 210, 237.

Liberty, 7, 8, 43, 108, 252.

Lincoln, 179.

Locke, 12, 45, 48, 51.

Lord’s supper, 126, 128, 191.

                                * * * * *

Martyrs, 23, 37.

Mary, 18.

Maunsell, 94.

Meeting-house, 161, 221, 250.

Meetings, 172, 232.

Millenary petition, 92, 100.

Millenium, 83.

Minister, 75.

Ministry, 123, 149, 199, 248.

Missionary Society, 226, 237.

Music, 83.

                                * * * * *

New England, 26, 96, 132.

Newton, 161, 176.

Nokes, 167.

Nonconformity, 1, 8, 141, 147.

Norfolk, 23, 26, 63, 67, 112, 137.

Norwich, 106, 113, 114, 173.

                                * * * * *

Ordination, 125, 191, 205, 246.

Ottee, 121, 143.

                                * * * * *

Parkhurst, 63.

Peck, 102.

Penance, 83.

Phené, 180.

Playters, 167, 178.

Popery, 13, 48, 110, 146.

Pougher, 175.

Prayer, 213.

Presbyterians, 119, 120, 162.

Prison, 34.

Prophesyings, 59, 62, 89, 134.

Protestantism, 145.

Providence, 155.

Psalms, 81, 132.

Puritans, 55, 87, 101.

                                * * * * *

Raleigh, 90.

Rede, 73.

Rendham, 180.

Ridgley, 175, 178.

Robinson, 94.

Rogers, 23.

Rushall, 177.

                                * * * * *

Sacraments, 79.

Sanderson, 59.

Savoy, 136.

Scales, 4.

Scambler, 59, 72.

Schism, 85.

School, 30.

Scott, 4.

Scriptures, 5, 115, 146.

Shardalow, 119.

Shufflebottom, 194.

Sick, 79, 209.

Siddons, 216.

Sigebert, 32.

Singing, 131.

Sloper, 198, 226.

Southwold, 172, 180.

Spencer, 174.

Sports, 100, 103, 104, 105.

Stalham, 112.

St. James’, 25.

Stoke, 24.

Subscription, 84.

Suffolk, 23, 26, 28, 64, 67, 137.

Supremacy, 54.

                                * * * * *

Tate, 156.

Thanksgiving, 131.

Thaxted, 183.

Tingey, 175.

Toleration Act, 152.

Toplady, 40.

Towle, 185, 190.

Trusts, 161, 162.

Tunstead, 112, 166.

                                * * * * *

Uniformity Act, 85, 140.

Usher, 4.

Utrecht, 167.

                                * * * * *

Visitation, 104.

                                * * * * *

Walpole, 112.

Walsham, 112.

Wattisfield, 112, 142.

Watts, 161, 168, 171.

Wesley, 207.

Whitgift, 65, 73, 93.

Whiting, 102.

Wilton, 84.

Winter, 200, 202, 209.

Woodbridge, 112.

Wren, 104.

Wrentham, 112, 142, 172.

Wycliffe, 4, 14.

Wymondham, 112.

                                * * * * *

Yare, 29.

Yarmouth, 106.

                                * * * * *

                     William Lenny, Printer, Beccles.



Footnotes


{vi}  In addition to the books referred to in the subsequent pages, may
be mentioned Towgood’s Letters to White; Furneaux’s Letters to
Blackstone; Robinson’s Plan of Lectures on Nonconformity; Graham on
Ecclesiastical Establishments; Marshall’s “Ecclesiastical Establishments
considered,” and “Ecclesiastical Establishments further considered;”
Scales’s “Principles of Dissent;” Thorn’s “Union of Church and State
Antiscriptural;” and, amongst a multitude of able pamphlets, that by the
Rev. J. B. Innes, of Norwich, entitled “Ecclesiastical Establishments
Indefensible,” and “A Letter on the Principles and History of
Dissenters,” by the Rev. John Raven, of Hadleigh.

{vii}  Bishop Burnet.

{3}  Matt. xxiii. 10.

{4}  One of the opinions Wycliffe was charged with holding was this, “It
is blasphemy to call any but Christ, head of the church.”

    “The office of the head is, to prescribe laws to his church which
    should bind men’s consciences to the obedience of the same: and of
    such lawgivers there is but one.  James iv. 18.”—_Archbishop Usher_.

    “Christians are forbidden to look up to any man as having dominion
    over their faith, as entitled to implicit credence and submission,
    or, as the head of their sect whose decisions were stamped with
    authority over their consciences; they were to oppose all claims and
    pretensions of this kind by whomsoever they were advanced or on
    whatever grounds.”—_Rev. T. Scott_, _late Rector of Aston Sanford_,
    _Comment_.  Matt, xxiii. 8–10.

It is equally difficult to reconcile a hearty belief in the twentieth
article of the Church of England with these sentiments, and to
distinguish them in substance from the following: “Authoritative and
legislative interference apart from him, we dare not recognise: our
loyalty to Christ as the church’s only head, compels us to disclaim it,
and to protest against all human dictation.  It cannot be shown that he
has any where delegated his sovereignty; that he has appointed any order
of men to act for him in a vice-regal capacity, and invested them with
irresponsible and discretionary powers, or indeed with any powers at all,
to frame articles of belief and formularies of worship and discipline, to
fix the meaning of his word, or to devise and prescribe the religion of a
congregation, or community, or province, or nation.”—_Scales’ Principles
of Dissent_, p. 72.

{5}  Isa. viii. 20.  “With respect to difference of opinion on religious
subjects, the basis of religion is the Bible, and those [are the] most
orthodox christians who adhere the most strictly to the doctrines laid
down in that sacred volume.  To explain it, is the duty of all mankind,
and its interpretation is confined to no particular sect.  To use
coercion in compelling uniformity is not only impolitic, but while man is
constituted as man, it will be impracticable.”—_Hansard’s Debates_, _May_
21_st_, 1811.  _Speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury_.

{7a}  Acts v. 29.

{7b}  John, iv. 23, 24.

{7c}  Acts v. 38, 39.  The conduct of the apostles “was a stand for
principles; and in this respect they take their station at the head of
the reformers of the world.”—_Bogue and Bennett’s History of Dissenters_,
i. 290.

{8}  Earl of Chatham, in the House of Lords, 1773.

{10} There is abundant evidence that the christian sects properly called
with reference to their church government, Independents, are entitled to
this honourable distinction.  The Rev. Thomas Adkins in his recently
published Records of the Independent Church at Southampton, (a book more
especially valuable for its argumentative and explanatory observations,)
has collected several testimonies in support of the statement that “The
Independents were the first as a sect, in this country, to discover and
to recognise, to their full extent, the sacred rights of conscience.”

The editor of Col. Hutchinson’s Memoirs, (a clergyman of the Established
Church,) says, they “proceeded upon that principle which, how general
soever it ought to be, is, however, unfortunately very uncommon, of
allowing to all that liberty of conscience they demanded for
themselves.”—_Introd._ p. 17.

Mr. Brodie, the learned author of the History of the British Empire from
the accession of Charles I. to the Restoration, remarks that “The grand
principle by which the Independents surpassed all other sects was,
universal toleration to all denominations of christians whose religion
was not conceived to be hostile to the peace of the state, a principle to
which they were faithful in the height of power as well as under
persecution.”—Vol. iii. p. 517.

    “By the Independent divines, who were his instructors, (says the
    noble biographer of Locke,) our philosopher was taught those
    principles of religious liberty which they were the first to disclose
    to the world.”—_Lord King’s Life of Locke_, 4to ed. p. 178.

On the motion for inquiring into the cause of the death of the missionary
Smith, Lord Brougham is reported to have said, “Mr. Smith was a pious and
faithful minister of the Independents, that body, much to be respected
indeed for their numbers, but far more to be held in lasting veneration
for their unshaken fortitude, with which, in all times, they have
maintained their attachment to civil and religious liberty, and holding
fast by their own principles, have carried to its utmost pitch the great
doctrine of absolute toleration.”

{14}  He affirmed, from his own perusal of them, that in the primitive
church there were but two orders of ministers, priests and deacons, and
that “by the ordinance of Christ priests and bishops were all
one.”—_Vaughan’s Life of Wycliffe_, 2nd ed. vol. ii. p. 275.

{15a}  Stat. 26 Hen. VIII. c. 1.

{15b}  Stat. 34 & 35 Hen. VIII. c. 1.

{16}  He “laid all his subjects on the bed of Procrustus; some he
stretched as too short for the extent of the monarch’s faith; and others
he decapitated for presuming to look over his shoulders.”—_Bogue and
Bennett_, i. 44.

{17}  Stat. 2 & 3, Edw. VI. c. 1.  5 & 6, Edw. VI. c. 1.

{18}  Burnet’s Hist. Ref. ii. 178.

{19}  Framlingham Castle had been granted by the preceding monarch to
Mary.  One inducement to take her station there during the suspension of
her rights, probably was the proximity of the place to the sea coast.
The residents in Suffolk who came forward as her adherents do not appear
to have been all favourable to the reformation.  The first who took up
arms and levied men in her defence was Sir John Sulyard of Wetherden,
who, as a reward for his fidelity, was appointed to guard her person
during her stay at Framlingham; and whom we shall presently find
zealously engaged in executing her sanguinary edicts.

{20a}  Eftsoons, immediately.—_Bailey_.

{20b}  It was an argument employed in her favour by the Earl of Arundel,
in his harangue at the great meeting of her friends at Baynard’s castle,
that she had made this promise.  Who, he asked, had seen cause to think
that, in matters of religion, Queen Mary intended any alteration? for
when she was lately addressed about this, in Suffolk, she had given a
very fair, satisfactory answer.—_Green’s Hist. of Framlingham_, p. 79.

{21a}  Fox’s Acts and Monuments, ed. 1684, vol. iii. p. 12.

{21b}  Neal’s History of the Puritans, ed. 1822, vol. i. p. 73.

{22a}  Stat. 1 Mary, sess. 2, c. 2.

{22b}  Neal’s Pur. i. 77.

{22c}  The Statutes of Rich. II. and Hen. IV. for burning heretics, were
revived.—_Neal’s Pur._ i. 82.

{23a}  Burnet’s Hist. Ref. ii. 267.

{23b}  Fox’s Acts & Mon. iii. 98.

{24a}  Fox’s Acts and Mon. i. 600.

{24b}  Neal’s Pur. i. 92.  Price’s Hist. of Prot. Nonconf. i. 191.

{24c}  Fox’s Acts and Mon. iii. 773.  Brook’s Lives of the Puritans, i.
Introd. 13.

{26a}  Rev. vi. 9.  See Mather’s Hist. of New England, 1702, p. 140.
From the last-mentioned of these brothers, was descended Mr. John Fisk,
an eminent preacher and writer in the primitive times of New England.  He
was born at the parish referred to in the text, about 1601, and died at
Chelmsford, N. E. 16 Jan. 1676.

{26b}  Acts and Mon. iii. 12.

{27}  Fox has preserved the whole of this interesting document.  Acts and
Mon. iii. 578.

{29}  “The mouth of the Yare at that time, (_cir._ A.D. 1000.) was an
estuary or arm of the sea, and extended, with considerable magnitude, for
many miles up the country.  Tradition, the faithful preserver of many a
fact which history has overlooked or forgotten, confidently and
invariably asserts it; and the present appearance of the ancient bed of
the river, from Yarmouth to Harleston in Norfolk, tends to confirm
it.”—_Gillingwater’s Hist. of Lowestoft_, 4to, p. 26.

{30a}  The upper part of this porch forms a room in which is a small, but
valuable, collection of books in divinity.

{30b}  A subscription has been set on foot, a site purchased, and the
promise of a grant from government obtained, for the erection of a school
on the principles of the British and Foreign School Society.

{31}  The herring fishery was evidently a principal source of emolument
to the inhabitants.  In the time of the Conqueror the fee farm rent of
the manor of Beccles to the king was 60,000 herrings, and in the time of
the Confessor 30,000.—_Domesday Book_.

The grant to the inhabitants at a later period, of the tract of marshes
reclaimed from the sea, was perhaps an inadequate compensation for the
loss of the fishery.  It was stated by a writer at the commencement of
the seventeenth century that more wealth was raised out of herrings and
other fish in his majesty’s seas by the neighbouring nations in one year,
than the king of Spain had from the Indies in four.—_Phœnix_, i. 222.

{32}  There has been a difference of opinion respecting the derivation of
the name, which is not likely to be settled.  The common notion is, that
the first letter is an abbreviation of _Bella_.  Some suppose the first
syllable, Bec, to be derived from the name of an abbey in Normandy.  A
third interpretation may be suggested.  _Bec_ de terre, a point of land,
was sufficiently descriptive of the spot, while the marshes which lie
west, north, and east of the town, remained under water.  _Bec_ and
_eglise_ might be compounded into _Becclys_, the ancient orthography.  It
has been surmised that the town may have owed its origin to its site
having “_protruded_ into the ancient river” and served during the Roman,
Saxon, and Danish invasions, as a convenient situation for placing a
_beacon_ or signal.—_Gillingwater’s History of Lowestoft_, p. 26.  At all
events, the Rev. Geo. Crabbe has been led into an error in supposing the
name to be derived from the present “beautiful church,” nor does it
appear why he prefers “_beata_” to “_bella_.”  _Crabbe’s Life and Works_,
vol. i. p. 147.

{33}  Under him it is said that “the sable clouds of paganism which had
overshadowed these parts near two hundred years,” were “dissipated by the
glorious rays of the gospel.”—_Gardner’s History of Dunwich_,
_Blithburgh_, _and Southwold_, 4to, 1754, pp. 42, 43.

{34}  The first rise of any material improvement, in this respect, is to
be traced to the labours of the philanthropist Howard.  He visited
Beccles in the years 1776, 1779, and 1782, and thus describes the
arrangements of that comparatively recent period.  “Beccles.—A room on
the ground floor, called the ward; a chamber for women, called the upper
ward; a day-room with a fire-place; and a dungeon seven steps
underground.  In the ward is a window to the street, which is highly
improper; . . . no proper separation of the men and women.  Only one
court; . . .  Licence for beer: (a riotous alehouse)” . . .  _State of
the Prisons_, 3rd ed. p. 303.

{35a}  Account of the Corporation of Beccles Fen, 1826, p. 4.

{35b}  Ibid. p. 14.

{36}  Account of the Corporation, p. 14.  There is an engraving of the
seal in Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of England.

{37}  Acts and Mon. Ed. 1579, p. 1735.  Ed. 1684, vol. iii. 589, col. 2.
The diction and orthography of the earlier of these editions is here
preserved.

{40}  Toplady, in his “Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the
Church of England,” adduces the testimony of these men as contained in
this last article.  _Toplady’s Works_, ed. 1825, vol. ii. p. 42.

{41a}  Tradition assigns as the immediate scene of this, in every view,
execrable affair, the ground eastward of the town, and now called the
Fair close.  A statue, or an obelisk, has often marked a spot far less
worthy of being had in remembrance by the friends of protestantism and
religious liberty.

{41b}  Prior to the reign of Henry VIII. the sheriff had been allowed to
burn heretics without the writ _de hæretico comburendo_.  It was rendered
necessary by stat. 25. Hen. VIII. cap. 14.  _Neal’s Puritans_, vol. i.
pp. 7, 13.  The writ was abolished by 29 Car. II. c. 9.

{44}  Quarterly Review, (Dec. 1836,) vol. lvii. p. 366.

{45}  “I may grow rich by an art that I take not delight in; I may be
cured of some disease by remedies that I have not faith in; but I cannot
be saved by a religion that I distrust, and by a worship that I abhor. . . .
Faith only, and inward sincerity, are the things that procure
acceptance with God.”—_Locke’s third Letter concerning Toleration_, 4to,
pp. 26, 27.

{48a}  See Locke’s third Letter on Toleration, 4to, p. 105.  “He that
would vex and pain a sore you had, with frequent dressing it with some
moderate, painful, but inefficacious plaister, that promoted not the
cure, would justly be thought not only an ignorant, but a dishonest
surgeon.”—_Ibid._ p. 124.

{48b}  Like the prudent monk, who, when Satan would have drawn him into
heresy, by asking him what he believed of a certain point, answered, _Id
credo quod credit ecclesia_.  But, _Quid credit ecclesia_? said Satan;
_Id quod ego credo_, replied the other.—_Dr. Jortin’s Preface to his
Remarks on Ecclesiastical History_, pp. 27, 28.

{49}  Rev. Samuel Charles Wilkes.  See Binney’s “Dissent not Schism,” p.
44.

{50}  Stanzas prefixed to the Bible, 1598.

{51a}  “They may not maim a man with corporal punishments; may they use
any corporal punishments at all?  They may not starve and torment them in
noisome prisons for religion; that you condemn as much as I; may they put
them in any prisons at all?  They may not deprive men of their estates; I
suppose you mean their whole estates; may they take away half, or a
quarter, or an hundredth part?”—_Locke’s third Letter for Toleration_,
4to, p. 107.  See also p. 121.

{51b}  Dr. Jortin, _ubi supra_, pp. 30, 31.

{52a}  Locke’s second Letter concerning Toleration, 4to, p. 9.

{52b}  Paradise Lost, b. xii. 1. 524–530.

{54}  This statute, (1 Eliz. cap. 2.) and that of supremacy, (1 Eliz.
cap. 1.) “constitute the basis of the reformed church of England, and
will be regarded,” says Mr. Price, “as its disgrace or glory, according
to the views of religious liberty which are entertained.”—_Hist. Prot.
Nonconf._ vol. i. p: 134.

{56}  Such as the crossing of infants on the forehead in baptism; bowing
at the name of Jesus; kneeling at the sacrament, as a term of communion;
the use of sponsors to the exclusion of parents; confirmation; and the
marriage ring.—_Brook’s Puritans_, i.  _Introd._ p. 29.

{57}  Neal’s Puritans, i. 125.

{59a}  Brook’s Puritans, i. Introd. 29, 40.

{59b}  Ibid. 36.

{59c}  Particularly Dr. Scambler, Bishop of Peterborough.

{59d}  1 Cor. xiv. 31.  Neal’s Puritans, i. 221, et seq.

{60}  Neal, i. 224.

{62a}  Neal, i. 277.

{62b}  Ibid. 283.

{63a}  Neal, i. 284.

{63b}  Brook i. Introd. 39.

{63c}  Ibid.

{64a}  Brook, i. Introd. 43.

{64b}  Strype’s Annals, III. i. 264.

{65a}  September 1583.

{65b}  Neal, i. 320.

{67a}  Strype’s Whitgift, pp. 115, 116.  Neal, _ubi supra_.  Brook, i.
Introd. 45.

{67b}  Neal, i. 323.  Brook, i. Introd. 46, where a list is given of the
ministers suspended in Suffolk.

{67c}  Neal, i. 330, 341.

{68a}  Neal, i. 345, 352, 376.

{68b}  Ibid. 335, 353.

{68c}  Ibid. 337.

{70a}  Page 31.

{70b}  The surrender is dated 26 Jan. 26 Eliz. [1583, O. S.] and was
signed at a meeting of the inhabitants held in the parish
church.—_Account of the Corporation_, p. 10.

{72a}  Account of the Corporation, pp. 14, 15.

{72b}  Neal, i. 353, 354.

{72c}  Brook says, on that day he was suspended and deprived by Bishop
Scambler, adding, “This is attested by Richard Skinner the Bishop’s
Register.”—_Lives of the Puritans_, iii. 509.  But there is some
inaccuracy in this account.  His suspension was the act of Whitgift
himself, and had taken place some months earlier.  Dr. Scambler was not
elected Bishop of Norwich till December 15th, 1584, when Dr. Freke was
translated to the see of Worcester; so that the latter was more likely to
have been the immediate instrument of Mr. Fleming’s
deprivation.—_Blomefield’s History of Norfolk_, iii. 558, 559.  His
successor was first instituted November 2nd, 1583, and again September
5th, 1584.—_Lib. Inst._ xx. 97, 111.  This was Mr. John After.  A person
of the same name is mentioned by Strype in his Life of Grindal, (p. 59,)
as a native of Calais, who was ordained by that prelate, July 25th, 1560,
at the age of fifty.

The living of Beccles, at the period of Mr. Fleming’s deprivation, was
vested in Lady Anne Gresham, the widow of Sir Thomas Gresham, Knt.,
founder of the Royal Exchange.  Previously to her marriage she was the
widow of William Rede, merchant, of London and Beccles.—_Lib. Inst. ubi
supra_.  _Account of the Corporation_, pp. 11, 15.

In the volume of Blomefield above referred to, (pp. 272, et seq. and
552,) will be found some account of Bishop Hopton, and of his Chancellor
Dunning, (or Downing,) mentioned in the preceding chapter.

{74a}  The register of Beccles parish records in the interval from 1586
to 1592, the baptisms of several children of “Mr. William Fleming,
preacher” (and “minister”) “of the gospel, and Anne his wife.”

{74b}  In a more recent transcript of the register here quoted, Mr.
Fleming is merely styled “preacher of God’s woorde.”

{75}  “Which word _minister_ became usual in these times for distinction
from the idolatrous priests of the Romish church.”—_Strype’s life of
Parker_, i. 127.  Anno 1559.

{77a}  Price’s Hist. Prot. Nonconf. i. 146–149.

{77b}  Rom. xiv. 21; 1 Cor. x. 23, 32; 2 Cor. iv. 1, 2; xiii. 8.

{79a}  Ezek. xxxvi. 26; John iii. 7; 2 Cor. v. 17; James i. 18; 1 Pet. i.
23.

{79b}  John iii. 16; Acts xvi. 30, 31; and Mark xvi. 16; on which passage
it has been well observed, “By connecting baptism with faith in the
former clause, our Lord plainly forbids our treating that institution
with indifference, and by his omitting it in the latter we are taught not
to lay an undue stress upon it as necessary to salvation.”—_Stennett’s
Works_, i. 139.

{80a}  Luke v. 21.  See also Isa. xliii. 25; Psal. cxxx. 4; Dan. ix. 9;
Col. i. 14; 1 John i. 9.

{80b}  Psal. li. 6; Tit. ii. 7, 8.

{81}  Psal. cv. 28.

{83}  1 Cor. xv. 50.

{84}  See _Wilton’s Review of some of the Articles_, _passim_; a work to
which the writer of these pages is indebted in several instances, and of
which he has availed himself the less scrupulously as it has been long
out of print.

{85}  After the lapse of two centuries and a half, the terms of
subscription in the Church of England remain substantially the same, with
this additional safeguard against evasion, that the subscription is
required, by the Act of Uniformity, to be made _ex animo_.  The writer
does not feel himself called upon to reconcile this fact with the
increased spirit of investigation which characterizes the present age, or
with the acknowledged upright character of many of the clergy.  It may be
conceded that each party is conscientious; but each should bear in mind
that there is an essential and unalterable difference between truth and
error; and that it cannot be a matter of slight importance whether the
one or the other is embraced and propagated.

{86}  Binney’s Dissent not Schism, p. 30.

{88a}  Acts xv. 12, 22, 23.  1 Cor. v. 4, 13.  Harmer’s Misc. Works, 144.

{88b}  Strype’s Annals, III. 23. [17.]

{89}  Mr. Harmer attributes these practices to their “not considering
that the 14th of the 1 Cor. was a portion of an epistle directed to a
church in which _miraculous powers_ at that time existed,” and to “a want
of due deference to their ministers, or in the language of St. Paul,
‘knowing them which laboured among them, and were over them in the Lord,
and admonished them.’”—_Misc. Works_, 145.

{90}  Neal, i. 428.

{91}  See Price’s Hist. i. 404–406.

{92a}  Strype’s Ann. III. i. 266, [184.]

{92b}  Grahame’s Hist. of the United States, i. 215.

{92c}  Price, i. 452.

{93a}  Brook, i. Introd. 62.

{93b}  Grahame, i. 218.

{94}  Brook, i. Introd. 64.

{95a}  Neal, ii. 43.

{95b}  Wilson’s History of Dissenting Churches, i. 31.

{95c}  Mather’s History of New England, b. i. p. 5.

{97}  He died before he could fulfil his intention of accompanying the
remaining part of his congregation to America.

{98a}  Wils. Diss. Ch. i. 33.

{98b}  Mather’s New England, b. i. p. 6.

{99}  Mrs. Hemans.

{100}  Neal, ii. 44, 92.

{101}  Phenix, i. (1.)

{102a}  Brook, i. Introd. 68.  Several of the bishops objected to so
strange a display of ecclesiastical supremacy; and Archbishop Abbot,
being at Croydon when the order for publishing the “Declaration” came
forth, expressly forbad its being read there.  Ibid. 69.

{102b}  Blomefield’s Norfolk, iii. 566.

{102c}  Brook, i. Introd. 69.

{102d}  Ibid.

{103a}  1626.

{103b}  1633.

{103c}  Neal, iii. 169, 173.

{104a}  Phenix, i. (1.)

{104b}  Neal, ii. 247.

{104c}  Ibid. 248.

{104d}  Brook, i. Introd. 81.

{105a}  Blomefield says, “He had a Friday lecture here, and was paid for
it by the court.”  Hist. of Norf. iv. 362.

{105b}  In 1637.  Nonconf. Mem. iii. 19.  Mr. Bridge was afterwards one
of the “five pillars of the Congregational party, distinguished by the
name of the Dissenting Brethren, in the Assembly of Divines.”  Neal, ii.
228. iv. 403.

{105c}  Palm. Nonconf. Mem. iii. 19.

{107}  Neal, iv. 172.  Harmer’s MSS.

{108a}  Nonconf. Mem. iii. 286.

{108b}  It can hardly be doubted that if prudence had permitted, they
would have done so at an earlier period, without any scruple as to the
lawfulness of such a proceeding.  They had, indeed, as Mr. Harmer
suggests, “this to plead for themselves, among other things, that they
entered not actually into these associations till the whole legal frame
of the episcopal church was dissolved by the extinction of monarchy, and
men left to follow their own light in these matters by the then public
authority.”  But to attach any importance to such an argument, would
betray the advocate of religious liberty into a surrender of his great
principle,—a principle clearly stated in a quotation occurring in
connexion with the above language: “As freedom is the birthright of
mankind, any number of persons may voluntarily unite themselves for such
purposes, and under such regulations, as appear useful and convenient to
them, provided they do not encroach on the rules of justice, and the
rights of others.  And if they may unite for other purposes, much more
may they unite for the purposes of religion, and the service of their
common Lord and Master.”—_Harmer’s Misc. Works_, 147, 149.

{109}  Morell’s Hist. of England, ii. 253.

{110}  Neal, iv. 69.

{112a}  At Wymondham, North Walsham, Guestwick, Tunstead, Stalham and
Ingham, Edgefield, Godwick, and Bradfield.  The churches at Walpole,
Bury, Wrentham, and Woodbridge, were formed somewhat earlier: that at
Wattisfield in 1654, and that at Denton in the following year.  Norwich
Ch. bk.  Neal, iv. 172.  Harmer’s Misc. Works. 147.

{112b}  At this period, the use of ordinal numbers, instead of the pagan
names of days and months, was not peculiar, as at present, to the Society
of Friends, but was common with serious persons of other denominations.
The Friends have become singular in this respect from the desertion of
the practice by other religious communities.

{112c}  The early Congregationalists were much attached to the term
_covenant_, which, while it was accurately descriptive of the
transactions to which they applied it, derived, in their estimation, a
peculiar sacredness from its employment in the Old Testament.  See Harm.
Misc. Works, 159.

{113}  Regiment,—established government; mode of rule; (not in use).
_Johnson_.

{114a}  Norwich Church Book.

{114b}  Neal, iv. 175, note.

{115}  Harmer’s Misc. Works, p. 156.  Phil. iii. 15, 16.

{116}  Norwich Church Book.

{117}  Account of the Corporation, p. 16.  It will be remembered that the
Corporation Act had not yet stigmatized, as unworthy of being intrusted
with civil power, all who could not conform to the legislative creed, or
consent to prove themselves unworthy, by desecrating the most solemn
ordinance of religion to the unscriptural and unholy purpose of
qualification for office.  Dissenters have been relieved from this
grievance, but it is deemed necessary still to require, on their
acceptance of municipal offices, a solemn declaration against using the
influence they may possess _by virtue_ of these offices, to the injury of
the established church.  This is one of the “acknowledgments” which
dissenters are still obliged to render to the dominant church;
objectionable enough to be felt, by many of them, as a legislative insult
and a bitter grievance; but forming indeed a poor protection to the
establishment, since every dissenter may, nevertheless, use his
_extra-official_ influence to bring about that great renovation and
extended usefulness of the episcopal sect, which will result from a
dissolution of its alliance with the state.

{118a}  Neal, iv. 172.

{118b}  The statement of Calamy that he “_came_ to Beccles in 1655,” is
not warranted by the authority he quotes.  Contin. ii. 803.

{119}  The same writer mentions Mr. John Shardalow, who had been
instituted to the living of Beccles in 1640, as being one of the
episcopal clergy who suffered persecution during the grand
rebellion.—_Attempt_, _&c._ p. 371.  Persecution is to be deprecated
wherever it is found, but the Independents, as a body, are not chargeable
with the many instances of it which occurred at that period.

{120}  Neal, iv. 93.

{121}  Cal. Contin. ii. 803.

{123a}  Palm. Nonconf. Mem. iii. 17.

{123b}  Ibid. iii. 19.

{124a}  Christ Set Forth, p. 8.

{124b}  It appears that the church had previously invited Mr. Asty, of
Stratford, to take the spiritual oversight of them; for in the accompts
kept at the period in question, are the following items:—“To Bro.
Shildrake, for his journey to Stratford, to Mr. Asty, _to give him a
call_, 10_s._” and, “Pd. to Girling, for goeing to Mr. Brewster’s in ye
night, to inqr. abought Mr. Asty, 4_d._”  This might be the Asty who was
ejected from Stratford in 1662, or the individual (probably his son) who,
in 1675, became teacher in the Independent church at Norwich.  See Palm.
Nonconf. Mem. iii. 288.  Harmer’s Misc. Works, p. 195.  Wils. Diss. ch.
ii. 537.

{125}  Mr. Harmer (and after him the Editor of the Nonconformists’
Memorial) was evidently led to consider Mr. Ottee as the pastor chosen in
1653, by mistaking the year in which he was said to be “made pastor,”
which is certainly 1656.  Mr. Harmer says, “July 29, 1653, Mr. Robert
Ottee was chosen their pastor, and ordained Nov. 12th.”  See also Palm.
Nonconf. Mem. iii. 255.  Mr. Ottee is stated, in the dedication prefixed
to his posthumous Sermons, to have been minister of this congregation
“for above thirty years,” which would be a more natural mode of
expression, if he had been thirty-_two_, than if he had been
thirty-_five_ years pastor; and he died in 1689.

{127a}  It will be recollected that prior to 1752, the year commenced on
25th March.

{127b}  He baptized, on this occasion, two of his own children, (Mary and
Samuel,) and three others.  The baptism of his son Samuel is recorded
under the same date, in the parish register: “Samuell, ye sonne of Robert
Ottey, preacher of God’s woorde, & Margret his wife.”  This appears to
have been the only son of Mr. Ottee who attained manhood, and he died at
the age of twenty.

{128a}  Acts vi. 1–6.  In the “Form of making of Deacons” prescribed for
the church of England, the _apostles_ are said to have been inspired to
choose the martyr Stephen, and others, to this office; whereas it is
plain that the election was the act of “the multitude of the disciples.”

{128b}  Neal, i. 428.

{128c}  1 Cor. xi. 23–26.

{133}  Mather’s Hist. New England, b. iii. p. 100.

{134}  See Neal, i. 305.

{135}  This expression, (as well as the practice itself,) was evidently
borrowed from the “prophesyings” of the Elizabethan times.

{137}  Neal, iv. 172.

{139a}  Harmer’s Miscellaneous Works, p. 150.

{139b}  Neal, iv. 177.

{141}  Mather’s Hist. New England, b. iii. p. 4.  Palmer’s Nonconf. Mem.
_passim_.  It is no satisfactory answer to the statement in the text,
that the episcopal clergy had suffered persecution at a previous period.
See on this subject, Adkins’s Hist. Indep. Ch. at Southampton, p. 38,
note; and Rogers’s Life of Howe, p. 129.

{142}  _Mr. Samuel Baker’s Experience_, 1667, MS.  He was born about
1645, at Wrentham, of which place he declared his belief that religion
had there flourished longer, the gospel had been more clearly and
powerfully preached, and more generally received, the professors of it
were more sound in the truth, open and stedfast in the profession of it
in an hour of temptation, more united among themselves, and more entirely
preserved from enemies without, than in any village of the like capacity
in England.  He was sent to school at Beccles, and mentions that, during
the latter part of his stay there, being about twelve or thirteen years
old, he was “exceedingly pleased with Mr. Ottee’s ministry, and became
more serious and affectionate.”  He afterwards studied at Cambridge, and
at one of the Inns of Court.  He became the proprietor and occupier of
Wattisfield Hall, a zealous Congregationalist, and a sufferer unto bonds
for a good conscience.  _Ibid._  And see Harm. Misc. Works, p. 182.
Palm. Nonconf. Mem. iii. 283.

{144a}  Dedication to “Christ set forth.”  William Bidbanck, M.A. was
ejected under the Act of Uniformity, from Scottow in Norfolk, and was
afterwards pastor of the congregation at Denton, where he was greatly
beloved for his sweetness of temper, obliging deportment, and excellent
preaching.  He died, much lamented, about 1693.—_Palm. Nonconf. Mem._
iii. 14.

{144b}  “Christ set forth, in several Sermons upon the 7th chapter to the
Hebrews, by Mr. Robert Ottee, late Pastor to a congregation in Beckles,
in Suffolk.  London: printed for Edward Giles, Bookseller in Norwich,
near the Marketplace, 1690.”

{145}  Ejected from Totney, Lincolnshire; “a man of the most remarkable
seriousness, meekness, prudence, and patience, mingled with the greatest
zeal to do good to the souls of men.”  Palm. Nonconf. Men., ii. 434.  And
see Blomefield’s Norfolk, iv. 465.

{147a}  Christ Set Forth, pp. 70, 71.

{147b}  Ibid. p. 76.

{148a}  Christ Set Forth, pp. 87, 88.

{148b}  See Palmer’s Nonconf. Mem. iii. 9, and Blomefield’s Hist. of
Norfolk, iv. 149.  The value of Dr. Collinges’s friendship may be learned
from the former of these works.  The latter writer contents himself with
stating that “he was a grand Presbyterian.”

{149a}  Christ Set Forth, pp. 54, 155.

{149b}  Ibid. 121, 122, 142.

{149c}  Ibid. 54, 55.

{149d}  Ibid. 124, 125.

{149e}  Ibid. 115, 116.

{149f}  Ibid. 127, 128.

{149g}  Ibid. 1, 157.

{149h}  Ibid. 129, 130.

{150}  Christ Set Forth, pp. 22, 23.

{151}  Christ Set Forth, pp. 113, 114.

{152a}  “May, 1689, Robert Utto, clarke, was buried, the 5th
day.”—_Beccles Parochial Register_.

{152b}  This statute, though it was invaluable to the dissenters, and was
gratefully received by them, as affording considerable protection, and as
opening the way for further improvements, was, nevertheless, encumbered
with intolerance.  It afforded no relief to Papists, or Unitarians.  It
exacted from dissenting teachers a subscription to nearly all the
Articles of the church of England; it did not abrogate the Corporation
and Test Acts; nor permit the solemnization of marriage by dissenters in
their own places of worship, nor exonerate them from the obligation to
contribute to the maintenance of the public religious establishment,
though they do not attend on its ministrations.  To a great extent, these
deformities have been removed by successive struggles.  The period
immediately following the revolution may be regarded as one of
comparative bondage; but much still remains to be accomplished, before
the religion of the Bible will have shaken off all the impediments which
have hitherto interrupted its free and triumphant course.

{153}  Neal, v. 30.

{154a}  His gravestone remains in the church-yard, near the south
porch;—“Here lyeth ye body of Mr. Francis Haylovck, who departed this
life, March ye 7th, 1702, aged 77 yeares.”

{154b}  1694.  February, “Edmund Artis, gent. was buried the 21
day.”—_Parochial Register_.

{157}  See page 142.

{160}  MS. in the possession of Rev. E. Hickman.

{161a}  Wils. Diss. Ch. ii. 515, 518.

{161b}  August 7th, 1695.

{161c}  The trustees were, John Killinghall, Robert Sherwood, William
Crowfoot, John Primrose, Nathaniel Newton, John Utting, and Thomas
Feaver.

{162}  There cannot be a greater mistake than to suppose that at the
period referred to above, the Presbyterian dissenters alone couched their
trust deeds in general terms; unless it be the strange notion that the
absence of doctrinal restrictions implied indifference as to religious
sentiments.  The present is one instance of many in which a
Congregational place of worship was settled in that manner, under a
minister whose sermons betray no symptoms of such an indifference.
Equally unfounded, and more unkind, is the imputation of intolerance cast
upon the modern Independents, on account of the restrictions by which
experience has taught them to protect property _they devote_ to a
specific object, from being diverted into other channels.  In order to
sustain so serious a charge it should be shown, not merely that the
Independents attach the highest importance to the possession of
scriptural views on the doctrines of Christianity, and that they take
care not to allow their chapels to be held by those whose opinions _they_
disbelieve, and even regard as dangerous; but that they desire to employ
some degree or kind of coercion to induce others to profess their
opinions and to worship in their temples.  The truth is, that the
importance attached by the Independents to certain doctrines, imparts a
more honourable character to _their_ advocacy of religious liberty, than
can belong to those who deem religious opinions of minor if not of
trivial moment.  The writer has been induced to advert to these topics in
consequence of a remark on the subject of Presbyterian practices, in an
interesting work, written by one whom he well knows to be incapable of
wilful misrepresentation, or even of an unkind feeling towards any
denomination of Christians.  _See Murch’s History of the Presbyterian and
General Baptist Churches in the West of England_, pref. p. x.

{163}  Wils. Diss. Ch. iv. 147.

{165}  Howe on Charity in reference to other men’s sins.  Works, vol. ii.
pp. 226, 231.

{166}  Of the esteem in which he was held amongst his own flock, a
touching illustration is afforded in the following circumstance.  Mr.
Green, it seems, was extremely fond of roses, and several of the good
people, desirous to testify their respect to the old gentleman, in every
form, used to bring him roses and stick in the pulpit, till sometimes it
was almost surrounded with them.  _Harmer’s MSS._

{167a}  See the eminent Mr. Benjamin Robinson’s death-bed address to his
children, Wils. Diss. Ch. i. 377.

{167b}  Calamy’s Life and Times, by Rutt, i. 139, 142.

{168a}  Life and Times, i. 144.

{168b}  The first mention of him in the church book, occurs 28th July,
1703.

{168c}  Milner’s Life and Times of Watts, p. 290.

{169}  Watts’s Works, Barfield’s ed. iv. 451, 452.

{171}  Watts’s Works, iv. 461.

{172}  This advice is stated in the church book to have been given by
“the reverend elders, _met_ at Norwich.”  Such meetings were occasionally
held in the earliest times of the Congregational churches, in Norfolk and
Suffolk.  At a later period, _stated_ meetings were held by the ministers
of the Walpole, Wrentham, and Southwold churches, who were, by degrees,
joined by others of their brethren.  Dr. Doddridge, in 1741, dedicated a
sermon (preached at Kettering) to the associated ministers of Norfolk and
Suffolk, with expressions of great affection and respect.  In 1761, these
meetings, which, (as Mr. Harmer remarks,) “agreeably to the usual course
of human affairs,” had been attended with diminished zeal, were revived
on an extended scale, and continued to be held twice a year, for some
years afterwards.  Those who attended them, claimed no “authoritative
power, but merely a reverential regard to counsels, given in the gentlest
way.”—_Harmer’s Misc. Works_, pp. 197–200.

{173a}  Wils. Diss. Ch. ii. 536.  Prot. Diss. Mag. vi. 259.  There was,
at one period, a disposition amongst some of the members of the
Independent church at Norwich, to invite Mr. Nokes to settle there as
colleague to Mr. Stackhouse.—_Harm. MSS._

{173b}  Calamy says “in Suffolk.”  Life and Times, i. 142.

{174}  MSS.

{175a}  Harmer’s MSS.

{175b}  Prot. Diss. Mag. vi. 349.

{176a}  Rev. Samuel Hurrion’s Diary.  MS.

{176b}  Prot. Diss. Mag. vi. 95.  Wils. Diss. Ch. iv. 369.

{177}  Harmer’s MSS.  Wils. Diss. Ch. iv. 369.  The seceders were
afterwards joined by the Baptist church of Rushall, which is said to have
been as ancient as the protectorate.  About 1730 a Mr. Miller was its
pastor.  He subsequently removed to Norwich, and was succeeded by Mr.
Milliot.  Towards the close of his life they chose a Mr. Simons, the
benefit of whose ministry the Baptists of Beccles were also desirous of
enjoying.  For their accommodation the seat of the church was removed to
Beccles, and there Mr. Simons resided till his death.  After that event
the interest at Beccles declined.  It was broken up about 1766, and the
members residing in or near Beccles re-united with the Independents there
and with the congregation at Rushall.—_Harmer’s MSS._

{178a}  Dr. Ridgley published a sermon on his death, preached at
Fetter-lane, Nov. 9, 1749.

{178b}  When the chapel was re-built in 1812, several gravestones were
laid down in the floor of the entrances, and amongst them Mr. Tingey’s.
This accounts for the partial obliteration of the inscription.  Two or
three are almost entirely effaced.  There is one to the memory of “Mrs.
Elizabeth Playters, relict of Mr. Richard Playters, who departed this
life December the 22nd, 1727, aged 44 years.”  And another which pointed
out the resting-place of “Joshua Nunn, who departed this life Feb. ye
27th, 1729, aged 80 years.”  Surely a more respectful mode of disposing
of these memorials of the departed might have been adopted.

{179a}  He had a daughter married to the Rev. W. Parry, the late divinity
tutor of the Academy at Wymondley.

{179b}  Mr. Samuel Hurrion being obliged, by an impaired state of health,
to resign his ministry, retired first to Bungay, and then to Beccles,
where he died Oct. 25th, 1763, aged fifty-three years.  He was buried at
Denton, his native place.  Wils. Diss. Ch. iii. 296.  He is described on
his tombstone as “late of Beccles.”

{184}  Prot. Diss. Mag. v. 1—6. 355. vi. 112.  Aikin’s General Biography.

{185}  Wils. Diss. Ch. ii. 554.

{186}  Harmer; MSS.

{190a}  His father, in consequence of this step, disinherited him, and
never saw him but once afterwards.  Theol. Mag. iii. 179.

{190b}  His academical certificate is dated 6 Kal. Junii 1771, and is
signed by Drs. Conder, Gibbons, and Fisher, and by Messrs. Barber,
Hitchin, Watson, and Stafford.

{191}  These were Thomas Ebbs, afterwards a highly respectable deacon,
and whose daughter Mr. Heptinstall married; Wm. Leabon [Leavold]; and
John Dann.

{192}  Mr. Heptinstall’s ordination took place on the sixteenth
anniversary of Mr. Bocking’s.

{194}  It appears that these two excellent ministers and the late Rev.
John Carter of Mattishall, Norfolk, all commenced their labours, at the
respective places in which they so long adorned the gospel, upon the same
sabbath.  They enjoyed an unchanged friendship till separated by death—a
friendship which has been renewed in heaven, never more to be interrupted
by distance, or severed by calamity.

{196}  Theological Magazine, iii. 177–181.

{202}  Those who are acquainted with Mr. Jay’s “Life of Winter,” will
understand this reference to his cruel treatment with regard to the
ordination he desired to obtain in the church of England,—treatment,
however, which was so overruled by Providence, that he possessed, as Mr.
Whitfield predicted, “the greatest preferment under heaven,—to be an
able, painful, faithful, successful, suffering, cast-out minister of the
New Testament.”

{206}  Mr. Sloper’s MSS. and Evan. Mag. 1803, p. 406.

{207a}  Church book.

{207b}  At first they united themselves to the Baptist church at Claxton,
in Norfolk, under the pastoral oversight of Mr. Job Hupton; but the
inconvenience of attending public worship at so great a distance, induced
them to obtain the use of a building in Beccles.  The place they procured
had been occasionally used for devotional purposes, and the celebrated
John Wesley had once preached there; but it was sometimes appropriated to
the barbarous amusement of cock-fighting.  This circumstance was very
repugnant to the feelings of those who resorted thither for religious
purposes, and it stimulated their efforts to provide a house of prayer of
their own.  In 1805, the present Baptist meeting-house was erected.  On
the 5th Sept. 1808, a church was formed consisting of twenty-four
persons; and, on the 12th July, 1809, Mr. Tipple, late of Hail-Weston,
Hunts. was publicly recognized as their pastor.  He resigned his
pastorship in the following year, and from that period the church and
congregation were supplied by a succession of ministers, without pastoral
settlement, till 1822, when the Rev. George Wright commenced his labours.
On the 19th July, 1823, he was set apart to the pastoral office, which he
now ably and usefully sustains.  The church comprises, at the present
time, nearly 150 members.

{209}  Jay’s Life of Winter, p. 284.

{211}  Jay’s Life of Winter, 2nd ed. p. 223.

{217a}  Anna Seward.  See Campbell’s Life of Mrs. Siddons, ii. 241.

{217b}  Campbell’s Life of Mrs. Siddons, ii. 329.

{218}  September 16th.

{225}  Evan. Mag. 1813, p. 61.

{232}  Pp. 15–17.

{250}  The writer regrets that the scantiness of his information, as well
as the unexpected length to which these records have extended, prevent
his noticing some other excellent and exemplary individuals, who have
been ornaments to the church, and are now “through faith and patience
inheriting the promises.”





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