Mr. John Howe was born May 17, 1630, the 29th day. of which month was remarkable for the nativity of KING CHARLES the Second, and which very year, a few months after, gave birth to Archbishop TILLOTSON, with whom Mr. Bow E in his after-life had a particular intimacy. The place of his birth was Loughborough, in the county of Leicester; of which town his father was for some time Minister. I have heard his father commended as a person of singular piety; and his mother as a woman of distinguished sense.
He was settled in the Parish of Loughborough by Archbishop LAUD, and afterwards thrust out by the same hand, on the account of his siding with the Puritans, contrary to the expectation of his promoter. Great was the rigor that was at that time used in the Ecclesiastical Courts, by which as several were driven into America, and others into Holland, and other foreign parts, so was this worthy person driven into Ireland, whither he took this his son (then very young) along with him. While they continued in that country, that rebellion broke out, in which the poor Protestants, who were altogether unprovided, were so miserably butchered, and a great number of flourishing families ruined and undone. Both father and son were at that time exposed to very threatening danger, the place to which they had retired being for several weeks together besieged by the rebels, though without success. A very special Providence did upon this occasion guard that life who had his eyes every where, spied out MR. HOWE, knew him by his garb to be a country Minister, and sent a messenger to him to desire to speak with him when the worship of GOD was over. Upon his coming to him, CROMWELL requested him to preach before him the Lord's Day. Mr. Howe was surprised, and modestly desired to be excused. CROMWELL told him it was a vain thing to attempt to excuse himself, for that he would take no denial. When he had given him one sermon, CROMWELL pressed for a second and a third; and at last, after a great deal of free conversation, nothing would serve him, (who could not bear to be contradicted,) but he must have him to be his household Chaplain. MR. HOWE did all that lay in his power to get off; but no denial would be admitted. And at length (though not without great reluctance) he was prevailed with to remove with his family to Whitehall. In this difficult station, he endeavored to be faithful, and to keep a good conscience. And it has been observed by several, that there was hardly any man that was in an eminent public station in those critical times, that was so free from censure, in the changes that afterwards succeeded. A plain argument of uncommon conduct and caution
He embraced every occasion that offered, of serving the interest of religion and learning, and opposing the errors and designs, which at that time threatened both. Among many instances of his generous temper, I shall mention one, which was his seasonable service to DR. SETH WARD, who was afterwards Bishop of Exeter and Sarum, successively. In 1657, that Gentleman, who had succeeded MR. John GREAVES some time before, as Astronomy ’Professor in the University of-Oxford, stood Candidate for the Principalship of Jesus College, in the same University, upon the resignation of DR. MICHAEL ROBERTS. DR. WARD had the majority of the Fellows for him; but MR. FRANCIS HOWELL, of Exeter College, made an interest in CROMWELL, and obtained his promise for the filling up that vacancy. Dr. WARD not knowing that matters had gone so far, was for making an interest in the Protector too, and in order to it, _applied to Mr. How E, who, without making great promises as to success, readily offered to introduce him to the Protector, and do him what service he was able. Having obtained an audience, and they three being together, MR. HOWE gave CROMWELL a great character of DR. WARD, with. respect to his learning, and signified how ill it would pound, if a man of his known merit should be discountenanced; especially when he had the majority of the Fellows on his side. CROMWELL replied, that DR. ROBERTS having resigned his Principalship into his hands, he had been informed that it was his right to fill up the vacancy; and he had given his promise to MR. HOWELL, and could not draw back. But immediately taking MR. HOWE aside, and discoursing him freely, he returned to DR. WARD, who continued waiting, and told him that he found MR. Howe to be much his friend, and was upon his report of him disposed to give some tokens of his regard: And thereupon he pleasantly asked him, What he thought the Principalship of Jesus College might be worth The Doctor freely told him what was the value of it, according to common computation. And therefore he gave the Doctor a promise, that he would allow him the sum that be mentioned annually. This was at that time reckoned a seasonable kindness: And the Doctor expressed his grateful sense of it to Mr. Howe, when upon the change of the times he became a greater man..
There were many others to whom Mr. Howe was very serviceable while he continued at Whitehall: And never was he known to be backward to assist any of the Royalists or Episcopalians in distress, if they were but persons of real merit.
Whilst he continued in CROMWELL'S family, he was often put upon secret services; but they were always honorable, and such as, according to the best of his judgment, might be to the benefit either of the public, or of particular persons. And when he was once engaged, he used all the diligence, and secrecy, and dispatch, he was able. Once particularly I have been informed, he was sent by OLIVER, in haste, upon a certain occasion to Oxford, to a meeting of Ministers there; and he made such, dispatch, that though he rode by ST. GILES'S Church at twelve o'clock, he arrived at Oxford by a quarter after five. He so behaved himself in this station, that he had the ill-will of as few as any man, and the particular friendship of the great DR. WILKINS, afterwards Bishop of Chester, and several others, who were great supports of real piety and goodness in those times, and afterwards eminent under the legal establishment.
When OLIVER died, his Son RICHARD succeeded him as Protector, and' Ma. Howe stood in the same relation to the son, as he had done to the father. He was still Chaplain at Court, when in October, 1658, he met with the Congregational Brethren at the Savoy, at the time of their drawing up their Confession of Faith. And though he meddled not with State affairs, neither then nor afterwards, yet he has often been heard to say, that he was in his judgment very much against RICHARD'S parting with his Parliament, which he easily foresaw would issue in his-own ruin. I have been told by a friend, that discoursing once freely with MR. Howe about the setting. RICHARD aside, he intimated to him, that it was but a parenthesis in a public paper, that was the occasion of the great ill-will of the officers to him, which rose at length to that height, that nothing would satisfy but the pulling him down. And when the same person signified in a way of free discourse to MR. Howe, that he heard RICHARD reflected on as a weak man, he with some warmth made this return:’ How could he be a weak man, when upon the remonstrance that was brought from the Army by his Brother FLEETWOOD, he stood it out all night against his whole Council, and continued till four o'clock in the morning, having none but THURLOW to abet him; maintaining that the dissolving that Parliament would be both his ruin and theirs'
When a way was made to bring things back into the old channel, MR. Howe returned to his people at Torrington, and continued his labors among them till the Restoration; at which time there was such a madness attended the universal joy, that it is a perfect wonder the nation ever in any measure recovered it.
The King being restored, made for' some time more use than was usual of the Lords Lieutenants, and their Deputies, to keep the several Counties of the Kingdom in awe. Many were made offenders for a word, and the most cautious Preachers were accused and censured. Among the rest, MR. Howe, though cautious as most men of giving disturbance to any, yet met with some trouble, in the year 1660, a few months after the Restoration; which appears to have been given him by persons that were desirous to do a pleasure to those who then had the ascendant.
He was informed against by JOHN EVINS and WILLIAM MORGAN, as delivering somewhat that was seditious, and even treasonable, in two sermons preached from Gal. 6: 7, 8, on September 80, and October 14. The information was given before Mr. WELLINGTON, the Mayor, who took an engagement from MR. Howe, and others, on his behalf, for his appearance at the next Sessions, to answer to that matter.
Before that time, some of the Deputy Lieutenants of the County (who were not willing the Magistrates of the several Corporations should be too powerful) sent word to the Mayor, that they could not be present at the appointed Session, but desired to hear the matter at another time, and prefixed a day for that purpose, to which the Mayor accordingly adjourned the Sessions, in compliance with their desire. And whereas MR. Howe in open court demanded the benefit of the Statute of 1 Edw. 6, and of 1 ELTZ., to purge himself by more evidences than the informers; the Mayor administered an oath to one-and-twenty witnesses, who were judicious men, enjoining them, on his Majesty's behalf to declare the truth of the matter; and they all cleared MR. HOWE from the guilt in the accusation; and the Court accordingly discharged him.
One of the accusers soon left the town, and-was seen there no more; the other cut his own throat. In 1662, the Act of Uniformity passed the two Houses of Parliament, though, as it was observed, with a very small majority in the House of Commons; and it took place on August 24, this year. Mr. Howe, on that day, preached two very affecting sermons to his people at Torrington, and his auditory were all in tears. He consulted his conscience, and could nit be satisfied with the terms of conformity fixed by the law; some account of which he gave in his farewell sermons. He hereupon quitted his public station in the Church, and became a silenced Non-conformist.
However he continued for some time in the County of Devon, preaching in private houses, among his friends and acquaintance, as he had opportunity. Having preached at the house of a certain gentleman in those parts, and spent some few days with him, he at his return home was told, that an officer belonging to the Bishop's Court had been to inquire after him, and left word that there was a Citation out, both against him, and the gentleman at whose house he had preached. Hereupon he, the very next morning, took his horse, and rode to Exeter; and -lighting at the inn he usually called at, he stood a while at the gate, considering which way he had best to steer his course. While he stood musing, a certain dignified Clergyman, with whom he was well acquainted, happening to pass by, looked on him with some surprise, and saluted him with this question,’ MR. HOWE, what do you here' To whom he replied, with another question:’ Pray, Sir, what have I done that I may not be here', Upon which he told him, that there was a process out against him; and that being so well known as he was, he did, not question but that if he did not take care, he would be taken up in a very little time.
Among other discourse that passed, he asked him, Whether he would not go and wait upon the Bishop He said, he thought not to do it, unless his Lordship, hearing of his being in that city, should think fit to invite him. Upon this, he advised him to call for a room, and wait there a little, and told him he would go to the Bishop, and let him know that he was there, and return to him again, and give him an account what his Lordship said. He accordingly left him, and soon returned, and brought him an invitation from the Bishop, who signified he would be glad to see him. Waiting on his Lordship, he received him with great civility, as his old acquaintance.
The Bishop presently fell to expostulating with him about his Non-conformity. MR. Howe told his Lordship, he could not have time, without greatly trespassing upon his patience, to go through the several objections which he had to make against the terms of Conformity. The Bishop pressed him to name any ore. He thereupon instanced in the point of Re-ordination.’ Why, pray Sir,' said the Bishop to him,’ what hurt is there in being twice ordained’ hurt, my Lord,' says MR. Howe to him; I the thought is shocking; it hurts my understanding; it is an absurdity: For nothing can have two beginnings. - I am sure,' said he,’ I am a Minister of CHRIST, and am ready to ’debate that matter with your Lordship, if you please; And I cannot begin again to be a Minister.' The Bishop then dropping that hatter, told MR. Howe, as he had done at other times, that if he would come in amongst them, he might have considerable preferments, and at length dismissed him in a very friendly manner. And as his Lordship did not take the least notice to him of the process that was issued out against him, so neither did he say any thing of it to his Lordship: But taking his leave, he mounted his horse, and rode home, and beard-no more of that matter, either with respect to the gentleman, or himself.
In 1665, when the Dissenting Ministers had been three years silenced, they were not a little perplexed in all parts of the kingdom, by the. Act- that passed in the Parliament at Oxford, by which they were obliged (under penalty of not being allowed, unless upon the road, to come within five miles of any city, or corporation, or any place that sent Burgesses to Parliament, or any place where they had been Ministers, or had preached after the Act of Oblivion) to swear,’ That it was not lawful, upon any Pretence whatsoever, to take arms against the King; and that they would not at any time endeavor any alteration of the government either' in Church or State.' They were much divided in their sentiments upon this occasion. There were several among them, who reckoned this oath so insnaring, that they durst not take it: But it was at length taken in London, by Ds,. BATES, and others, to the number of twenty. It was also taken in Devonshire, by Ma. Howe, and others, to the number of twelve; and by some few in Dorsetshire.
Some time after, he was earnestly invited by a person of considerable quality into Ireland, and had generous offers made him. He accepted the motion with the greater readiness, and looked upon it as the more providential, because by this time he was reduced to straits, and his circumstances were but low; which is not at all to be wondered at, considering that he had for some years been out of any settled employment, and had but a small income, several in family, and a generous spirit. He set sail for Dublin in the beginning of April, 1671. While he was waiting for a wind at a town in Wales, [I suppose it was Holyhead,] they continued there a Loan's Day, and found a large Parish Church, in which prayers only were to be read as usual, but no preaching was expected. The company that was with Mr. Howe was pretty numerous, ’and they were desirous to find out some private place by the sea-side, where he might preach to them. As they were walking along the sands, they met two men on horseback, riding towards the town, who proved to be the Parson of the Parish and his Clerk. The Clerk was asked by'one in the company, whether his master preached that day, No,' said he,’ my master does not use to preach, he only reads prayers.' Upon which it was-further inquired whether he thought his master would be willing to give leave to a Minister that was in their. company, who was going for Ireland, but waiting for a wind, to make use of his pulpit that day He answered,’ He believed very willingly;' and' they found it so, when the Clerk made the motion to him. Hereupon Mr. Howe -and the rest returned back to the town, and he preached that day twice to them in the church; and in the afternoon, the auditory was very large, and seemed to be not a little affected. The wind not serving all the week following, the country all round those parts, took notice that neither the vessel nor the Minister was gone; and therefore on the Loan's-day after, they came flocking into the town, expecting he would preach that day also. There was a prodigious multitude gathered together; - and the Parson, who had had no thoughts about the matter, observing it, was in no small consternation. Preach himself he could not; for be had not of a long time been used to it, and he was altogether unprovided: So he sent his Clerk to MR. Howe, and begged be would come and preach again”; for that otherwise he knew not what to do, the country being come in from several miles round, in hope of hearing him. Mr. Howe having been much indisposed, was in bed, and in a great sweat, when he received the message; and that made him at first doubtful whether he had best comply. * But considering with himself, that there was a plain call of Providence, and not knowing but much good might be done in such a place, where preaching was so uncommon a thing, and the people seemed so desirous of the Word of God, be sent word he would do it; cooled himself with as much speed as he was able, and went and preached with great life and freedom: And he told my informant, that' he never in all his life saw people more moved, or' receive the Word with greater pleasure:' He added,’ If my ministry was ever of any use, I think it must have been then.' Very soon after, the vessel went off, and he found no ill effects at all of the pains he took in such
At length be had his whole family with him in Ireland, where he lived as Chaplain to the LORD MASSARENE in the Parish of Antrim, and was received and treated with all imaginable respect. His great learning and Christian temper (together with that Lord's interest and-influence) procured him the particular friendship of the Bishop of that diocese, who (together with his 'Metropolitan) without demanding any Conformity, gave him free liberty to preach in the public church in that town, every Lord's Day in the afternoon: And I have been informed that the Archbishop in a pretty full meeting of the Clergy, told them frankly, that he would have MR. Howe have every pulpit (where he had any concern) open to him. And he manifested his truly peaceable and Christian spirit, both in his preaching and conversation, and was useful to many.
In 1675, upon the death of DR. LAZARUS SEAMAN, he had an invitation given him to come and fix in London, by a part of his congregation, and was earnestly pressed to accept of their call. There was some difference among them about the person in whom they should centre. Some were for MR. CIIARN0cK, and others for MR. HOWE: And though they that wrote to him urged a variety of arguments and inducements, yet he could not so well judge of the matters alleged at a distance; and was thereupon prevailed with to take a, voyage into England, and make a visit at London, that he might view and judge of things upon the spot. He upon this occasion, which created him a great many thoughts, in which he looked seriously upwards for guidance, committed some hints to writing, which have been preserved, and are here faithfully transcribed from an authentic copy.
The paper is inscribed after this manner Considerations and Communings with myself concerning my present Journey, Dec. 20, 1675, by Night on my Bed.
I. QUERY.-Have I not an undue design or self-respect in it'
1. I know well I ought not to have any design for myself, which admits not of subordination to the honor of the great GOD and my REDEEMER, and which is riot actually so subordinated.
2. I understand the fearful evil and sinfullness of having such an undue design, that it is idolatry; the taking another GOD, and making myself that GOD.
3. I find (through GOD's mercy) sensible stirrings of hatred and detestation of that wickedness, and a great apprehension of the loveliness and beauty of a state of pure, entire devotedness to GOD in CHRIST, and of acting accordingly.
4. I have insisted, on this chiefly in prayer to GOD, in reference to this business, ever since it was set on foot, that I might be sincere in it: And though I have earnestly begged light to guide me therein, so as that 'I might do that herein which is agreeable to the holy will of God, yet I have much more importunately prayed that I might be sincere in what I do, not only because I know God will pardon ignorance (unremedied by utmost endeavors) where he beholds sincerity, whereas he will never accept the knowledge of our duty, nor the doing what is in substance our duty, if that right manner of doing-it, or principle whence it is done, be wanting; but also from the higher esteem I have of sincerity, above all light and knowledge without it, and the greater excellence of the thing itself.
5. I have carefully examined what selfish respects I can have in this matter. Is it worldly emolument In this my heart acquits me in the sight of GOD. Is it that I affect to be upon a public stage, to be popular and applauded by men To this I say, (1,) That I do verily believe, I shall be lower in the esteem of the people in London, when I come under their nearer, view. I know myself incapable of pleasing their genius. I cannot contrive nor endure to preach with elaborate artifice. They will soon be weary, when they hear nothing but plain discourses of such matters as are not new to them. Yea, and Ministers that now judge of me by what I have written, (when matter and words were in some measure weighed,) will find me when I converse with them, slow to apprehend things, slow to express my own apprehensions, unready, entangled and obscure in my apprehensions and expressions: So that all will soon say, This is not the man we took him for. (2.) It displeases’me not, that they should find and say ibis. I hope I should digest it well. (3.) I have found (blessed be GOD) that the applauses some have imprudently given me in letters, an occasion and means to me of deep humiliation, when my own heart bath witnessed to me, my miserable penury, and that I am thought to he what I am not. (4.) So far as I can find, I do not deliberately covet or desire esteem but for my work's sake, and the success of my work. Of applause I have found an inward abhorrence. I both know I have nothing but what I have received, and that I have received a great deal less than many think I have: Which I say with reflection on myself; not to diminish the bounty of the Free Giver, from whom I know I might have received much more, if I had sought and used his gifts aright. All the design I can more vehemently suspect myself of that looks like self-interest any way, is, (1,) The improvement of my own knowledge, which I know there may be great opportunities for, if this journey should issue in my settlement in London. (el.) The disposal of my children. Yet I hope these things are eyed in subordination, and indifferently, so as not to sway with me against my duty.
II. Query.-Have I got a previous Resolution f settling at London before I go up
1. I have a resolution to do what I shall conceive shall make most to the usefullness of the rest of my life, which resolution I ought never to be without.
2. I am seriously yet at a loss as to judging this case, whether in this country or there.
3. If I can find clearly it is my duty to return in order to continuance at Antrim, I shall do it with high complacency.
III. QUERY.-Am I not afraid of miscarrying in this undertaken Voyage by Shipwreck
1. I find little of that fear, I bless God.
2. Nor is it that I think' I have attained any, eminent degree of grace, that I am not afflicted with that -fear: Nay more than that, I acknowledge, to be delivered from such fear, is itself a great mercy, and gracious vouchsafement.
3. 1 hope I am in a state of favor and acceptance with GOD, which I apprehend I owe to infinite rich mercy in the Redeemer's blood. Great forgiveness I Deed, for I am a miserable sinful wretch: This I trust I have upon Gospel terms.
4. It is pleasant to me hereupon to think' of going into eternity; of laying down_ the body of flesh and sin and death together; and of being perfectly holy, and associated with them that are so, in. holy work and enjoyment.
5. To put off this tabernacle so easily, I reckon, would to me be a merciful dispensation, who am more afraid of sharp pain that of death. I think I should joyfully embrace those waves that should cast me on an undesigned shore, and when I intended Liverpool, should land me in heaven.
6. Yet I bless GOD I have no weariness of life, nor of his work in this world, if he shall yet please farther to employ me here.
QUERY.But am I not solicitous, lest if this should prove the Event, it will be judged a testimony against me, as to this present undertaking.
1. It is an honest design I go upon. I have, as I said, no selfish design that oversways me in it. I have no design to prejudice MR. C; I believe I shall do him no actual prejudice. Wherein I can justly befriend him, I go resolved to do it. If 1 can do any thing for the holding of the remainder together, without the neglect of greater work, I apprehend I shall do a just and needful thing: But should do nothing if I had opportunity, till I knew more.
2. To judge of thg justice of a cause by the success, is a past unjust way of judging. Many a just bus pens has miscarried. If I get well into the other world, such censores will be a small matter in my eye; and they are not great now.
3. GOD will accept my sincere intentions, though I effect nothing.'
Consolations to my Wife and other Relations, supposing they hear of my Death.
1. Whom or what have you lost A poor creature that could never be of much use to you.
2. You are to consider me, not as lost in my prime, but as now I am sensibly, under great decays, and not likely to continue long, except some means, hitherto not thought on, should have been tried. What a summer had I of the last! Seldom able to, walk the streets; and not only often disabled by pain, but weakness. And what great advantage to you would it have been to see me die I know not when I have had so much ease and health as in this journey.
3. GOD not only bath determined the thing, we must die, but all circumstances, when and where, and after what manner, and all wisely and well. Why should you be grieved, that He bath done well Not only well in itself, but well for you, if you love Him
4. You must ere long follow, and shall not be always in this world without me.
5. What there is, of evil in this case, admits of remedy. Paw so much nearer to GOD, and cease from man: Mind heaven mare, and your loss is made up.
6. I have, through the grace of GOD, preached immortal truth, which will survive, an4 may be to your advantage.
7 As to you who have dependence upon me for worldly concernments: I was, never a good projector for the world; so the loss is not great. How many, dear to GOD, make a shift in a worse condition! Forget not the motto,” God will provide.” He that feeds ravens, and takes care of sparrows, will He not take care of you Are you of his family, and will He not take care of his own Instead of distrust and repining, give thanks. 0 bless Him with all your soul, that he bath revealed and given himself to you for an everlasting portion; and whose covenant is to be your GOD, and the GOD of yours,
8. Let it be some satisfaction to you, that I go willingly, under no dread, with no regret, but with some comfortable knowledge of my way and end.'
With such thoughts as these did he undertake and pursue his voyage and journey.. He arrived safe at London - after having been five years in Ireland: And, upon mature consideration, he accepted of the call that had been given him, and settled there, and made a quiet and peaceable use of KING CHARLES'S indulgence, preached to a considerable and judicious auditory, by whom he was singularly respected; and be was much esteemed, not only by his brethren in the ministry among the Dissenters, but also by several eminent Divines of the Church of England, as DR. WHICHCOTE, DR. KIDDER, DR. FOWLER, DR. LUCAS, and others, whom he often conversed with, and that with great freedom and familiarity.
In the time of the Popish Plot, when things took a quite different turn from what they had done from the Restoration till then, and the city and whole body of the nation was full of dreadful apprehensions, he made, it his endeavor among those with whom he had to do, to make the awful impressions which people were at that time under, serviceable to the purposes of serious religion: And in big conversation with the Clergy of the Established Church, or with persons of quality and distinction, he upon all occasions discovered a peaceable and healing spirit, often giving it as his sense, that an accommodation in matters between the Church and the Dissenters, would be the most effectual way to keep out Popery. And it has been the opinion of many, that a fitter season for an union could not well occur, than did then present itself. The House of Commons who sat at Westminster in 1680, seem to have been of that mind, and therefore they brought in a bill for uniting His Majesty's Protestant subjects, and nothing was more commonly talked of at that time. And not being able to go through with it, they, before they rose, came to a resolution, that’ The Acts of Parliament made in the reigns of QUEEN ELIZABETH and KING JAMES, against Popish; Recusants, ought not to be extended against Protestant Dissenters;' and that’ The prosecution of Protestant Dissenters upon the penal laws, is at this time grievous to the subject, a weakening the Protestant interest, an encouragement to Popery, and dangerous to the peace of the kingdom.'
MR. HOWE had, about this time, an invitation from BISHOP LLOYD, to come and dine with him the next day. He was apprehensive it could not be without some particular design, that a Bishop whom he had not seen, or at least with whom he had no acquaintance, should desire him to come and dine with him. He sent his Lordship word, that he was engaged that day for dinner, but would not fail of waiting upon him afterwards. Hereupon the Bishop sent again, to let him know, that since he could not dine with him, he would not give him the trouble to come so far as his house, but would meet him at DR. TILLOTSON'S, the Dean of Canterbury's. They met there accordingly, and the Bishop told him, that the reason why he desired a meeting with him was, to know of him, what he thought would satisfy the Non-conformists, that so they might be taken into the Church. MR. Howe answered, that he could not pretend to say what would satisfy any besides himself; for that all had not an equal latitude in such matters. The Bishop hereupon pressed him to give his judgment, what he thought would satisfy the most; for, says he,' I would have the terms so large as to comprehend the most of them.' MR. Howe told him that he thought it would go a considerable way towards it
if the law was but_ so framed; as that Ministers might be enabled to promote parochial reformation. ’Why,' says the Bishop,’ for that reason, I am for taking the Lay Chancellors quite away, as being the great hindrance of reforelation.' At length, they agreed upon a meeting the next night at seven o'clock, at DR. STILLINGFLEET'S, the Dean of St. Paul's. MR. HOWE proposed to bring MR. BAXTER along with him; but the Bishop would by no means allow of it. Then he proposed to bring DR. BATES, and was
answered, that no man could be more proper.
Accordingly DR. BATES and MR. HOWE went at seven in the evening to DEAN STILLINGFLEET'S, as had been appointed the day before. The Dean had provided a very handsome treat, but they found not the company they expected. They waited till eight, till nine, till near ten o'clock; but the Bishop neither came, nor sent, nor took any notice of the matter afterwards. And that very night (as they heard the next morning) the Bill of Exclusion was thrown out of the House of Peers, by a majority of thirty voices, fourteen of which were Bishops. And after this, there was no farther occasion for any talk about a Comprehension.
In 1681, the Dissenters were prosecuted with great violence both in city and country, and the severe laws that had been made against them some years before, as well as some that were made against the Papists in the reign of QUEEN ELIZABETH, were rigorously put in execution against theme. Several of the Bishops concurred, and by influence from the Court, were prevailed with, to do their endeavor to push forward the civil Magistrate, and to sharpen the rigor of the ecclesiastical courts, in defiance of the votes of the House of Commons in their favor. This was generally thought a piece of court artifice, to play the Church of England against the Dissenters, and enrage the Dissenters against the Church of England, that they might not unite and see their common danger, but rather, by destroying one another, might make room for a third party, that lay behind the curtain, and watched an opportunity of the Duke's succession.
In 1682, things were much in the same state as the year before.
In 1683, there was an order made by the Justices of Peace at- the Quarter-Sessions at Exon, against all Nonconforming Ministers, allowing a reward of forty shillings to any person that apprehended any one of them, and declaring their resolution to put in execution against them the severest laws, and particularly that of the 35th of ELIZABETH, the penalties whereof are imprisonment, abjuration of the realm, or death. And BISHOP LAMBLUGH (who was afterwards Archbishop of York) required the order to be read by all the Clergy on the next Sunday after it should be tendered to them, on purpose (as was said)’ that the care of the Justices of Devon, for the preservation of the public peace, might be fuller known, and have a better effect.'
In the year 1684, BISHOP BUENET owns, that the prosecution of the Dissenters was carried very high.” They were not only proceeded against for going to conventicles, (as he is pleased to call their private meetings for the worship of GOD,) but for not going to church, and for not receiving the Sacrament. The laws made against Papists, with relation to those particulars, being now applied unto them. Many were excommunicated and ruined by those prosecutions.”
Among other warm things which at that time came from the press, there was a letter published by Bishop BARLOW of Lincoln, for the putting in execution the laws. against the Dissenters: And this was written in concurrence with that which was drawn up by the Justices of the Peace of the County of Bedford, bearing date, January 14, 1684. In answer to this, letter, MR. Howe sent his lordship a free letter by the post, a copy whereof follows:
As- I must confess myself surprised by your late published directions to= your Clergy of the County of Bedford, so I not will dissemble, that I did read them withh some trouble of mind, which 1: sincerely profess. was more upon your Lordship's account than my own, (who for myself am little, concerned,) or any other particular person's, whatsoever. It was such as it had not been very difficult for me to hare concealed in my own breast, or only to have expressed it to GOD in my prayers for you, (which, through his grace, I have not altogether omitted to do,) if I had not apprehended it not utterly impossible, that some or other of those thoughts, which I have revolved in my own mind upon this occasion, being only hinted to your Lordship, might appear to your very sagacious judgment, (for which I have had long, and have a still continuing veneration,) some way capable. of being cultivated by your own mature and second thoughts, so as not to be wholly unuseful to your Lordship.
My own judgment, such as it is, inclines me not tti oppose any thing, either, 1. to the lawfullness of the things themselves which you so much desire should obtain in the practice of the- people under your Lordship's pastoral inspection: Or 9.. To the desifeable comeliness of an uniformity in the public worship of God: Or 3. To the fitness of making laws for the effecting of such uniformity: Or 4. To the execution of such laws, upon some such persons as may possibly be found among so numerous a people as are under your Lordship's care.
' But the things which f humbly conceive axe to be deliberated on, are, 1. Whether all the laws that are in being ad out matters of that nature, ought now to be executed upon all the persons which any way transgress them, without distinction of either 2. Whether it was so well, that your Lordship' should advise and press that indistinct execution, which the order (to which the directions of your Lordship refer) seems to intend; supposing that designed execution were fit in itself
' I shall not need to speak severally to these heads: Your Lordship' will sufficiently distinguish what is applicable the one way or the other. But I humbly offer to your Lordship's further consideration, whether it be not a supposable thing, that some persons sound in the faith, strictly orthodox in all the articles of it taught by our Lord Jesus or his Apostles, resolvedly loyal, and subject to the authority of their governors in Church and State, of pious, sober peaceable, just, charitable dispositions and deportments; may yet (while they agree with your Lordship in that evident principle, both by the law of nature and Scripture, that their Prince and inferior rulers ought to be actively obeyed in all lawful things) have a formed fixed judgment of the unlawfullness of some or other of the rites and modes of worship enjoined to be observed in this Church For my own part, though perhaps I should not be found to differ much from your Lordship in most of the things here referred unto, I do yet think that few metaphysical questions are disputed with nicer subtlety, than the matter of the ceremonies has been by Archbishop WHITGIFT, CARTWRIGHT, HOOKER, PARKER, DR. BURGESS, DR. Owax, &c.
' Now is it impossible that a sincere and sober Christian may, with an honest heart, have so weak intellectuals, as not to be able to understand all the punctilioes upon which a right judgment of such a matter may depend And is it not possible there may be such a thing as a mental as well as a merely sensitive antipathy, not vincible by ordinary methods - Is there no difference to be put between things essential to our religion, and things confessedly indifferent on the one hand, and on the other judged unlawful; on both hands, but accidental (Though they that think them unlawful, dare not allow themselves a liberty of sinning, even in accidentals.) If your Lordship were the paterfamilias to a numerous family of children and servants, among whom one or other very dutiful child takes offence, not at the sort of food you have thought fit should be provided, but somewhat in the sauce or way of dressing, which thereupon he forbears; you will try all the means which your paternal wisdom and severity think fit to overcome that aversion, but in. vain; would you finally famish this child, rather than yield to his inclination in so small a thing
My Lord, your Lordship well knows the severity of some of those laws which you press for the execution of is such, as being executed, they must infer the utter ruin of them who observe them not, in their temporal concernments; and not that only, but their deprivation of the comfortable advantages appointed by our blessed LORD, for promoting their spiritual and eternal well-being. I cannot but be well persuaded not only of the sincerity, but eminent sanctity of divers, upon my own knowledge and experience of them, who would sooner die at a stake, than I or any man can prevail with them to kneel at the Loan's table. What if there be considerable numbers of such in your Lordship's vastly numerous flock will it be comfortable to you, when an, account is demanded of your Lordship by the great Shepherd and-Bishop of souls concerning them, only to be able to say, Though, LORD, I did believe the provisions of thine house purchased for them, necessary and highly useful for their salvation, I drove them away as dogs and swine from thy table, and stirred up such -other agents as I could influence against them, by whose means I reduced many of them to beggary, ruined many families, banished them into strange countries, where they might (for me) serve other gods; and this not for disobeying any immediate ordinance or law of Thine, but because for fear of offending Thee, they did not in every thing comport with my own appointments, or which I was directed to urge and impose upon them How well would this practice agree with that apostolical precept,” Him that is weak in the faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations”
I know not how your Lordship would relieve yourself in this case, but by saying they were not weak, nor conscientious, but willful and humorsome. But what shall then be said to the subjoined expostulation,” Who art thou that judgest thy brother
We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.” What, if they have appeared conscientious, and of a very unblameable conversation in all things else What, if better qualified for Christian communion in all other respects, than thousands you admitted If you say, you know of none such under your charge so severely dealt with; it will be said, Why did you use such severity toward them you did not know; or urge and animate them to use it, whom you knew never likely to distinguish.
' A very noted Divine of the Church of England said to me in discourse, not very long ago, upon mention of the ceremonies,’ Come, come, the Christian Church and religion is in a consumption; and it ought to be done as in the case of consumptive persons, shave off the hair to save the life.' Another (a dignified person) present, replied,’ I doubt not it will be so, in the Philadelphian State.' I long thought few had been in the temper of their minds nearer it than your Lordship, and am grieved, not that I -so judged, but that I am mistaken; and to see your Lordship the first public example to the rest of your order in such a course.
' Blessed Loan! how strange-isit that so long experience will not let us see, that so very disputable matters can never be the terms of union so much to be desired in the Christian Church; and that in such a case as ours is, nothing will satisfy, but the destruction of them, whose union upon so nice terms we cannot obtain: But we must, it seems, understand all this rigor to proceed from love, and that you are for destroying the Dissenters, only to mend their under standings, and because *. I hope indeed God will sanctify the affliction which you give and procure them, to blessed purposes and perhaps *: But for the purposes your Lordship seems to-aim at, I wonder what you can expect! Can, you, by undoing men, change the, judgment of their consciences Or if they should tell you, We do indeed in our consciences judge we shall greatly offend GOD by complying with your injunctions, but yet to save being undone we will do it: Will this qualify them for your communion If your Lordship thinks still, you have judged and advised well in this matter, you have the judgment of out Sovereign, upon twelve years' experience, lying against you- You have, as to- one of the laws you would have' executed, the judgment of both Houses of Parliament against you, who passed- a Bill (to which perhaps you consented) for taking it away: You have (as' to all of them) the judgment of the last House of Commons sitting at Westminster. If you have misjudged, or misdone against your judgment, I pray GOD to rectify your error by gentler methods,. and by less affliction than you have designed to your brethren: And do not for all this doubt (any more for your part than my own) to meet you there one days where LUTHER. and ZUIHGLIUS are well agreed. If I did think that would contribute any thing to the honest and truly charitable design of this letter, I should freely and at large tell you my name: And do However tell you, I am, -
A sincere Honorer of your Lordship,
And your very faithful, humble Servant.'
In 1685, the Dissenters were run down universally,' and hardly any one durst speak or write in their favor; and the prospects people had with respect to the public, grew every day more and more gloomy MR. Howe therefore having an invitation given him by the LORD WHARTON to travel with him, accepted it readily. He had so little time given him to prepare for his voyage, which he entered upon in the month of August this year, that he had not an opportunity of taking leave of his friends, but sent a letter to them from the other side the water, which was thus directed.
To such in and about London, among whom I have labored in the Work of the Gospel.
' MY most dearly beloved in our blessed LORD and Savior Jrsus CHRIST, grace, mercy and peace be through him multiplied unto you.
' THAT I am at this time at this distance from you, is I am persuaded (upon -the experience I have had of your great love and value of my poor labors): not pleasant to ’you, and I do assure you it is grievous to. me, though I murmur not at the wise and holy Providence that bath ordered things thus: But it added to my trouble, that I could not so much as bid farewell to persons to whom I had so great endearments. Nor could I have opportunity to communicate to you the grounds of my taking this long journey, being under promise, while the matter was under consideration, not to speak of it to any. And after the resolution was taken, my motion depending on another, I had not time for that, or any such purposes. The providence of GOD gave me the prospect of a present quiet abode, with some opportunity of being serviceable; (and I hope as it may prove through his blessing, unto you, if I have life to finish what I have been much pressed to go on with;) which opportunity I could not hope to have nearer you, at least without being unreasonably burdensome to some, while I was designing service as much as in me lay to all.
It much satisfies me that I have a record above, I am not designing for myself; that He who knows all things, knows I love not this present world, and I covet not an abode in it (nor have I when it was most friendly to me) upon any other account, than upon doing some service to him, and the souls of men., It has therefore been my settled sense a long time, to value and desire (with submission to Sovereign good pleasure) peace and quiet, with some tolerable health, more than life. Nor have I found any thing more destructive to my health than confinement to a room in a city air, which was much more healthful to me formerly, than since anger and jealousies of such as I never had a disposition to offend, have occasioned persons of my circumstance very seldom to walk the streets.
' But my hope is, GOD will in his good time incline the hearts' of Rulers to favor such as cannot be satisfied with the public constitutions in the matters of GOD'S worship, and that are innocent and peaceable in the land; and that my absence from you will be for no long time, it being my design, with dependence upon his gracious Providence, in whose hands our times are, if I hear of any door open for service with you, to spend the health and strength which GOD shall vouchsafe me, in his work with and among you. In the mean time it will be not unacceptable to you, that I offer you some of my thoughts for your present help.
I. I beseech you more earnestly endeavor to reduce, the things you know to practice. Nothing can be more absurd than to content ourselves with a notional knowledge of practical matters. We should think so in other cases. As if any man should satisfy himself to know the use of food, but famish himself -by never eating any, when he bath it at hand. - And the neglect of applying the great things of the Gospel to the proper purposes of the Christian life, is not less foolish, but much more sinful and provoking to GOD.
' How high a contempt is it of the great God, so totally to disappoint the whole design of that revelation he made to us, to know the great things contained therein, only for knowing-sake, which he bath made known that’we may live by them! And 0 what holy and pleasant lives should we lead in this world, if the temper of our souls answered the things we know! The design of preaching has been greatly mistaken, when it has.been thought, it must still acquaint them who live under it, with some new thing. Its much greater design is the impressing of known things (but too little considered) upon the hearts of hearers, that they may be delivered up into the mould and form of the doctrine taught them, as Rom. 6: 12. And may, so learn CHRIST as more and more to be renewed in ’the spirit of their minds, and put off the old man and put on the new. (Eph. 4: 20.) The digesting our food is what GOD now eminently calls for.
II. More particularly, labor to have your apprehensions of the unseen world, and eternal things, made more lively and efficacious daily, and that your-faith of them may be such as may truly be called the very substance and evidence of those things. Shall that glorious and everlasting state of things be always as a dark shadow with us, or as the images we have of things in a dream, ineffectual and vanishing, only because we have not seen with our eyes; where God himself bath made the representations of them to us, who never deceived us, as our own eyes and treacherous senses have done Why do we not live as just now entering, into the eternal state, and as if we now beheld the glorious appearing of the great GOD our SAVIOR Why do we not oftener view the representation of the heavens vanishing, the elements melting, the earth flaming, the angels every where dispersed to gather the elect, and them ascending, caught up to meet the Redeemer in the air, ever to be with the LORD What a trifle will the world be to us then
III. Let the doctrine of the Redeemer be more studied, and of his mighty undertaking, with the. immediate design of it, not merely to satisfy for sin by the sacrifice be made of himself, and so to procure our justification, but to redeem us from all iniquity, to purify us to himself, and to form us after his own holy likeness, and for such purposes to give his HOLY SPIRIT tons. Consider that our Redeemer is mighty, who bath such kind designs upon us; and. that they will be carried on without interruption, and with discernible success, if we fail not as to what part, in subordination to him, belongs to us. I-low cheerfully should the redeemed of the LORD go on in their course, under such conduct!
IV. Endeavor that your faith may be stronger, more efficacious and practical, concerning the doctrine of Providence, and that the workings and events of it lie all under the management, and in the hand of the Redeemer, who is Head over all things to the Church: That therefore how grievous and bitter soever be his people's lot and portion at any time, there cannot but be kindness at the bottom and that not only designing the best end, but taking the fit-. test way to it. For can love itself be unkind, so as not to design well Or wisdom itself err so, as to take an improper course in order thereto Hereupon let not your spirits be embittered by the dispensation of. Providence, whereby you are inn so great a part deprived of the means of your spiritual advantage, which you relish most.
And to this purpose consider,
1. Our wise and merciful LORD (though perhaps such. means might be in some measure useful to us) doth for the present judge, that his rebuking our undue use of them will,
him be more useful; either inn over-valuing his instruments, turning his ordinances into mere formalities, preferring the means of grace (as they are fitly called) before the end, grace itself.
2. Consider whether there be no disposition of spirit; to treat others as you are treated. The inward temper of our minds and spirits is so much the more narrowly to be inspected, by how much the less there is opportunity to discover it by outward acts. As to such as differ from us about the forms and ceremonies that are now required in the worship of GOD, would we not be glad if they were as much restrained from using them in their worship, as we from worshipping without them And do not we think that would as much grieve them, as our restraint doth us And why should we suppose that their way should not as much suit their spirits, and ‘be as grateful to them, as ours to us But we are in the right way, some will say, and they in the wrong: And why cannot any man say the same thing with as much confidence as we Or do we think, there is no difference to be put between controversies about matter of circumstance, and about the essentials of Christianity Undoubtedly till those that count it more their glory to be called Protestants than to be good Christians, have learnt to mingle more justice with their religion, and to apply that great advice of our LORD'S,” Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do that to them;” and till they become studious of excelling other men, in substantial goodness, abstractedness from the world, meekness, humility, sobriety, self-denial and. charity, and to lay a greater stress hereon, than on being of one ox other denomination, GOD's controversy will not cease.
' I reckon it much to be considered, that after that great precept,” Grieve not the HOLY SPIRIT of God,” (Eph. 4: 30,) it immediately follows,” Let all bitterness, and anger, and wrath, and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice:” (Verse 31:) Plainly implying that the SPIRIT of God, that SPIRIT of all love, goodness, sweetness, and benignity, is grieved by nothing more than by our bitterness, wrathfullness, &c. And it appears that the discernible restraint and departure of that blessed SPIRIT from the Church of CHRIST in so great a measure, for many foregoing generations, in comparison of the plentiful effusion of it in the first age, bath. insued upon the growth of that wrathful contentious spirit which showed itself early in the Gnostic, much more in the Arian persecution, which was not in some places less -bloody than the Pagan persecution had been before.
' O the gentleness, kindness, and compassionateness, of the truly Christian Spirit, as it most eminently appeared in our LORD JESUS CHRIST himself f And “if any man have not the SPIRIT of CHRIST, he is none of his.”
' And how easy and pleasant is it to one's self, to be void of all wrathfulness, and vindictive inclinations towards any other man For my own part, I should not have that peace and consolation in a suffering condition, as through the goodness of GOD I have found, and do find in being conscious to myself of no other than kind and benign thoughts towards them I have suffered by, and that my heart tells me I desire not the least hurt to them that would do me the greatest; and that I feel within myself an unfeigned love and high estimation of divers, accounting them pious worthy persons, and hoping to meet them in the all-reconciling world, that are yet (through some mistake) too harsh towards us who dissent from them: And in things of this nature, I pray that you and I may abound more and more.
' But again, as I would not have your spirits embittered, so I would not have you discouraged, or sunk in dejection.” The LORD will not east off his people, because it bath pleased him to make them his people.” (1 Sam. 12: 2g.) I do not mean those of this or that party, but who fear GOD and work righteousness, be they of what party soever.
' As I often think that saying of an ancient, (CLEMENS ALEXANDRINUS,) that he counted not that philosophy, which was peculiar to this or that sect, but whatsoever of truth was to be found in any of, them so t say of Christianity, it is not that which is appropriate to this or that party, but whatsoever of sincere religion shall be found common to them all. Such will value and love his favor and presence, and shall have it; and he will yet have such a people in the world, and I doubt not more numerous than ever.
' And as the bitterness of Christians one towards another chased away his SPIRIT, his SPIRIT shall vanquish and drive away all that bitterness, and consume our other dross. And as the apostasy long ago foretold, and of so long continuance in the Christian Church, bath, been begun and continued by constant war against the SPIRIT Of CHRIST, the restitution and recovery of the Church, -and the reduction of Christianity to its primitive, state, will be by the victory of the SPIRIT of CHRIST over that contrary spirit. Then shall all the enmity, pride, wrathfullness, and cruelty, which have rent the Church of CHRIST, be melted down; and with all their great impurities, besides earthliness, love of this present world, and prevalence of sensual lusts, be purged away, and his repairing work be done in a way grievous to no one, whereby those that are most absolutely conquered will be most highly pleased;” not by, might or by power, but by the SPIRIT of the LORD.”
' In the mean time let us draw nigh to GOD, and he will draw nigh to us. Let us more study the exercising ourselves to godliness, and take heed of turning the religion of our closets into spiritless uncomfortable formalities. ' To that blessed and faithful GOD I commit you; and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified.
' And, as I hope I shall without ceasing remember you in mine, so I hope you will remember too in, your prayers,
Your sincerely affectionate,
Though too unprofitable
Servant in CHRIST,
In the course of his travels with this noble Lord, MR. HOWE had the satisfaction of seeing divers noted places, and conversing freely, not only with a number of learned Papists, but several Protestant Divines, both Lutherans and Calvinists, and making a variety of remarks for his own use: And in the mean time, he was often not a little affected with the melancholy tidings of the advances they were making in England -towards Popery and slavery, which he most heartily lamented, as well as the hardships which his brethren met with in particular. And not having any encouragement from the posture of affairs to return home, he at length in the year 1686, settled in Utrecht. He took a house, and resided there for some time, and had the EARL Of SUTHERLAND and his Countess, and some English gentlemen, together with his two nephews MR. GEORGE and MR. JOHN HUGHES, boarding with him. He took his turn of preaching at the English Church in that city, with MATTHEW MEAD, MR. Woodcock, and MR. Cross.
They kept frequent days of solemn prayer, on account of the threatening state of affairs in their own. country: And MR. Howe generally preached on the LORD'S Day in the evening in his own family. And there being several English students then at the University, in order to their being fitted for future usefullness, MR. Howe was pleased to favor some of them with hearing their orations and disputations in private, and giving them his particular instructions and advice, which some have owned to have been of no small advantage to them.
Among others by whom he was visited while he continued at Utrecht,' one was DR. GILBERT BURNET, afterwards Bishop of Sarum, who also preached in the English Church there, and very frankly declared for occasional communion with those of different sentiments. He and MR. Howe had a great deal of free conversation, upon a variety of subjects; and once discoursing of Non-conformity, the Doctor told him, he was apprehensive that it could not subsist long; but that when MR. BAXTER, and DR. BATES, and he, and a few more were once laid in ’their graves, it would sink and die, and come to nothing MR. Howe replied, that must be left to GOD; though he at the same time intimated that he had different apprehensions; and did not reckon it to' depend upon persons, but upon principle, which when taken up upon grounds approved upon search, could not be laid aside by men of conscience. The best way, he said, to put an end to Non-conformity, would be by giving due liberty under the national settlement, and laying aside needless clogs, that would give occasion to endless debates. Were this once' done, there would be no room for a conscientious Non-conformity:' But- that without it, they could expect no other than that as some passed off the stage, others would rise up and fill their places, who would act upon the same principles as they had done before them, though he hoped with a due moderation and temper towards those of different sentiments. And the event has showed, that he was herein in the right.
While MR. HOWE continued in Holland, the late KING WILLIAM, who was at that time Prince of Orange, did him the honor to admit, him several times into his presence, and discoursed with him with great freedom: And he ever after retained a particular respect for him.
I well remember also, that he himself once informed me, of some very private conversation he had with that Prince, upon his sending for him,, not long before his death. Among other things, the King then asked him a great many questions about his old master OLIVER, as he called him, and seemed not a little pleased with the answers that were returned to some of his questions.
In 1687 KING JAMES published his Declaration for liberty of conscience, upon which the Dissenters were freed from their fetters, and were allowed the freedom of worshipping GOD in public, in their own way. ’MR. Howe's flock in London, earnestly pressed for his return to them according to his promise, and he readily complied.
But before he left Holland,. he thought it property wait on the Prince of Orange, who received him very graciously.
He signified to his Royal Highness, that he was returning for England, at the solicitation of his friends, who were impatient of his absence, now he was in a capacity of public service among them. The Prince wished him a good voyage, and advised him, though he and his brethren made use of the liberty granted by KING JAMES, yet to be very cautious in addressing; and not to be prevailed with upon any terms, to fall in with the measures of the Court, as to taking off the penal laws and test, which was the thing intended, but which would have fatal consequences; and to use his utmost influence in order to the restraining others, which he readily promised; and he was as good as his word.
Upon his return into his own country, which was in May this year, he was gladly received by his old friends and brethren, and with joy, (though not without an aching heart, considering the apparent danger of the public,) returned to the free exercise of his ministry. He was thankful for a little breathing time afforded, and endeavored to improve it to the best purposes, and to preserve himself and others from the snares that were laid for them.
Meantime, the King went on with his design, and nothing would satisfy him, but his Declaration for liberty must be read in all Churches.. The Bishops, meeting together for consultation, were convinced that their concurring in this step, and sending the Declaration to all their Clergy; and requiring their reading it publicly to the people, would be an owning the dispensing power: And therefore they drew up a petition to his Majesty, in which they desired to be excused. This petition was called a libel, and they were sent to the Tower for presenting it.
Mr. HOWE being at this time invited to dinner by DR. SHEILOCK, the Master of the Temple, accepted the invitation, and there were two or three other Clergyman at the table. After dinner, the discourse ran mostly upon the danger the Church was at that time in, of being entirely ruined. The Doctor, freely, but pretty abruptly, asked Ma. Howe, what he thought the Dissenters would do, supposing the preferments of the Church should be made vacant, and an offer, should be made of filling them up out of their number And who knows, said he, but MR. HOWE may he offered to be Master of the Temple Ma. Howe, told the Doctor, that these were things that were altogether uncertain: But that if it should so happen, he could not pretend to answer for the conduct of the Dissenters, among whom there were several parties, that acted upon different principles; that, he could answer for none but himself: And that he thought for his part, if things should ever come to the pass he mentioned, he should not balk an opportunity' of more public service, provided it was offered him upon such terms as he had no just reason to except against: -But then he added, that as for the emolument thence accruing, he should not be for meddling with that, any otherwise than as an hand to convey it to the legal proprietor. Whereupon the Doctor rose up, embraced him, and said, that he had always taken him for that honest man he now found him to be.
When these fears were all blown over, and an happy Revolution brought about in 1688, and the PRINCE of ORANGE was come to St. James's Palace, the Dissenting Ministers waited on him in a body, and were introduced by the Loans DEVONSHIRE, WHARTON, and WILTSHIRE; at which time, MR. HOWE, in the name of the rest, made an handsome speech to his Majesty.
Soon after the Toleration Act passed, MR. HOWE published,’ Humble Requests both to Conformists and Dissenters touching their Temper and Behavior toward each other, upon the lately passed Indulgence.'
It is there moved,
1. That we do not over magnify our differences, or count them greater than they really are. I speak now (says MR. Howe) of the proper differences which the rule itself makes,.
to which the one sort conforms, and the other conforms not. Remember that there are differences on both parts, among themselves incomparably greater than these, by which the one sort differs from the other. There are differences in doctrinal sentiments that are much greater.
HOW inconceivably greater is the difference between men good and bad! Between being a lover of the blessed GOD, the LORD of heaven and earth, and an enemy! A real subject of CHRIST and of the Devil! Have we not reason to apprehend there are both of these on each side It has been an usual saying on both sides, that they were (in comparison) but little things we differed about: Let us not unsay it, or suffer an habit of mind to slide into us, that consists not with it. Though we must not go against a judgment of conscience in the least thing, yet let us not confound the true differences of things, but what are really lesser things, let them go for such.
2. Let us hereupon carefully abstain from judging each other's state God-ward upon these differences: For hereby we shall both contradict our common rule, and ourselves. When men make conscience of small and doubtful things on the one hand and the other, about which they differ, blessed God, how little conscience is made of the plainest and most important rule not to judge one another for such differences-! (Rom. 14: 3, 13.) Why, of all the parts of that holy book, is this chapter only thought no part of GOD's word Or this precept so variously enforced in this chapter, and so awfully:” But why dost thou judge thy brother Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of CHRIST. For it is written, as I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to me.” (Verse 10, 11.) Is it a light matter to usurp the throne of CHRIST, the judgment-seat of Gov Yet how common has it been to say, Such an one conforms not; it is not conscience but humor GOD forgive both. Had they blotted Rom. 14: out of their Bibles It is plain, by the whole series of discourse, that it is the judging of men's states, and that by such small matters of difference, that is the thing here forbidden. Some few things contained in this chapter; as to” receive one another,” (as Christians, or such whom God receives,) notwithstanding remaining doubts about small matters, and not determining such doubted things in bar to the doubter;- (Verses 1, 2, 3;) and” not to lay stumbling-blocks in each other's way,” (verse 13,)’ not to do the doubted thing with a mind still unsatisfied, (verse 5, 2S,) not to “censure,” either him that does or forbears; not admitting an hard thought of him or less, favorable, than that what such an one does, he does to the LORD, and”what the other forbears, he forbears to the LORD.” (Verse 6.) These few things! say, put in practice, had taken away all differences, or the. inconvenience of them long ago. And we shall still need them as much as ever.
3. Let us not value ourselves upon being of this or that side of the severing line. It is Jewish, yea Pharisaical, to be conceited, and boast ourseles upon externals, and small matters, especially if arbitrarily taken up; and is itself an argument of a light mind.’Though I cannot sincerely be of this or that way, but I must think myself in the right, and others in the wrong that differ from me; yet I ought to consider, this is but a small thing, a point compared with the vast orb of things needful, and that ought to be known. P1rhaps divers that differ from me, are men of greater and more comprehensive minds, and have been more employed about greater matters; and many, in things of more importance, have much more of valuable and useful knowledge than 1: Yea, and since these are not matters of-salvation we differ about, so that any on either side dare considerately say, He cannot be saved that is not in these respects of my way; he may have more sanctifying knowledge, more solid goodness, more grace and real sanctity than I; the course of his thoughts and studies having been by converse and other accidents led more off from these things, and perhaps by a good principle been more deeply engaged about higher matters: For no man's mind is able equally to consider all things fit to be considered; and greater things are of themselves more apt to beget holy and good impressions upon our spirits, than the minuter and more circumstantial things, though relating to religion, can be.
4. Let us not despise one another for our differing in these lesser matters. This is too common, and natural to that temper that offends against the foregoing caution. Little spirited creatures valuing themselves for small matters, must consequently have them in contempt that want what they count their own excellency, He that bath nothing wherein he places worth belonging to him, besides a flaunting peruke and a laced suit, must at all adventures think very meanly of one in a plain garb. Where we are taught “not to judge,” we are forbidden “to despise” or set at nought one another upon these little differences.
5. Nor let us wonder that we differ. We are too apt to think it strange, that such a man should conform, or such an one not conform. There is some fault in this, but which proceeds from more faulty causes. Pride too often, and an opinion that we understand so well, that a' wrong is done us, if our judgment be not made a standard to another man's. And again, ignorance of human nature, or inconsiderateness rather, how mysterious it is, and how little can be known of it; how secret little springs there are that move this engine this way or that! Have we not frequent instances in other common cases, how difficult it is to speak to another man's understanding! Speech is too penurious, not expressive enough. Frequently between men of sense, much more time is taken up in explaining each other's notions, than in proving or disproving them. Nature and our present state, have in some respects, left us open to GOD only, and made us inaccessible to one another. Why then should it be strange to me, that I cannot convey my thought into anther's mind Is it unchristian to censure, as before, and say, Such an one has not my conscience, therefore he has no conscience at all: And it is also unreasonable to say, Such an one sees not with my eyes, therefore he is stark blind. Besides, the real obscurity of, the matter is not enough considered. I am very confident an impartial and competent judge, upon the view of books, later and more ancient, upon such subjects, would say, there are few metaphysical questions disputed with more subtlety, than the controversies about Conformity and Nonconformity. Blessed be GOD that things necessary to the salvation of souls, and that are of true necessity even to the peace and order of the Christian Church, are in comparison so very plain.
6. Let us not be offended with one another, for, our different. choice of this or that way, wherein we find most real advantage. Our greatest concern in this world, and which is common to us all, is the bettering of our spirits, and preparing them for a better world. Let no man be displeased, (especially of those who agree in all the substantials of the same holy religion,) that another uses the same liberty, in choosing the why most conducing in his experience to his -great end, that he himself also uses, expecting to do it without another man's offence.
7. But above all, let us with sincere minds, more earnestly endeavor the promoting the interest of religion itself, of true reformed Christianity, than of this or that party. Let us long to see the religion of Christians become simple, primitive, agreeable to its lovely original state; and each in our own stations contribute thereto all that we are able, laboring that the internal principle of it may live and flourish in our own souls, and be to our utmost diffused and spread unto other men's. Ana for its externals, as our rule will bear, gradually bend towards one common, course, that there may be at length no divided -parties at all.'
It seems. necessary I should add somewhat upon another subject, which also made a great noise in the latter part of this good man's life, and that is a business of occasional Conformity. MR. HOWE had all along from his first quitting his Church, upon the taking place of the Act of Uniformity, carried himself with great calmness and moderation, and had openly declared for this occasional Conformity; and it was the same also as to a number of his brethren. About this time he wrote a letter to a person of honor, partly representing the rise of occasional Conformity, and partly the sense of the present Non-conformists; about their yet continuing differences from the established Church.
' MY LORD,
' IT is well known to such as have understood the state of religion in this kingdom, since the beginning of the Reformation, that there have been very different sentiments about the degrees of that Reformation itself. Some have judged the Church with us so insufficiently reformed, as to want the very being of a true Christian church; and wherewith they therefore thought it unlawful to have any communion at all. Of whom many thereupon in the several successive reigns, withdrew themselves into foreign parts, for the enjoyment of the liberty of such worship, as they judged agreeable to the Word of GOD. There have been also no inconsiderable numbers, that though not entirely satisfied with our Reformation, were less severe in their judgment concerning the constitution of the established Church that is, did not judge its Reformation so defective, that they might not communicate at all with it, nor so complete, but that they ought to covet a communion more strictly agreeable to the Holy Scripture; and accordingly apprehended themselves to lie under a two-fold obligation in reference hereto.
1., Not by any means totally to cut themselves off on the one hand from the communion of the established Church, in which they found greater and more momentous things to be embraced with great reverence and complacency, (namely, all the true noble essentials of Christian religion, not subverted as among the Romanists by any contrary doctrines,) than could be pretended to remain the matter of their disapprobation.
2. Nor, on the other hand, to decline other communion, which to the judgment of their conscience appeared, in some considerable circumstances, more agreeable to the Christian rule, and to their experience, more conducing to their spiritual advantage.
Which latter judgment of theirs (whether itself justifiable or no, we are not now considering) bath been with many so fixed and inflexible, that in several successive reigns, great numbers of such persons, who we had no reason Ito apprehend had any thought totally to abandon the established Church, yet thought themselves obliged besides, to seek and procure opportunities for such other communions, even with extreme peril, not only to their estate, but to their very lives.
' They could not therefore but think both these sorts of communions lawful, namely, whereto they might adjoin, but not confine themselves. It is not indeed to be thought that the judgment and practice of such men, can be -throughout approved by our Reverend Fathers and Brethren of the established Church, as neither can we pretend it to be so universally by ourselves. But we are remote from any the least suspicion, that persons of Christian temper, can suffer themselves to judge or censure men of this sentiment, as being for this single reason, men of hypocritical minds; but, that they will rather think it possible their understandings may be imposed upon, so as this may be the judgment, in the whole, of a sincere, though misinformed conscience.
For when they apprehended this church, having all the essential parts of Christian religion, has not, by adding some disputed things, that are not pretended to be any parts of it, thereby unchurched itself, but that they may hold communion with it; yet they do not see that they ought to appropriate their communion to it, so as to refuse all other communion, where the same essentials of Christian religion are to be found without those additions.
However, among those that are not entirely in every punctilio of this church, it bath not any so firm friends, or that are so nearly united in judgment and affection with it, as men of this sentiment.'
The last thing he published, was a Discourse of Patience, relating to the expectation of future blessedness, which came out in 1705. And this was what he now had particular occasion for. For having, employed his time, strength and interest in the most valuable services, he by this time was wasted with several diseases, which he bore with great patience, and a resigned submission to the will of his heavenly Father. He discovered no fear of dying, but when his end drew near, was very serene and calm. He seemed indeed sometimes to have been got to heaven, even before he had laid aside that mortality, which he had been long expecting to have been swallowed up of- life.
It was observed, that in his last illness, and when he had been declining for some time, he was once in a most affecting, melting, heavenly frame at the communion, and carried out into such a ravishing and transporting celebration of the love of CHRIST, that both he himself, and they who communicated with him, were apprehensive lie would have expired in that very service. And though nature was considerably spent in him, yet was there somewhat even in the manner of his dying that was remarkable, and worthy of observation.
In his last sickness, he conversed freely with such as came to visit him; and they were many of all ranks. Among the rest, RICHARD CROMWELL, (who was now grown old, and had lived many years retired from the world, since the time when Mr. HOWE was his domestic chaplain,) hearing that he was going off the stage, came to make him a respectful visit, and take his farewell of him before he died. There was a great deal of serious discourse between them. Tears were freely shed on-both sides, and the parting was very solemn, as I have been informed by one that was present. Many elder and younger Ministers also frequently visited him, and he was very free in discourse with them, and talked like one of another world, and that had raised hopes of that blessedness there, which his heart had long been set upon.
Having been very bad one evening, and being by the next morning unexpectedly recruited, he was visibly cheerful; which being taken notice of by those that were about him, he said, he was for feeling that he was alive; and yet he was most willing to die, and lay that clog (as he called his body) aside. He told his wife, that though he loved her as well as it was fit for one creature to love another, yet_ if it were put to his choice, whether to die that moment, or to live that night, and the living that night would secure the continuance of his life for seven years to come, he would choose to die that moment. Being at last quite worn out, he finished his course with joy, April 2, 1705, and was translated into the calm and peaceable regions of the blessed above, where nothing but perfect charity and serenity reign forever. He was interred in the parish church of St. Allhallows,
Bread-street; and his funeral “sermon was preached April 8, by his fellow-laborer, Mr. JOHN SPADEMAN, from 2 Tim. 3: 14. Some time after his decease, MR. GEORGE HUGHES of Canterbury, wrote to DR. GEORGE HOWE, the eldest son of his deceased uncle, desiring an account from him of what manuscripts MR. HOWE had left behind him, or any particularities that were fit to be communicated to one so nearly related to him, and that had so great value for his memory. The Doctor returned him an answer in the following words
I AM extremely concerned that some time before my honored father's decease, I was utterly disabled to reap the advantage myself, -and communicate it to friends of the large memorials he had collected of the material passages of his own life, and of the times wherein he, lived, which be most industriously concealed, till his last illness, when having lost his speech, which I thought he would not recover, he surprisingly called me to him, and gave me a key, and ordered me to bring all the papers, (which were stitched up in a multitude of small volumes,) and made me solemnly promise him, notwithstanding all my reluctant e, immediately to destroy them, which accordingly I did: He has left me no other of his writings, but his short sermon notes, excepting some passages in the frontispiece of the Bible he used in his study, which I here transmit to you,, and know it will be very acceptable.
Your sincerely_ affectionate Kinsman,
And humble Servant,
The transcript from the blank page in MR. HOWE'S Bible, which the foregoing letter refers to, was in these words following, which were written with his own hand.
December 26, 1689. *
For the sake ’of such readers as understand not the Latin tongue, I shall add a translation of these memorable passages. 6 December 26, 1689. After I had long seriously ’and repeatedly thought with myself, that besides a full and undoubted assent to the objects of faith, a vivifying savory taste and relish of them was also necessary, that with stronger force and more powerful energy, they might penetrate into the most inward center of my heart, and there being most deeply fixed and rooted, govern my life; and that there could be no other sure ground' whereon to conclude and pass a sound judgment on my good estate God-ward; and after I had in my course of preaching been largely insisting on,” This is my rejoicing, the -testimony of a good conscience,” &c. (2 Cor. 1: 12.) This very morning I awoke out of a most ravishing and delightful dream; a wonderful and copious stream of celestial rays, from. the lofty throne of the Divine Majesty, seemed-to dart into my open and expanded breast. I have often since with great complacency reflected on that signal pledge of special Divine favor vouchsafed to me that noted memorable day; and have with repeated pleasure tasted the delights thereof.
But what of the same kind I sensibly felt through the admirable bounty of my God, and the most pleasant comfortable influence of the HOLY SPIRIT, on October 22, 1704, far surpassed the most expressive words my thoughts can suggest. I then experienced an inexpressibly pleasant melting of heart, tears gushing out, of mine eyes, for joy that God should shed abroad his love abundantly through the hearts of men, and that for this very purpose mine own should be so signally possessed of and by. his blessed SPIRIT.
His introduction to his last Will and Testament is peculiarly solemn, and a noble confession of his faith. It runs thus:
I, JOHN Howe, Minister of the Gospel of CHRIST, in serious consideration (though through Goes mercy in present health) of my frail -and mortal state, and cheerfully waiting (blessed be God) for a seasonablee unfeared dissolution of this my earthly tabernacle, and translation of the inhabiting spirit, into the merciful hands of the great GOD, Creator, LORD of heaven and earth, whom I have taken to he my GOD, in and with his only begotten Son,. JESUS CHRIST, who is also over all GOD blessed for ever, and my dear and glorious REDEEMER and LORD: With and by the HOLY SPIRIT of grace, my light, life, and joy; relying entirely and alone upon the free and rich mercy of the FATHER, vouchsafed on account of the most invaluable sacrifice, and perfect righteousness of the Sox, applied unto me, according to the Gospel-'covenant, by the SPIRIT, for the pardon of the many seriously repented sins of a very faulty fruitless life, and the acceptance of my person, with my sincere, though weak desires and endeavors to do Him service in this world, especially as my calling, wherewith He has graciously- honored me, did more particularly require, in promoting the welfare and salvation of the precious souls of men.
I know not how to close my account of this excellent person without adding somewhat as to his character. I am far from thinking MR. SPADEMAN at all exceeded, when he represented him as one, who had’ received from the FATHER of lights, so great a variety of both natural and Christian perfections, that he was not only a shining light and ornament of his age, but an inviting example of universal goodness. That GOD gave him an uncommon skill in the word of righteousness; and that he had peculiar advantages for understanding the Oracles of God; a large fund of natural endowments, improved- by super-added preparatives unto the study of the Scripture; a rich treasure of human learning, particularly a thorough knowledge of Pagan Theology, by which he was enabled to descry the shortness and mistakes of human reason, which faculty he well understood to use in subordination unto Christian faith, whose mysteries he was able to free from the objections of cavillers: He took care to' wash the vessel, that it might be receptive of Divine communications. And to these he added unwearied diligence, humility, and prayer, which was the delight and solace of his whole life. He unfeignedly sought GOD's glory, and the good of the souls of men.. He was impartial and faithful in reproving of sin, without respect of persons; easy of access, and condescending to the lowest; and indeed became all things, to all, that he might gain the more; and ready to assist all the necessitous and distressed, that he had opportunity of doing good unto. He was furnished with fortitude of mind, able to encounter the most grievous sufferings; and- an eminent, example of truly Christian patience, under very sharp afflictions. And he finished his course with uncommon joy; and few ever more experienced -a Divine peace and serenity of mind) at the nearest- approaches of death.
As to his person, he was tall, and exceeding graceful. He had a good presence, and a. piercing but pleasant eye; and there was that in his looks and carriage, that discovered he had something within that was uncommonly great, and tended to excite veneration. His intellectual accomplishments were eminent. He was one of great abstractedness of thought, a strong reasoner, and one that had a very penetrating judgment, which carried him as deep into a subject, as most men that ever handled it. He had bright natural parts, and they were greatly improved by study and experience. He had an admirable way of thinking upon any subject that offered; and many times very surprising turns in discoursing upon it.
His ministerial qualifications were singular. He could preach off hand with as great exactness, as many others upon the closest study. He delivered his sermons without notes; though he did no: impose that method upon others. He had great copiousness and fluency in prayer; and the hearing him discharge that duty upon particular sudden emergencies, would have been apt to have made the greatest admirers of stinted forms, ashamed of the common cavils against extemporary prayer. He was an excellent casuist, and would clearly solve the greatest difficulties that practice was concerned in. And though in his sermons there was often an uncommon depth, especially at the beginning, yet he took care to become plainer in the sequel; and before be concluded, generally came with great pungency home to the consciences of hearers; so that they must be greatly faulty, if they did not come away from hearing him both wiser and better.
He was one of remarkable prudence himself, and much valued and commended it in others. It was a common saying, with him, that he was so far from questioning whether prudence was a virtue, that he reckoned imprudence to be a great vice and immorality. He was not apt to be swayed by interest, nor could any thing bias his judgment. And it may be said of him, as is usually said of those of the strongest reason, the greatest sagacity, and the noblest accomplishments, that he was one of great civility, candour and ingenuity.
He was very courteous to strangers, or others, that came to visit him, and received them with great decency: And never could be of the mind of those that reckon religion and piety inconsistent with good breeding. He knew how to address himself suitably to the greatest persons, without the least mixture of what was mean or servile; and yet was able to condescend to inferiors: And was very affable to younger Ministers, whom he would use with an easy freedom, offering them as there was occasion the kindest advice.
He was very like that eminent German Divine, MARTIN BUCER, in the peaceableness of his temper, and a willingness to accommodate differences. He had a truly great soul, and at the same time a very cool and moderate spirit; and was, an utter enemy to that uncharitable and censorious humor that is visible in so many. He did not (as appears from all his writings) look upon religion as a system off opinions, or a set of forms so much as a Divine discipline to reform the heart and life. In lesser matters, he could freely give others the liberty of their own sentiments; and was as unwilling to impose; as to be imposed upon.
He seems to have been born into this world to support generous principles, a truly catholic spirit, and an extensive charity, He was for carefully concealing or lessening the
failings of others: And in that respect has admirably exemplified his own temper in his printed Discourse with reference to’ Charity for other Men's Sins.' But when
ever he found men impetuous in asserting. their own opinions, and. peremptory in rejecting the judgment of others, when they had taken care to set things in a due
light and add a suitable evidence, it was his way to answer with silence.
He was for having nothing remain as a test of Christian communion, but what has. its foundation as such, in plain reason or express revelation. And to him may those very words be justly applied, which he used in the character of DR. BATES, in his funeral sermon for him.’ He was for entire union of all visible Christians, (or saints or believers, which in Scripture are equivalent terms,) meaning by Christianity, what is essential thereto, whether doctrinal or practical; as by Humanity we mean what is essential to man: And by Visibility, the probable appearance thereof: And for free communion of all such, of whatsoever persuasion in extra-essential matters, if they pleased. And this design he vigorously pursued as long as there was any hope; desisting when it appeared hopeless; and resolving to wait till God should give a spirit suitable hereto, front an apprehension that when principles on all hands were so easily accommodated, and yet that there was with too many a remaining insuperable reluctance to the thing itself; God must work the cure, and not man. Accounting also in the mean time, that notwithstanding misrepresentations, it was better to cast a mantle over the failings of brethren, than be concerned to detect and expose them. Knowing that if we are principally solicitous for the name of God, he will in his own way and time take care of ours.'
In common conversation he was many times very cheerful. Sortie of his sudden repartees were remarkable. Being at - dinner with some persons of good fashion, there was one Gentleman that expatiated with great freedom in praise of KING CHARLES the First, and made some indecent reflections upon others. Mr. Howe observing he intermixed great many oaths with his discourse, took the freedom to tell him, that in his humble opinion he had wholly omitted one very great excellency which the Prince he had so much extolled was so generally owned to have, that he had not known of any one that had the face. to contest it. The gentleman seemed not a little pleased to have Ma. Howe come in as a voucher for the Prince he applauded, and was impatient to know what that excellence was. And when he had pressed for it with importunity, he at length told him it was this; that he was never heard to swear an oath in his common conversation. The gentleman took the-reproof, and promised to forbear swearing for the future.
At- another time, as MR. Howe was walking along, he passed by two persons of quality, who were talking freely together, and with great eagerness; and when he came near them, he hear them damn each other most abominably Whereupon pulling off his hat, and saluting them with great civility, he cried out,’ I pray GOD save you both;’ which so took with them, that it diverted the humor they were in, and they joined in returning him thanks.
I shall mention yet one passage more. During the continuance of the debates in Parliament about the Bill against Occasional Conformity, MR. Howe walking in St. James's Park, passed by a certain noble Lord in a chair, who sent his footman to call him. Coming up to him, the Lord very respectfully saluted him, signified he was glad to see him, and entered -into discourse with him upon the matter depending, which he intimated he had opposed to his utmost. Among other passages upon that occasion, he so far forgot himself, as to express himself thus:’ Damn these wretches, for they are mad; and are for bringing us all into confusion.' MR. HOWE, who, was no stranger to the Lord who thus entertained him, considering his character, made this reply 'My Lord, it is a great satisfaction to us,. who in all affairs of this nature desire to look upwards, that there is a GOD that governs the world, to whom we can leave the events of things: And we are satisfied that He will not fail. in due time of making a suitable retribution to all, according to their present carriage. And this great Ruler of the world, my Lord, has among other things also declared, he will make a difference between him that swears, and him that fears an oath.' My Lord was struck, and presently replied,’ Sir, I thank you for your freedom, and take ybur meaning, and shall endeavor to make a good use of it.' Mr. HOWE in return said,’ My Lord, I have a great deal more reason to thank your Lordship, for saving me the most difficult part of a discourse, which is the application.'