Page images

bers of the privy council, were also all opposed to the violent doings of the persecuting bishops. Foulis, in his " History of the Wicked Plots of the Pretended Saints," alluding to the execution of certain Brownists, between 1583-94, says: "These sound dealings did a little terrify the rest of the puritans, and checked the furiousness of the wiser sort. But having the Earls of Leicester, Warwick, and Shrewsbury, and Lords North and Burleigh, Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Francis Knollys, with others of the nobility for their honorable patrons, they resumed their courage." And Brook, speaking of the bitter persecution of the nonconformists of this period, says: "Notwithstanding these violent proceedings, the nonconformists greatly multiplied, and they were much esteemed by persons of quality and influence. God raised them many friends in both houses of parliament, and in her majesty's privy council; as the Earls of Bedford, Warwick, and Leicester, Sir Francis Knollys, Sir William Cecil, and many others. All these were the constant friends of the puritans, and used their power and influence to obtain a further reformation." †

Such being Burleigh's sentiments in reference to religious persecution, and being thus countenanced

*Foulis, p. 61, Lond. 1662; Peirce's Vindication, pt. 1. p. 151; Brook's Puritans, 1. 58.

↑ Lives of Puritans, 1. 25. Also, Neal, 1. 417; Hopkins, 1. 492, 11. 233, 111. 346, and chap. Ix. entire.

by influential members of Elizabeth's court and council, it is not unreasonable to suspect that he may have connived at Browne's course for the reason suggested to annoy and embarrass the clerical persecutors of the puritans.

[ocr errors]




CONTEMPORANEOUS with Robert Browne, and of vastly superior and purer characters, were several clergymen and others who, from independent investigation, arrived at substantially the same views of church order and government which he entertained. Among these were Rev. John Copping, Rev. Elias Thacker, and Thomas Gibson. They suffered long and severe imprisonment, and finally laid down their lives in defence of their principles.

Of Mr. Thacker we only know, that he was a minister of unblemished morals and sound doctrinal views, who was imprisoned from about 1576 to 1583. Rev. Mr. Copping resided near Bury St. Edmund's. As early as 1576, four or five years previous to Browne's mission to that neighborhood, Copping, with a Mr. Tyler, another minister, was thrown into prison for nonconformity, on complaint of Dr. Daye, commissary of the bishop of Norwich. After an imprisonment of about two years, he was examined before Justice Andrews, December 1st, 1578; and refusing to give up his prin

ciples was remanded to prison, and there kept for some five years more, in company with Mr. Thacker, Mr. Gibson, and Mr. Tyler. It is intimated that the bishop kept them thus long in prison, " for decoys to catch and endanger men with." Tyler seems at length to have been released from prison, having, perhaps, given satisfaction to the bishop. But Copping, Gibson, and Thacker remained companions in suffering until led forth to the scaffold."

The charges against Mr. Copping were, that he maintained "that unpreaching ministers were dumb dogs; that whoever kept saints' days was an idolater; that the queen, who had sworn to keep God's laws and set forth God's glory as appointed in the Scriptures, and did not perform it, was perjured; that none should baptize his child who did not preach"; that, in conformity with these sentiments, he had refused, for six months, to have his child baptized, and that when it was baptized he had neither godfather nor godmother.† Neal, however, says, that "these were only circumstances to support the grand charge of sedition in spreading Browne's book." The indictment against Copping and Thacker was, for spreading certain books, seditiously penned by Robert Browne, against the Book of Common Prayer established by the laws of the realm. And the special sedition

* Brook, 1. 262-64; Strype's Ann. vol. 11. pt. 11. p. 186; Neal, 1. 380; Hopkins, 11. 282, 315-17.

↑ Brook, 1. 263; Neal, 1. 389-90; Strype's Ann. vol. 11. pt. II. p. 186; Hopkins, 11. 315-21.



found in Browne's book was, that it subverted the constitution, by acknowledging her majesty's supremacy in civil affairs, but not ecclesiastically. And so sentence was passed against Copping, Gibson and Thacker, on the statute (23 Eliza. beth) against spreading seditious libels, and for refusing the oath of supremacy. They stood firmly to their principles to the very last, notwithstanding strenuous efforts to pervert them. And, though according to Strype they were sound in the doctrinal articles of the church of England, and of unblemished lives, were hanged like felons; Thacker and Gibson at St. Edmund's Bury, June 4th, 1583, and Copping on the 5th or 6th of the same month.*

These were the protomartyrs of the Brownists. But they were soon followed by other victims. Among these may as well be mentioned here though the exact date of his execution is not known-William Dennis, or Dennys, who was executed at Thetford, in Norfolk county, for his Brownist sentiments.†

Besides these martyrs, there were others who suffered severely for entertaining similar sentiments. Among them were Lord Rich, of Rochford Hall, Essex; his natural uncle, Richard; the Rev. Robert Wright, domestic chaplain of Lord Rich; and" one Dix, another very disordered man,"

* See Appendix, note B.

↑ Bradford's Dialogue in Young's Chronicles, 412, note, and 427; Brook's Puritans, 1. 58.

« PreviousContinue »