HOWE with CROMWELL
"You have asked for many things for others, when are you going to ask for yourself or your family?"
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LIFE OF JOHN HOWE, A.M, BY THE REV. W. URWICK D.D., DUBLIN.
DURING the sixteenth century, the struggles connected with
the Reformation stirred European Christendom from the slumber of the "dark
ages;" and in those great movements England had her share. Bnt the awakening of
her mental and moral strength became not general, till her own agitations,
during the reigns of her first James and his son Charles, followed by the
Commonwealth, rendered inaction of head or heart next to impossible throughont
Lovers of tyranny have been wont to decry that period as one of the most humiliating and disastrous in British history; for the Dagon of their homage was then well-nigh prostrated and broken before the ark of God's providence. And that evils deeply to be deplored existed, is admitted. Unworthy persons and measures are often associated with what is, substantially, the cause of truth and righteousness; it has been so from the beginning with the glorious Gospel itself. But no enlightened and fair man will deny, that at the time we are speaking of, England had never been in higher respect among the nations, or had used her influence for better purposes. She had never been to the same extent enriched with knowledge and adorned with piety, - she had never so appeared - to use the words of Milton "as a noble and puissant nation rousing herself as a stroug man after sleep" or as an eagle muing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam." At that period the tree of civil and religious freedom, which, now flourishing and bearing fruit, is the blessing and boast of the empire, became firmly rooted in her soil.
If the time was one of fearful political convulsion, it was also one of gracious visitation from the Spirit of God. While "the potsherds of the earth" filled the country with their strivings, the King of Zion was raising up a host of "very able men" for his service, - men whose writings yet survive, and will while the world lasts, monuments of his favour to themselves and to his Church, - men far mere worthy of study and veneration than the majority of the so-called "Fathers" among the Greek and Latin ecclesiastics of earlier days.
Important controversies were then afloat; the Gospel had to grapple with antagonists of no common nerve, furniture, and skill. These champions entered the lists, and the truth trinmphed. The right of every one to search the scriptures, and his responsibility to God alone for his use of that right, had lately risen as into new existence. These expositors were honourably successful in clearing away obscurities and perversions from the sacred text, and in otherwise assisting the common reader to see profitably for himself, "what is the mind of the Spirit." As theologians they acquired a calmness and power, a freedom and unction, which no talent,, or literary aquirement, or strength of natural character, could impart. Most of them, indeed, had a parentage and a training which prepared for this. They were the offspring of sufferers for the truth. They had been cradled in persecution. The loud and fierce cry of the oppressor had often drowned the soft and soothing tones of their mother's lullaby. The homage of all things to conscience, and of conscience in all things to God, was one of the first lessons given when their minds opened to receive thought. Effeminacy and sentimentalism belonged to another sphere, if not to another age. All their youthful associations combined to cherish masculine honesty and magnanimity, with intrepid though humble resolve. And when arrived at maturity, they were "men full of faith and of the Holy Ghost."
There were, however, varieties among them. "Star differeth from star in glory," in the firmament of the church, as in that of nature, even when it is most brilliantly lighted up. As an orb of the first magnitude, and with a radiance peculiarly his own, shone JOHN HOWE. By the consent of all to whom superior mind, sanctified by the truth and charity of the gospel, is dear, he ranks among his contemporaries as a prince among chiefs. Even Wood, who can hardly pen a kind or candid expression for a non-conformist, in his Athems Oxonienses, says that Howe, when in London during the Commonwealth, was "known to the leading men of those times for his frequent and edifying preaching, and adds, "He is a person of neat and polite parts," who "hath applied himself wholly to beneficial and practical subjects, in which undertaking he hath acquitted himself so well, (his books being penned in a fine, smooth, and natural style) that they are much comminded and read by very many conformists, who generally have him in great esteem"
For some unassigned cause perhaps modesty, perhaps prudence, perhaps a combination of the two - Mr Howe, by what appears to have been his last act, deprived his friends of the principal materials for his biography. He had passed through a checquered and eventful course; and he had not neglected to observe, or to put his observations upon record. In reply to enquiries made about his manuscripts after his death, his son, Dr George Howe, stated that his "honoured father" had collected "large memorials of the material passages of his own life, and of the times wherein he lived, which he most industriously concealed till his last illness." The "honoured father," however, after he had lost his speech, unexpectedly recovered it, and, to use his son's words," 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 reluctance, immediately to destroy them, which I accordingly did." Thus all were at once irrecoverably lost. Seldom has a more precious treasure been sacrificed;-or filial obedience to a revered parent's dying injunction, been put to a severer test; or posterity had forced upon them an occasion of more just complaint against a man whom, on every other account, they held in unqualified esteem. Mr Howe's close connexion with Cromwell, and his standing with the leading persons of the religious parties of his day, together with his own integrity and jndgment, must have made his statements first-rate authorities for the historian and the biographer. Nor, considering the union of sound sense with devotional feeling which distinguished him throughout, would his "memorials" have been less precious for use in the closet, as helps to spiritual edification. Indeed the more we reflect on the "manner of man he was," the more is our regret increased that a regard to what was due to others did not prevail to spare, in opposition to the fatal sudden impulse to destroy them, "the multitude of small volumes" which; he had prepared for the benefit of survivors.
The leading facts to he put down in an account of Mr Howe are contained in his "Life" by Dr Calamy. Nearly the whole of this, with some additional matter and much able and excellent remark, appeared about ten years ago in" The Life and Character of John Howe, M.A., with an Analysis of his Writings. By Henry Rogers." Professor Rogers' volume leaves little further to be hoped for of information respecting Mr Howe. From these sources, with occasional resort to others, the materials for the following sketch have been obtained.
Mr Howe was born May 17, 1630, at Loughborough, in Leicestershire; a place then, as it is still, only second in importance to the county-town. Whether valued or not by its inhabitants, it is no trifling distinction that their town was the birth-place of the author of "The Living Temple." He was named after his father, who was minister of the parish; and he was baptized according to the entry in the parish-register, yet extant, on the third day after his birth. The father had been appointed to the charge by Archbishop Laud. Unfortunately, as some would say, Howe the senior was "puritanically" inclined, while Laud's predilections were "papistical." Matters, therefore, soon came to a crisis between the patron and the patronized.
Besides scrupling the prescribed "ceremonies," the worthy minister committed what was, in the arch-prelate's reckoning, a heinous crime. King Charles and his hierachy required the working clergy to encourage among the people the desecration of the Lord's day, by dancing, archery, may-games, whiston-ales, or morrice-dances, "or any such harmless recreations." But the pastor of Loughborough dared to pray in his pulpit, as Land himself reported it," that God would preserve the prince in the true religion, of which there was cause to fear." This was a flagrant outrage upon all the loyalty and piety then in vogue. The case was brought into the High-commission court, and on the 6th of November 1634, Mr Howe was sentenced to be "imprisoned during his Majesty's pleasure, suspended from every part of his ministry, fined five hundred pounds, required to make a public recantation before the court, and condemned in costs of suit." Happily he made his escape.
Ireland often became an asylum for the English puritans. Walter Travers, expelled from being joint-lecturer with Hooker at the Temple, and forbidden by Whitgift, archbishop of Canterbury, to preach any where in England, was invited to Ireland. He became provost of Trinity-College, Dublin, and tutor to the afterwards celebrated Archbishop Ussher, who probably was much indebted to him for sound views of doctrine and liberal opinions on church order. To this country Mr Howe fled, taking with him his son John, then a child about four years and a half old. When thirty-five years more had rolled by, the son, persecuted for non-conformity, again found a home in Erin. Here the father and the child continued till the breaking out of the Rebellion in 1641. The father does not appear to have exercised his ministry during his stay, which may have been owing to the circumstance that Laud's influence was beginning to be felt there. His place of sojourn is not named; but from the statement that "it was besieged by the rebels for several weeks together, though without success," it appears to have been Drogheda, a considerable sea port town, about thirty (English) miles north of Dublin, and then a place of strength. When the siege was abandoned, Mr Howe, fearing that he could not longer main safely in Ireland, returned with his boy to England, and settled in Lancashire.
It is to be presumed that during their exile in the sister-land the father had not neglected the education of his son. On their corning back to England, it was proceeded with, and young Howe was "trained up in the knowledge of the tongues;" but who were his instructors is unknown. He made such proficiency at school that on May 19, 1647, he entered Christ College, Cambridge, having just completed his seventeenth year. He entered as a "sizar," which implies that his parents were in humble circumstances, but which also indicates their son"s respectable attainments, if then, as now, "sizanships" could be had only as the reward of worthily standing a severe examination. At Cambridge young Howe became acquainted with Doctors Cudworth and Henry More, besides other distinguished men. In the year after his entrance he took the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and then removed to Oxford. Wood states that he became "Bible-clerk" of Brazen-nose College there, in Michaelmas term 1648, and then was made "Demy" - a scholar raised to the rank of "halfFellow" - in Magdalen College, by the parliamentary visitors. In a short time he was elected Fellow, and in 1652 he "proceeded" Master of Arts. All this bespeaks successful progress. What was his industry in study then and afterwards, may be gathered also from the familiarity which his writings manifest with authors ancient and modem; pagan, infidel, and christian; classics, historians, moralists, critics, philosophers; and both orthodox and heterodox divines of every age and country.
We have no particulars as to when, or by what means, young Howe was brought first under the power of the gospel. His funeral-sermon, by Mr Spademan, mentions "his very early and growing exemplary piety." It is probable that his conversion was the fruit of parental counsels and prayers. The religion prevalent in Oxford, while Howe was there, was Evangelical Protestantism - widely the contrast of its present Puseyism. The "streams that make glad the city of God," then flowed through that "city of colleges," as it is still watered and beautified by the Cherwell and the isis. Howe drank of the piety S his alma mater as deeply as he did of her scholarship. Dr Thomas Goodwin was President of the college (Magdalene) in which Mr Howe was Fellow, and acted as the pastor of a church formed among the students. He was surprised that Howe did not propose to join their communion, whence it is evident that his religious character was well known. The Doctor took an opportunity of speaking to him alone upon the subject. He had supposed that the terms of admission laid too much stress on some peculiarities of opinion. Discovering his mistake herein, he immediately united himself with the body. This church in Oxfurd University welcomed to its privileges all who had received Christ, while it knowingly admitted no others. And this was Howe"s principle of "church-fellowship" from the ontset to the end - a principle nobly affirmed and vindicated in more than one of his pieces republished in this volume.
In the close of his university course he became a preacher, and went to Lancashire, where his father still resided, for ordination. The ceremony took place at Winwick, the Rev. Charles Hearle, and several neighbouring ministers, uniting in the solemnities of the day. By what is described as an "unexpected conduct of Divine Providence," but is not explained, he was led to Great Torrington in Devonshire, and there engaged as pastor. He entered upon his labours with signal proofs of the Divine favour. The town was not large; by the census of 1831 its population barely exceeded three thousand. The people "received him as an angel of God." Previous breaches in the congregation were healed. Crowds flocked to hear the word. Many found it the power of God unto salvation, and will be Howe's joy and crown of rejoicing at Christ's second coming. Though only about twenty-two years of age, and fresh from college, he seems to have been forthwith at home in his work, and to have brought into play the whole energies of his being. Nor was this ardour temporary excitement, awakened by novel circumstances and followed by collapse. It was an outworking of steadily-sustained, spontaneous, pleasurable, and healthful vitality, fed by the faith of immutable absorbing facts, operating on a renewed heart. Here were preached the sermons of which the substance, rewrought up and enlarged, was afterwards given to the world in his treatises on "Delighting in God," and the "Blessedness of the Righteous," in reading which we fall not to think the author, so far as mortal can be, kindred with angels in conception, and with seraphs in fervour. From Torrington Howe's affections were never afterwards estranged. Of the people there he could always say, "God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jeans Christ."
An impression exists in some quarters that the ministers of Mr Howe's day had less labour than their successors in our own. Nothing can be more erroneous. We have not the knowledge we desire of his regular engagements; but let us listen for a few moments to what he says of his friend the Rev. Richard Fairclough, in the noble sermon preached on the occasion of his death - a sermon worthy of being often read by every minister in his closet - "His labours were almost incredible. Besides his usual exercises ou the Lord's day, of praying, reading the Scriptures, preaching, catechising, administering the sacraments (as the occasions or stated seasons occurred), he usually five times in the week, betimes in the morning, appeared in public, prayed, and preached an expository lecture upon some portion of the holy scriptures, in course, to such as could then assemble, which so many did, that he always had a considerable congregation; nor did he ever produce in public any thing which did not smell of the lamp. And I know that the most eminent for quality and judgment among his hearers, valued those his morning exercises, for plain elaborateness, accuracy, instructiveness, equally with his Lord's-day sermons. Yet also he found time, not only to visit the sick (which opportunities he caught at with great eagerness), but also, in a continual course, all the families within his charge; and personally and severally to converse with every one that was capable, labouring to understand the present state of their souls, and applying himself to them in instructions, reproofs, admonitions, exhortations, and encouragements, suitably thereto: and he went through all with the greatest facility and pleasure imaginable; his whole heart was in his work. Every day, for many years together, he used to be up by three in the morning, or sooner, and to be with God (which was his dear delight), when others slept. Howe adds of his friend, and it renders our belief in the foregoing statements more easy, "Few men had ever less hindrance from the body, or more dominion over it; a better habited mind and body have rarely dwelt tugether."
As proof that Mr Howe never spared himself, when he thought that duty, or the edification of his flock, required that he should spend himself, we may quote his own account of his engagements on the public fast-days, then frequently observed. "He told me," says Dr Calamy, "it was upon these occasions his common way to begin about nine in the morning, with a prayer for about a quarter of an hour, in which he begged a blessing on the work of the day ; and afterwards read and expounded a chapter or psalm, in which he spent about three quarters of an hour, then prayed for an hour, preached for another hour, and prayed for half-an-hour. After this he retired and took some little refreshment for about a quarter of an hour or more (the people singing all the while), and then came again into the pulpit, prayed for another hour, and gave them another sermon of about an hour's length, and so concluded the service of the day at about four o'clock in the evening, with about half-an-hour or more in prayer." Seven hours, with but one trifling interruption of some fifteen minutes, occupied in public praying, expoundiug, and preaching, by the same man! And these days occurred "pretty frequently," in addition to his ordinary pulpit and pastoral work, and were gone through by him "without any help or assistance!" Most readers will wonder how the bodily frame bore up under it. Nor are "the springs of thought and will" less to be admired, that were not soon perfectly exhausted by such demands; for we may be assured that every opening of Howe's lips would be full of appropriate sentiment and sacred earnestness. What an "abundance of heart" he must have had to supply the requisite materiel for ideas and feelings. And of what a lively and hallowed kind must those protracted services have been, that did not wear out the "heart" of the people for them, more than they did that of the minister who presided in and conducted them. If our forefathers had an "enthusiasm" in these things at which our "sobriety" revolts, does not our formality and insipidity, miscalled "sobriety," quite as much revolt their now perfect jndgments of bare fittingness in the followers of Him who said, "the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up ?" Let us not "for a pretence make long prayers ;" but if ever the arm of the Lord is to "awake, and put on strength," for bringing in millennial prosperity in answer to our asking, there must be a perseverance which wrestles "till the day breaketh," and a resolve which says, " I will not let thee go except thou bless one."
While at Torrington, Mr Howe formed an acquaintance with the ministers of his neighbourhood, of "different persuasions," and a "settled meeting" of them was held in the town for mutual edification and fellowship. This was one of the "associations" of which Baxter may be considered the father, and to which more particular reference will be made presently. Among the brethren thus brought together was one between whom and Ml Howe general acquaintance quickly ripened into the most cordial and intimate friendship - the famous Mr George Hughes of Plymouth, who made a greater figure, and had a greater interest and influence than most of the ministers in those parts. He was considerably Mr Howe's senior, having entered at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1619, and then removed to Pembrok College, where he graduated Master of Arts, and took the degree of Bachelor in Divinity. But the disparity in years was nearly lost sight of through the mutual overflowing of holy affection. The connexion thus formed led to another. On March 1st, 1654, Mr Howe was married to Miss Catherine Hughes, the daughter of his friend. Of their children are named - lst, George, already mentioned, who became a respectable physician in London ; - 2d, James, who was called to the bar, and acquired considerable property by his profession; - 3d, John, of whom we are told only that be left two sons, John and James ; - 4th, Obadiah, who probably died young; - and 5th, Philippa, who was married to a Mr Collett, of the Bank of England.
From the commencement of their friendship, Mr Hughes and Mr Howe kept up a correspondence in Latin. Interesting as this would have been, nothing survives of it beyond the fact that in one of his letters Mr Hughes wrote, Sit ros celi seper lsabitacsdum vestruss - " May the dew of heaven rest upon your dwelling." And the preservation of this fragment is owing to the coincidence that, on the morning on which the letter reached Mr Howe, his house had been most providentially saved from destruction by fire, through a singularly opportune heavy fall of rain. The prayer had sped its way up to the throne of God, and had descended with its answer large and free, before the knowledge of its having gone could reach Torrington from Plymouth. That answer was not merely the shower of rain, but the experience of the divine favour in the preservation granted, so calculated to have, and which doubtless produced, a richly refreshing and fertilizing influence upon the heart. "Whiles they are yet speaking, I will bear."
Mr Howe "thought of no other than of living and dying with" his affectionate charge in humble Torrington. But a crisis was at hand. In 1656, some business called him to London, where he was detained a Sabbath longer than be intended. Curiosity led him on that day to the chapel at Whitehall, where the Protecter and his household attended. His noble form and countenance bespeaking no common man, caught the observant and right-judging eye of Cromwell. At the conclusion of the service, his Highness sent for him, and requested him to preach there on the following Lord's-day. Howe did what he could to excuse himself, but Crqsnwell would take no denial. A second sermon, and then a third, were pressed for, and given. At length, after much free conversation in private, nothing would satisfy the Protector but that Mr Howe should become his domestic chaplain. The good pastor of the congregation a Torrington strongly objected, and pleaded, among other matters, the case of his dear people. Cromwell met all his scruples, and promised that the flock, to he deprived of his oversight, should have another shepherd, a man of their own choice. Resistance was vain. Howe was obliged to yield. He, with Mrs Howe and their family, removed from Torrington to Whitehall : - what a transition! He was soon afterwards appointed to the lectureship of St Margaret in Westminster.
Mr Howe had not entered upon his new and peculiar position, without calculating upon its difficulties; and he girded up his loins manfully to meet them. In a letter dated "Whitehall, March 12, 57," three months after he had come to London, he says to the Rev. Mr Baxter of Kidderminster, "I should be exceeding desirous to hear from you, what you understand to be the main evils of the nation that you judge capable of redress by the present government? What you conceive one in my station obliged to urge upon them as matter of duty in reference to the present state of the nation and how far you conceive such an one obliged to bear a public testimony (against their neglects) by preaching, after use of private inducemente; supposing that either they be not convinced that the things persuaded to are duties to them, or else, if they are, that it be from time to time:: pretended that other affairs of greater moment are before them for the present ; which being secret to themselves, as I cannot certainly know that they are so, so nor can I deny that they may be. Sir, your Lord knows I desire to understand my duty in matters of this nature ; I hope he will give me a heart not to decline it," &c.
This extract shews a diffidence of self, combined with high aims and preparedness to do duty fearless of cousequences, all in keeping with the writer. Perhaps it suggests a little too raised an idea of what he was bound to attempt, if not of what he could achieve. It is questionable how far, and in what cases, the "domestic chaplain" of a ruler is called upon to make the public measures of the government themes of his pulpit ministrations. This point, however, involves topics which are better understood now than they were then - topics too complex, delicate, and secondary, to be discussed here. But in Howe's day it was almost universally believed to he imperative on civil rulers to exercise authority in the church, and to enforce religious truth by penal statutes - a principle once discovered to be alike unscriptural and unsafe.
Baxter's letter, which seems like a reply to this of Howe, is dated "April 3, 1658," more than a year afterwards. It mentions that in the interval Howe had been at Kidderminster, and had more than once written to Baxter. It speaks of Howe's "famed worth," and "advantageous station for a serviceableness to these churches." It advises him to be "very tender and cautelous in publishing any of the neglects of government." It also urges "to a very careful (but very secret and silent) observance of the Infidels and Papists, who are very high and busy, under several garbs, especially of Seekers, Vanists, Behmenists." Baxter observes that "the Lord Protector is noted as a man of a catholic spirit, desirous of the unity and peace of all the servants of Christ ;" and then suggests measures which he thought it desirable his Highness should adopt towards establishing harmony among Christ's servants of different denominations. Here are two subjects which require some remarks for explanation.
Every one is aware that "Infidels and Papists" were identified with the Royalist cause in the Civil Wars. But the fact above named, that they were "very high and busy, under several garbs," on the Parliamentary side, is not generally known. It is often referred to in subsequent letters of Baxter and Howe, as awakening serious apprehensions. Dr Bramhall, Bishop of Derry, gave full information about it to Archbishop Usher, in a letter dated July 20, 1634. He says, "It plainly appears, that in the year 1646, by order from Rome, above 100 of the Romish clergy were sent into England, consisting of English, Scotch, and Irish, who had been located in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain," and that "these scholars were taught several handicraft trades and callings, as their ingenuities were most bending, besides their orders, or functions of that church." He further says that these men were taught to argue for atheism, or to personify members of the several Protestant bodies in England; that on arriving there they were to feign themselves Puritans, who had returned from exile "to enjoy their liberty of conscience ;" that a registry was kept of them abroad, and intelligence sent by them monthly to the fraternities from which they had come ; that most of them became soldiers in the Parliament's army, at the same time daily corresponding with their fellow Romanista in the King's army that in the year 1647, the two parties had a conference together, where there were produced "secret bulls and licenses" for simulating as they did ; that afterwards they wrote to their several convents, and to the Sorbonists, enquiriug, "whether it may be scrupled to make away" the King or his son? To which the Sorbonnists replied, "that it was lawful for Roman Catholies to work changes in governments for the Mother Church's advancement and chiefly in an heretical kingdom; and so lawfully make away the King."
The other subject mentioned in the above letter of Baxter the endeavour to bring about a closer union among the evangelical Protestant bodies. This was a favourite scheme with him. An "Association" among the ministers of the county in which he lived, had been formed by him some years before. In 1653 was published "Christian Concord; or the Agreement of the Associate Pastors and Churches of Worcestershire, with Richard Baxter's Explication and Defence of it, and his Exhortations to Unity." Similar "Associations" were formed in many other parts of England, as Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Somersetshire, Hampshire, &c, They embraced Presbyterians, Congregationalista, and, wherever they could be persuaded to it, Episcopalians. Howe's "settled meeting" of the Devonshire ministers at Torrington, included the three bodies. Baxter, in his Life, states that "the Independent Churches also in Ireland, led by Dr Winter, pastor of their Church in Dublin, associated with the moderate Presbyterians there," through the "persuasions" of his "neighbour," Colonel Bridges, and sent to the Worcestershire Association "their desire of correspondency." The articles of the Essex Association were forwarded to Cromwell, who had previously received documents on the subject from Worcestershire. These papers he handed to Howe for perusal, who then, as he tells Baxter, "made such a motion to him," the Protector, "that he would please, once for all, to invite, by some public declaration, the godly ministers of the several counties, and of several parties, to the work of associating upon such common principles as might be found tending to the general good, and not cross to the private opinions of the several parties." Cromwell, Howe further states, "expressed a great willingness thereto, might he but see any thing in writing, that upon consideration he could judge likely to serve such a purpose." A paper of Howe's is yet extant which is thought to be the draft of a "proclamation" on the subject, prepared for Cromwell's inspection. But events were hastening on that put an end to all such movements.
It speaks not badly for Cromwell that he chose a person of Howe's sterling excellence to be so near him. Courts would be different from what they often are, if sovereigns always had ministers of his ability and worth, to be their own religious advisers and the pastors of their households. His post, as we can readily imagine, was one most critical and delicate; yet so wisely did he fill it, that "not a dog could move his tongue" against him. He was often employed by the Protector on honourable special services. On a business of this kind, he once rode from London to Oxford in five hours and a quarter - a transit sufficiently expeditions for the roads then, and which would not have discredited even "royal mails" within our own recollection. Cromwell distributed "forty thousand pounds" a year in charity, a sum that would appear immense in our present currency; and it may be presumed that his chaplain was in most cases his almoner. We may be assured that Cromwell's chaplain would second him in all his generous deeds and grand projects for Protestants and Protestantism all over the world. But Howe never used his influence to serve himself. -" You have obtained," Cromwell once said to him, "many favours for others; I wonder when the time is to come that you will solicit any thing for yourself or your family." Sectarianism, equally with selfishness, was abhorrent to his nature. Of his good-will towards Episcopal ministers, during his chaplaincy, two instances out of many may be named. When the office of "Principal" in Jesus College, Oxford, was vacant, Dr Seth Ward, afterwards Bishop of Exeter, sought Mr Howe's influence with Cromwell to obtain the appointment for him. Howe introduced him to the Protector, and strongly recommended him to his Highness's favourable consideration. The appointment, however, had been already promised to another person; but so pleased was Cromwell with what Howe told him privately of Dr Ward, that he good-humonredly asked the Doctor how much he supposed the place to be worth? and on being told the sum, he promised him an equivalent annual allowance. The witty Dr Thomas Fuller, author of the "Pisgah Sight of Palestine;" "Worthies of England," &c., had to appear before the "Triers," a board for examining ministers before they were inducted to a charge. Fuller was doubtful what might be the result in his case, when they questioned him on a particular point He came to Howe, saying, "You may observe, Sir, that I am a pretty corpulent man, and I have to go through a passage that is very straight; be so kind as to give me a shove and help me through." Howe gave the desired "shove ;" and Fuller, "corpulent" as he was, got safely through the "very straight" passage.
Nothing could induce Howe to compromise truth and conscience. An opinion prevailed at "court" that the particular thing asked in prayer by the people of God, would be granted whatever it might be. The chaplain was apprehensive to what this opinion, if persisted in, might lead ; and felt himself bound to preach against it before the Protector. The discourse was of "A Particular Faith in Prayer." After the service a "person of distinction" went to him and intimated that he had irrecoverrably lost his Highness's favour. Howe replied that "he had discharged what he considered a duty, and could trust the issue with God." It certainly was an occurrence likely to test Cromwell's patience. But it was taken better than was expected, and better probably than it would have been from any other man. Howe said that Cromwell evidently felt the sermon, "was cooler in carriage to him than before, and sometimes seemed as if he would have spoken to him on the subject; but never did." Few "royal chaplains" would have ventured on a like experiment ; or, if they had dared the trial, their fidelity would probably have incurred royal censures much more severe than those with which Howe was visited. If Cromwell's conduct and his household had not been in fair consistency with his religious profession, we may sure we should have heard more of its improprieties from the observant and plain-speaking censor. The above anecdote was attested to Dr Calamy by Mr Jeremiah White, who had been Fellow at Cambridge, and was joined with Howe in the chaplains of Cromwell's family.
Mr Howe's position, however, became gradually uncomfortable The unavoidable turmoil, pomp and circumstance of a palace, must throughout have ill agreed with his tastes and habits had been by constraint, not willingly, that he undertook the chaplaincy. Such a post must always be one of great trial and self denial to a true minister of Christ. It is likely that Howe had over-rated the opportunities it would give him for serving the Christian cause. His dissatisfaction was fast ripening into a resolve to leave Whitehall, and return to his beloved and quiet Torrington. He asked Baxter's advice, expecting to have his proposal confirmed. But Batter urged against it. On this Howe again wrote to his "dear and honoured brother," and in the second paragraph told him, - " Here my influence is not like to much (as it is not to be expected that a raw young man should be very considerable among grandees); my work little ; my success hitherto little; my hopes, considering the temper of this place very small; especially coupling it with the temper of my spirit which, did you know it, alone would, I think, greatly alter your judgment of this case. I am naturally bashful, pusillanimous, easily browbeaten, solicitous about the fitness or unfitness of speech or silence, afraid (especially having to do with those who are constant in arcese imperii) of being accounted uncivil on busy, &c.; and the distemper being natural (most intrinsically) is less curable?" He concludes the letter thus:- " I have devoted myself to serve God in the work of the ministry, and how can I want the pleasure of hearing their cryings and complaints, who have come to me under convictions, &c.? I shall beseech you to weigh my case again."
The former of these extracts shews that Howe had well-nigh lost all the heart he ever had for the chaplaincy. Both of them afford a tolerably clear insight into the genius of his character. Without disparagement to his dignified iutellect and piety, we can understand what he means when he speaks of himself as "naturally bashful, pusillanimous, easily browbeaten," &c. His temperament was too refined, his sense of propriety too delicate, for him to cope, as on a par, with men full of deceit, proud and overbearing, setting at nought and putting down all that differ from them, resolved at all hazards to attain their ends. With "Infidels and Papists" feigning piety and Protestantism, Howe could not be himself; they would not understand him; to get rid of him they would treat him with contempt, and do what they could to make him appear contemptible, and to make him feel that he was deemed so. Against such men, or any others that were insusceptible of impressions from reason, and propriety, and moral obligation, Howe would have no power. But what man of spiritual discernment does not rise from his chair in admiration, as ho reads the concluding portion of the letter? Rarely, if even, was there penned a sentence that bespoke, as this does, the majesty of saving mercy, possessing, with its life-giving and glorious presence, an uninspired heart. Howe had been daily familiar with what could dazzle and delight in courtly wealth, splendour, and influence. Thousands would have envied him his place, as domestic chaplain to his Highness the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. But, failing in doing the service he aimed at to God's truth and men's souls, the Palace at Whitehall was no longer to be endured. Let him go where he could hear the cries of minds awakened, distressed, anxious to be set right for eternity and there he was at home. Elsewhere he could not exist. Can we wonder that a man so travailing in birth for the salvation of his fellows, should have been the one further honoured to write a treatise on "The Redeemer's Tears wept over Lost Souls ?" Oh! would that every pastor and preacher had the memorable sentence inscribed by his heart upon his forehead - "I have devoted myself to serve God in the work of the ministry; and now CAN I WANT THE PLEASURE of hearinq their cryings and complaints, who have come to me under convictions,"
The letter which closes with this golden sentence, is dated June 1st, 1658. Its object, as we have seen, was to obtain Baxter's consent to the writer"s relinquishing his office at Whitehall, and returning to his pastorate in Devonshire. In two days afterwards he followed it by another, suggesting a medium course. The new plan was to procure a person who should reside constantly at the palace, and enjoy all the emoluments which Howe had received while Howe himself obtained leave to be with his former charge for a quarter of the year, or as much time beyond that as he might be allowed. This proposal, if not made by Cromwell, was agreed to by him, to meet Howe's wishes, for he remained in office till Oliver's death, which occurred on September the 3d following.
Richard, who succeeded his father Oliver in the Protectorate, was truly pious, and highly respectable as a private gentleman, but was considered wanting in qualifications for his high station perhaps he was more deficient in taste for it, than in capacity. Mr Howe continued chaplain as before. About five weeks after Oliver"s death, he, with other "younger divines about the Court," attended the confercnce of upwards of two hundred ministers and messengers of Congregational Churches, held in the Savoy, and from which emanated a "Confession," setting forth the views of doctrine and church order held by the Congregational body. It is thought, that in a few days subsequent to this conference he went to Torrington, pursuant to the plan mentioned just now,
How long he remained in Devonshire on this visit is uncertain; but he had returned to London before Richard's resignation, about the middle of May, 1659, for on the 21st of that month he wrote to Baxter, giving him an account of the contests between the army and the Parliament, leading to that event. That he regretted the change, and foresaw its consequences better than some others did, we learn from the last paragraph of this letter. "Sir, such persons as are now at the head of affairs, will blast religion, if God prevent not. The design you writ me of, some time since, to introduce infidelity or Popery, they have opportunity enough to effect. I know some leading men are not Christian. Religion is lost out of England, further than as it can creep into corners. Those in power who are friends to it, wlll no more suspect these persons, than their own selves. I am returning to my old station, being now at liberty beyond dispute." There is something almost prophetic in these statements; so perfectly do the actual results of what had taken place tally with them. They will remind the reader of what has been stated from Baxter's and Howe's correspondence, and Bramhall's letter to Usher, respecting measures taken by Romish agents, feigning themselves Protestants, and entering the Parliamentary army, in order to re-establish Popery in England. Charles the Second had conformed to the Church of Rome some years before his "restoration" to the throne of Great Britain. To serve his purpose of regaining that throne, be had thrice sworn to the "Solemn League and Covenant." To impose on the Presbyterians, who now joined with the army under Monk to bring him back, and whom he afterwards called "God"s sllly people," he pledged in his proclamation from Breda, "that no man should be disquieted for differences of opinion in matters of religion, which did not disturb the peace of the Kingdom." As if to carry his duplicity to its as pius ultra, be ordered a deputation of their ministers, who went to him in that city, to be kept waiting while he withdrew to perform his private devotions, which were for the occasion so arranged, and in them his "heart was so enlarged;" that they distinctly overheard him "devoutly thanking God that he was a covenanted King, and that be hoped the Lord would give him a humble, meek, and forgiving spirit." And the good men believed him! To what lengths will not human hypocrisy and credulity go, if not prevented from above.
Howe, once more at Torrington, resumed his much-loved work among his much-loved people. His experience of the publicity, wide survey and sterility, of the storm-girt mountain-top, had not lessened his lest for the quiet and luxuriance of the sequestered valley, as a little paradise, lying in the distance at its feet. He took no part in the changes that were going on in the metropolis; nor could he, consistently with the views he had of their consequences. Time soon began to prove that his calculations were correct. Before the close of 1660, informations were laid against him for having preached sedition and treason, in two sermons from Galatians vi. 7, 8. He was bound over to appear and answer to the charge at the next sessions. On November 14th the trial came on, and he was cleared. For thus clearing him, though by strictly legal process, the mayor, who presided, got into trouble. However, when the cause was reheard at the assizes, the decision of the sessions was affirmed. "One of the informers left the town, and was no more heard of; the other cut his own throat, and was buried in a cross-road." This prosecution was a gentle growl from the beast; he soon began to roar and devour.
On January 14, 1662, "An Act for the Uniformity of public prayers," &c." in the Church of England," was read a first time in the House of Commons, where it was at length carried by a majority of 186 to 180. After much discussion, it passed the Lords on May 8th; and received the royal assent on the 19th. It was to come into force on August 24th following - a Lord's Day, and the Feast of Saint Bartholomew. By its provisions no man could hold a charge in the Church of England who did not - lst, Submit to be re-ordained, if he had not been episcopally ordained before ; - 2d, Declare his "unfeigned assent and consent o all and every thing prescribed in The Book of Common Prayer," - and administration of Sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, together with the Psalter, and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons ;" - and 3d, Take the oath of canonical obedience.
It is worthy of remark that, in many cases, the Book of Common Prayer, as then newly constructed, was not forthcoming to the parties concerned, before the day when their decision concerning it was to be declared. Mr Baxter, however, and several other eminent ministers, needed not a sight of it to determine their course; they resigned their changes previously. Altogether, upwards of two thousand declined conformity on the prescribed terms. As one of this "noble army of martyrs" ranked JOHN HOWE. Strong as was the love between him and his flock, and great as had been his success among them, he was not the man to sell the truth, even in what some account things indifferent, for affection or expediency. On that memorable day, August 24th, 1662 - thenceforward notable in England, as a previous Bartholomew -Day had become in France by the massacre of the Protestants - Howe took leave of his people. He preached-two sermons on the occasion. He stated "that he had consulted his conscience, and could not be satisfied with the terms of conformity settled by law ;" and he followed this declaration by a detail of his reasons. Sanctuary upon sanctuary was on that day a " Bochim" - a place of weeping; such a scene had never been witnessed in the congregation at Torrington, as was that day presented. No vestige of Howe's discourses then preached, has been preserved, beyond what has just been mentioned. We are not, however, without information through other channels, as to the grounds of the step he took. They were worthy of himself. His scruples rested on broad general principles, rather than on insulated circumstantials. Let him explain himself.
Dr Wilkins, afterwards Bishop of Chester, in a conversation with Mr Howe, expressed disappointment that the act of uniformity had been followed by such consequences, intimating especial surprise that Howe himself, so remarkable for the latitude of his opinions on ecclesiastical matters, should have scrupled to conform; desiring to know his reasons. Howe replied that they had not time then to go into the whole subject, though he would unreservedly do so at a convenient opportunity; "but one thing he could tell him with assurance, that that lattitude of his, which Dr Wilkins was pleased to take notice of, was so far from inducing him to conformity, that is was the very thing that made him and kept him a nonconformist." The Doctor then asked him whether it was the discipline of the church, to which he chiefly objected? To which Howe replied, "that he could not by any means be fond of a church that in reality had no discipline at all, and that he thought that a very considerable objection against the establishment." Wilkins then pressed him to mention some of his principal objections. On this Howe said, "that he could not recognise, in the present constitution, those noble and generous principles of communion, which he thought must, sooner or later, characterize every church of Christ; that, consequently, when that flourishing state of religion should arrive, which he thought he had sufficient warrant from the word of God to expect, a constitution which rested on such an exclusive basis, must fall; that believing this to be the case, he was no more willing to exercise his ministry under such a system, than he would be to dwell in a house built on an insecure foundation."
Had the non-conforming ministers been mere "idol shepherds," he act which expelled them from their pulpits would have thereby inflicted no great calamity on themselves or their congregations. The latter might have been nearly as well cared for without them; and they themselves might quite as pleasantly and as profitably have engaged in some secular pursuit. But the worthies of 1662 were "men of God." The "good conscience" which obliged Howe to relinquish his charge rather than conform, obliged him still to labour in the gospel as he had opportunity. To be debarred from that must have been to him a trial all but insupportable. He continued to preach as he could, privately among his friends. On returning from one engagement of this kind, he found that an officer from the bishop's court had been to arrest him, and had left notice that citations were out against him and the gentleman under whose roof he had been officiating. The bishop, from whose court the process issued, was the Dr Seth Ward who had obtained from Cromwell, through Mr Howe's favourable representation, a gratuitous income equal to the sum arising from a principalship at Oxford. On hearing of the citation, Howe went straight to Exeter, and sent intimation to the palace that he was in the city waiting his lordship's pleasure. The bishop at once desired to see him, received him very courteously; and soon after, with the freedom of an old acquaintance, began to enquire after his reasons for non-conformity, desiring him to mention one of the points on which he hesitated. Howe named re-ordination. "Fray, sir," said the bishop, "what hurt is there in being re-ordained?" "Hurt, my lord," replied Howe, "it hurts my understanding; the thought is shocking; it is an absurdity; since nothing can have two beginnings, I am sure I am a minister of Christ, and am ready to debate that matter with your lordship, if your lordship pleases; but I cannot begin again to be a minister." The parties then separated, the bishop giving to Mr Howe assurances that he might have considerable preferments if he would conform. Nothing more was heard of the "citation" to the bishop's court, which had occasioned this interview. - What would our modern Exeters say to such a sturdy non-conformist? Yet, sturdy as he was in his non-conformity, John Howe never for a moment lost the courtesy of the gentleman, the dignity of the Christian pastor, or the catholicity of the saint. And, in consequence, though firm to the last in his dissent, he ceased not to be respected even by members of the hierarchy established by law.
The reign of the second Charles, and that of his brother James, form one of the darkest passages in the chronicles of Britain. It is equalled only by the reign of Mary, called "the bloody." At Charles' court, licentiousness that owned no law of God or common decency and justice, exhibited an appalling contrast, marked to every eye, with what had been the state of things in the nation's high places during the commonwealth. The whole power of the government, - with occasional exceptions, the devices of a self-serving policy - was directed to extirpate the nonconformists and their principles. Act after act was passed against them, and rigorously put in force. It is sickening to read the records of those times. Some ministers had to betake themselves to the work of day-labourers. "Many of them," said Howe, who knew them well as one of themselves, and seems to have more than heard of or seen what he describes - " many of them live upon charity; some of them with difficulty getting, and others (educated to modesty) with greater difficulty begging, their bread." It has been stated that nearly eight thousand Dissenters died in gaols; that between the Restoration and the Revolution, penalties for assembling for worship were inflicted to the amount of two millions; that sixty thousand persons suffered for dissent; and that, at a moderate calculation, dissenting families lost property by persecution to the extent of twelve or fourteen millions - a sum which, recollecting the difference in the currency of that age and the present, shews what a hold non-conformity had upon the wealth of the country, as well as the severity of the measures taken to suppress it.
The Rev. George Hughes, Howe's father-in-law, was imprisoned in the Isle of St Nicholas, in Plymouth Sound; and Mr Obadah Hughes, the son of George, and Howe's brother-in-law, was incarcerated in Plymouth at the same time. The extracts from the letters of the father to the son while thus confined, given in Palmer's" Memorial," are most affecting. One of them runs thus: We have here in this island good lectures read us every day from heaven and earth, from seas and rocks, from storms and calms, enough to teach us much of God's providence in our morals as well as naturals. Fruitful spirits might gather much of God from them. 0 that mine were so. How might I feel out heaven this way. as well as see it by believing! Lord, help, and I shall do it. The everlasting arms of love and mercy keep you blameless, and safe, to the appearance of our Lord." Mr Hughes, in this correspondence, subscribed himself "your father, endeared by the bonds of nature, grace, and sufferings." It is believed that in 1665, Howe was himself confined in the island, already made sacred as the Patmos of his father-in-law. In this time of trial, Howe wrote to his revered relative - " Blessed be God, that we can have and hear of each other's occasions of thanksgiving, that we may join praises as well as prayers, which I hope is done daily for one another. Nearer approaches, and constant adherence to God, with the improvement of our interest in each other's heart, must compensate (and I hope will abundantly) the unkindness and instability of a surly treacherous world; that we see still retains its wayward temper, and grows more peevish as it grows older, and more ingenious in inventing ways to torment whom it disaffects. It was, it seems, not enough to kill by one single death, but when that was almost done, to give leave and time to respire, to live again, at least in hope, that it might have the renewed pleasure of putting us to a further pain and torture in dying once more. Spite is natural to her. All her kindness is an artificial disguise; a device to promote and serve the design of the former with the more efficacious and piercing malignity. But patience will elude the design, and blunt its sharpest edge. It is perfectly defeated when nothing is expected from it but mischief; for then the worst it can threaten finds us provided, and the best it can promise, incredulous, and not apt to be imposed upon. This will make it at last despair, and grow hopeless, when it finds that the more it goes about to mock and vex us, the more it teaches and instructs us; and that as it is wickeder, we are wiser. If we cannot, God will, outwit it, and carry us safely through to a better world, upon which we may terminate hopes that will never make us ashamed." The extract deserves to be read again.
While, for the most part, silenced as to preaching, and greatly straightened as to his temporalities, Mr Howe's pen was not idle. Probably he was obliged to employ it as a means of procuring subsistence for his family. In 1668, came out his "Blessedness of the Righteous." Unlike some other pieces of extraordinary merit, its worth was recognized as soon as it appeared. Perhaps to this publication may be ascribed a proposal he now received to enter the family of Lord Massarene of Antrim Castle, on the banks of Lough Neagh, in Ireland, as domestic chaplain. Apart from his university education, superadded to his naturally urbane and noble spirit, his residence in the court of Cromwell had prepared him for free association with the highest classes of society.. The proposal was recommended to him as one that removed him from the vexatious annoyances he was exposed to in England, surrounded him with all that could minister to his comfort by intercourse or convenience, gave him quietness and leisure to prosecute study, with unrestricted liberty in preaching Christ. These considerations, sustained if not led by one more cogent still - poverty - moved him to accept the invitation.
He left for Ireland early in 1671. At Holyhead, the port whence he was to "take ship" for that country, he was detained by contrary winds. Delays are sometimes providential. The Sabbath having come, and the day being fine, Mr Howe and his companions went towards the shore to find a convenient place for social worship. On their way they met the clergyman of the parish and his cleric riding towards the town. Being told who they were, one of Mr Howe's friends asked the clerk whether his master preached that day? "No," replied he, "my master does not use to preach; he only reads prayers." On inquiring further, whether the rector would give leave for a minister who was there to use his pulpit "Very willingly," was the reply. Howe preached that morning; and again in the afternoon to a great concourse, gathered by-the report of the morning's sermon. The wind continued contrary the remaindr of the week, and "a prodigious multitude" knowing that the great preacher was still in town, crowded to church on Sunday, expecting that of course he would address them. When the clergyman came as usual to read his prayers, and saw the numbers flocking to hear, he was confounded. He sent his clerk to Mr Howe, with a request that he would come and officiate, declaring "that if he would not come be knew not what to do, for that the country had come in from several miles round in the hope of hearing him." Howe was that morning ill and in bed. But the thought of usefulness to souls nerved his frame for action. He rose, went, and preached, risking all consequences. He afterwards said that he had never preached with greater freedom, or addressed a more attentive andience, and that "if ever his ministry was useful, he thought it must be then." The wind shortly changed, and the vessel, with Howe and others on board, sailed for Dublin. The fruits of his unexpected labours in the gospel at Holyhead are known on high, and will he declared at "the great day." Mr Howe was. soon followed to Ireland by his family.
The Lord Massarene, with whom Mr Howe had now gone to reside (previously Sir John Skeffington, Baronet), had acquired his viscountcy by his marriage to the daughter of Sir John Clotworthy, who had been raised to the peerage for his services in the Restoration. The former viscount had proved himself a steady friend to the Presbyterians and other nonconformists of Ireland. They were somewhat differently circumstanced from their brethren in England. Episcopacy was re-established the by proclamation of the Lords Justices, without consulting Parliament, a considerable time before the English Act of Uniformity took effect. The Presbyterian ministers of Ulster said to have been treated with great severity by some of the prelates. Dr Roger Boyle, who had succeeded the celebrated Jeremy Taylor, in the see of Down and Connor, distinguished himself in this way. Sir Arthur Forbes, a zealous loyalist Commander of the Forces in Ireland, undertook the cause of oppressed. Early in 1670, he obtained from Dr Margetson Archbishop of Armagh, and Dr Michael Boyle, Archbishop of Dublin, a joint letter to the Bishop of Down and Connor, requiring him to refrain from further proceedings against the non-comforming ministers, until the case should be considered at a visitation to be held the following August. The visitation proved favourable to their cause, the Lord Lieutenant having advised moderate measures, and his grace of Dublin, who was also Lord Chancellor being inclined to leniency. Indeed, the "Irish Church," particularly in the north of the country, was, on the whole, more Puritanic, and therefore more sound in doctrine and more liberal in spirit, than her sister in England. Usher's theology and moderation in ecclesiastical matters, has seldom entirely ceased to influence the body. The Dublin University owed not a little to including Usher's library, to the "Parliament men." At the Restoration, the ministers who conformed, were not reqnired to repudiate their previous orders, but only to submit to Episcopal ordination, for the purpose of supplying a deficiency according to the rules of the Established communion. The influence of the Antrim Castle family was engaged for the non comformists, and was powerful in that neighbourhood. These circumstances, combined with Howe's talents, learning, respectability and position as Lord Massarene's chaplain, w Will account for what might otherwise appear scarcely credible - from its contrast what was possible in England - that while in Antrim, Mr Howe was "treated with all imaginable respect," that he had "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 parish church in that town every Lord's-day in the afternoon;" and that "the Archbishop, in a pretty full meeting of the clergy, told them frankly, that he would have Mr Howe in every pulpit (where he had any concern open to him, in which he at any time was free to preach." It is thought there are now not a few godly Episcopal ministers in Ireland who wish themselves rid of the trammels which prevent their holding ministerial intercourse with their "dissenting brethren." While at Antrim, Mr Howe frequently associated with the Presbyterian ministers of that neighbourhood. in 1674 or 5, in conjunction with one of them, he presided over a seminary for theological students.
Enlightened piety then reigned in Antrim Castle. Howe's magnificent discourse, " The Redeemer's Dominion over the Invisible World"-----which has been described as "one of the richest and maturest fruits of his genius" - was prepared on the death of John, eldest son of Sir John and Lady Houghton, in 1698. In the dedication of it to the bereaved parents, addressing her ladyship, who was a daughter of Lord Massarene, he says - "And, Madam, who could have a more pleasant retrospect of former days than you, recounting your Antrim delights, the delight you took in your excellent relations, your garden delights, your closet delights, your Lord's-day delights! But how much greater a thing is it to serve God in your present station; as the mother of a numerous and hopeful offspring; as the mistress of a large family; where you bear your part, with your like-minded consort, in supporting the interest of God and religion, and have opportunity of scattering blessings around you." This touching allusion to her ladyship's" Antrim delights," places Howe before us in the bosom of the family, where social and rural pleasures abounded, purified and exalted by communion with God, and his "peace which passeth all understanding."
He remained at Antrim about five years In the early part of this term he published his "Vanity of Man as Mortal." "It has been the judgment of many," says Calamy, "that this discourse is as noble a piece of true theological oratory as can be easily met with." Professor Rogers pronounces it "the most eloquent of all his productions ;" nor is it less distinguished for the originality and power of its reasoning. It was composed on the death of Mr Anthony Upton, a relation of Mr Howe, whose corpse was brought home when the family connexions were contemplating a general gathering to bid him welcome on his return after an absence of between twenty and thirty years in Spain. The circumstance which suggested the "text" of the discourse (Psalm lxxxix. 47, 48 ) is curious, and will cause a smile. It belongs to a "genu" under the "class" which includes the dream of Pilate's Wife. One of the friends "having been some time before surprised with an unusual sadness, joined with an expectation of tidings, upon no known cause, had so urged an inculcation those words, as not to be able to forbear the revolving of much of the former part of that day, in the latter part where the first notice was brought to that place of this so near a relation's decease. Certain months after," continues Howe in the dedication, "some of you with whom I was then conversant in London, importuned me to have somewhat from me in writing upon that subject. Whereto at length I agreed, with a cautionary request that it might not come into many hands, but might remain (as the occasion was) among yourselves. Nor will I deem it to have been some inducement to me to apply my thoughts to that theme, that it had been so suggested as was said. For my presages and abodings, as that above mentioned, may reasonably be thought to be themselves to some more steady and universal principles than casualty, or the party's own imagination; whose more noble recommendation (that such a gloomy premonition might carry with it not what should only afflict, but also instruct and teach) this subject did seem offered to our meditation. Accordingly, therefore, after my return to the place of my abode I hastily drew up the substance of the following discourse," It was hardly to be expected, that even John Howe should alltogether escape what many will call an "infirmity" of his age. The then "orthodox" faith respecting "presages and aboding and other matters of that class, will find it drawn out, for any lover of the mystical and the marvellous in Flavel"s Treatise on the Soul of Man. The subject is not uninteresting as a branch of the phenomena of our nature. All the world and the church would have had reason to rejoice in the faith they sometimes profess to pity, if that faith had always produced fruits equal to Howe"s "Vanity of Man as Mortal"
In 1674 came out his "Delighting in God," which was the substance of some sermons he had preached twenty years before to the people of Torrington, with some additions and enlargements. He dedicated it to his old friends, the inhabitants that town, by a masculine, but, at the same time, most tender affectionate epistle to them from Antrim. The "dedication is worth transcribing; but we must pass on.
Towards the end of 1675, Howe received an invitation to pastorate in the congregation of Dissenters worshipping in Sill Street, London. His mind was painfully exercised in ascertaining the path of duty with regard to this call, partly from there being a difference of opinion among the people, - some of them preferring Mr Charnock, - and partly, if not chiefly, from his being in very delicate health. He resolved on going to London to judge of matters on the spot. After his death a paper was found, headed, "Considerations and Communings with myself concerning my present journey. Dec. 20, - 75, by Night on my Bed." It details an almost morbidly minute scrutiny of the case, and of himself in connection with it, under four general topics of inquiry. The examination is confined to his undertaking the "journey," and exhibits a wide contrast to the haste with which "removals" are at present often resolved on. The document concludes with eight "Consolations to my wife and other relations, supposing they hear of my death." Under the second he says, " You are to consider me not as lost in my prime," yet he was only forty-five; "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." Little did he then calculate on the many years of effective labour that were still before him,
Early in l676 he finally left Ireland and settled in London. Once more in public life, though. a principled Nonconformist, he was on intimate terms with Tillotson, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury; Sharp, afterwards Archbishop of York; Stillingfleet, afterwards Bishop of Worcester; Kidder, afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells; and other noted Episcopalians. He did not think, nor did they expect, nor did truth and charity allow, that he should refrain from maintaining his opinions as a Dissenter, when he judged it expedient to do so. When riding with Tillotson in his carriage, he had him in tears for sentiments which he had uttered in a sermon preached before the king in St Paul's; and the good dean apologised for them. He also published a reply to Stillingfleet's "Mischief of Separation from the Church of England," which represented all the Dissenters as "schismatics," &c.
The year 1676 gave to the world the "First Part" of Mr Howe"s greatest work - " The Living Temple." It was inscribed to "that worthy person, Sir John Skeffington of Fisherwick, in Staffordshire, Baronet, also Viscount Lord Massarene, Governor of the county of Londonderry, and one of the Lords of his Majesty Charles the Second's most honourable Privy Council in the kingdom of Ireland." After this inscription Howe begins, "Although I am not, my Lord, without the apprehension that temple ought to have another sort of dedication, yet I have such pique at the custom of former days, but that I can think decent and just that a discourse concerning one conceived under your roof, though born out of your house, should openly own the relation which it thereby got, and the Author's great obligation to your Lordship ; and upon this account I cam easily persuade myself not to be so fashionable as even to write in masquerade. Having stated that by connecting Lord Massarene's name with this treatise, he had not more jeoparded his Lordship's honour than he had that of the main cause itself by writing it, he proceeds, "And if, in any unforeseen state of things, you should ever receive prejudice, or incur danger, by any real service you should design unto the temple of God, your adventure would be the more honourable by how much it were more hazardous. The Order of Templars, your Lordship well knows, was not, in former days, reckoned inglorious."
A "Second Part" was published in 1702, and - Lord Massarene being then dead - the whole was inscribed "to the Right Honourable Lord William Pagett, Baron af Beandesert, in the county of Stafford," - a connection of the" Viscount Massareue, .and an ancestor of the present Marquis of Anglesey. The author appears to have concentrated upon this treaties the wealth, energy, and wisdom, of his well-stored and gifted mind. The book is itself a "temple." For there stands, ministering for our race, the great High Priest of the gospel, offering the propitiation of his own blood. There, too, is felt the descended grace of the Holy Ghost, made visible on every hand by its effects, in the profound, entire, and grateful homage of human intellect, learning, and heart, in honour of God's manifested majesty, sanctity, and love.
Mr Howe's treatise "On the Reconcileableness of God's Prescience of the Sins of Men, with the Wisdom and Sincerity of his Counsels and Exhortations, and whatever other means he uses to prevent them," appeared in 1677. It is addressed by letter to the Honourable Robert Boyle, at whose request it was prepared. The subject of this treatise involves difficulties not less than these connected with the origin of evil. Howe's treatise is a fine specimen of vigorous and sober thinking, worthy of being read if it were only for encouraging right habits of mental exercise upon the subject. "Calvinists," well as "Arminians," have often been too narrow, too superficial, and, we must add, too vain, in their speculations. It is pitiable to reflect what a mutilated, dwarfish, ill-constructed thing, Truth has appeared, in showings made of her by some who have undertaken to exhibit her to the world.
But the year 1681, and several that followed, were still more fearful for England's liberty and nonconformity. The crown, with its minions, prepared to do its worst towards establishing its "prerogative" on the principles of " Divine right" and "nonresistance," in utter scorn of the people"s privileges chartered by the constitution. In 1683, that noble patriot and Christian, Lord William Russell, was sacrificed ; a martyr for Protestantism and the rights of his countrymen. After his execution, Mr Howe wrote, anonymously, a long, most able and touching letter of condolence to his lordship's widow. Mr Montgomery of Sheffield, no incompetent judge, in his "Christian Correspondence," distinguishes this above all the remaining 422 letters inserted in his three volumes, by pronouncing it "one of the noblest and most pathetic pieces of epistolary composition in the language."
Several of the bishops and magistrates urged on the persecution of the Dissenters to the last extremity. in the county of Devon, a reward of forty shillings was offered to any one who should discover a nonconformist minister. Under date of January 14, 1684, the Justices of the Peace of the county of Bedford, issued an order for putting in execution the laws against Dissenters, and Dr Barlow, bishop of the diocese, (Lincoln,) published a circular to his clergy to the same effect. This produced an expostulatory letter from Howe to that prelate, before which the most inveterate bigotry and enmity must have quailed.
In the year 1683, Mr Howe somewhat suddenly received and accepted an invitation from Philip Lord Wharton, before named, to accompany him in a tour on the Continent. From an affecting letter which he addressed to his congregation after he had left England, it appears that he had no opportunity of giving formal notice to his people of his leaving them. It appears, also, that persecution as then carried to such an extent in the metropolis, that it was hazardous for him to walk the streets, and that his health was seriously impaired by confinement to his house. The letter is inscribed, . To such in and about London, among whom I have laboured in the Work of the Gospel. My most dearly beloved in our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, grace, mercy, and peace, be through him multiplied unto you." It lays open the pastor"s heart. It is hardly possible to imagine anything more kind, wise, or appropriate.
Mr Howe spent about twelve months with Lord Wharton, visiting the principal cities of Europe. No change for the better having occurred by that time in England, he took a house in Utrecht, affording accommodation to distinguished persons who came to that city. With other exiles he preached at the English church there, and he superintended the studies of some young men who were at the University preparing for the ministry. He became acquainted with the leading scholars on the Continent. Mr (afterwards Bishop) Burnet frequently preached and communed with his nonconformist brethren there. Mr Howe had several interviews with the Prince of Orange, afterwards William the Third of England, who "discoursed with him with great freedom, and ever afterwards entertained a great respect for him."
In 1887, James II. published a" declaration for liberty of conscience." On this Howe agreed to return to his charge in London. When calling to take leave of the Prince, his Royal Highness counselled him and the other Dissenters to great caution, how they appeared to concur in the measures of the English court. King James, in conversation with Mr Howe, wished him to countenance "addresses" to him from the Dissenters; but Mr Howo respectfully excused himself, as not thinking it right for a minister of the Gospel to meddle in State affairs. The most painful reply which James received was from the Duke of Bedford, whom, in his extremity, he summoned to his council. "My Lord," said James, "you are a good man, and have a great influence ; you can do much for me at this time." The Duke answered, " I am an old man, and can do but little ;" then added with a deep sigh, "I had once a son, that could now have been very serviceable to your Majesty" - alluding to the Lord Russell who had been sacrificed to the vengeance of James, then Duke of York. The King, we are told, was struck dumb by this answer, so that he could make no reply.
Upon the "Glorious Revolution" in 1688, Mr Howe headed the Dissenting ministers when they brought op their address to the Throne, and "made a handsome speech on the occasion." Au attempt was soon made to induce the new Government to adopt the old course towards the Dissenters, although they had contributed greatly towards accomplishing the change in which all lovers of their country had reason to rejoice. On May 24th, 1689, the "Act of Toleration" received the royal assent. Howe then published his "Humble Requests both to Conformists and Dissenters touching their temper and behaviour towards each other "Upon the lately passed Indulgence" - a document well adapted to the occasion, but one for which the minds of the parties were not yet ready.
It is believed that Mr Howe had much to do in preparing what were called the "Heads of Argument" - a code of rules on which, in 1691, it was attempted to establish a union between the "Presbyterians" and "Congregationalists," tbe distinction of one from the other consisting already more in name than in fact. But differences soon arose which nullified what had been done. Some of the Independents were zealous "Calvinists," according to the then received meaning of the name. Some of the other class inclined to what was then considered the "Arminian" view and among them was Richard Baxter. He, and five other ministers, including worthy men of both parties, united in a weekly lecture. The publication of a Dr Crisp's works, with a certificate of their "genuineness," signed by Mr Howe and others, stirred Baxter and those who agreed with him in doctrine. One of the lecturers, Mr Williams, (afterwards Dr, and the founder of Red Cross Street Library,) published his" Gospel Truth Vindicated," to which strong exceptions were taken by some who were engaged in the same lecture. A separation ensued, preceded and followed by unbecoming heats on both sides. In how many instances have champions of "orthodoxy" breathed a spirit in their statements, which, whatever evidence of truth their reasonings have pressed upon the bead, could not fail to excite and foment the worst workings of depravity in the heart.
The celebrated antiquary, Ralph Thoresby, visited London in 1695, and made this entry in his diary - " May 19, London. Heard the famous Mr Howe, both morning and afternoon, who preached incomparably." When nearly sixty-eight his large heart retained in full freshness these generous sympathies which are the soul of friendship.
An "abundant entrance" was granted in about three months afterwards. Mr Howe"s seventieth year (1699) produced his his Redeemer's Dominion over the Invisible World. The sublime subject accorded with his taste. It was also in keeping with his circumstances ; for the friends of his youth and companions of his toils and sufferings, Bates and Mead, and Baxter and Adams, and their sons and others were fast disappearing from around him and entering that world; and he was himself approaching upon its confine But the immediate occasion of the discourse was the death of most lovely and promising youth, the eldest son of Sir Charles and Lady Houghton. The dedication of it has been alread quoted. Of the admirable piece itself, Professor Rogers says truly, "as it was one of the last, so it is one of the richest and maturest fruits of our author's genius." As if to clear off arrears before he bade us adieu, in 1670 he published the "Second Part" of his" Living Temple," referring to his sermons on "Self-dedication," as appropriately completing what he had contemplated in preparing the former work. To the last, however, the press wanted not employment from his pen. Late in 1702, appeared his funeral-sermon for the Rev. Peter Wink, who died at Hackney in September. It is founded on Acts v. 20. His sermon on" Deliverance from the Power of Darkness," was preached November 3, 1703, Mr Howe being then in his seventy-fourth year. At length, in the spring of 1705, came out his last publication, a treatise on " Patience in Expectation of Future Blessedness."
A cloudless sunset is pleasant witness, though in its effects on nature quite secondary to cloudless day. And such a sunset was John Howe's. We are told that, during his last sickness, he was visited by many of all ranks, and that he conversed very pleasantly with them. Among others was Richard Cromwell, who was grown old, and had lived many years in retirement from world since the time when he was Protector of England's Commonwealth, and Howe was his domestic chaplain. The interview was deeply affecting. Both parties in it held the same faith, cherished the same hope, and were inspired with the same love. There was a great deal of serious discourse between them. Tears were shed freely on both sides, and the parting was very solemn. Many elder and younger ministers also frequently visited him, and he was very free in his discourse with them, and talked like one of another world, and that had raised uncommon hopes of that blessedness there which his heart had long been set upon."
One morning, finding himself much better than could have been expected after the severe pain he had endured the preceding evening, he became quite cheerful. An attendant noticed it; on which he said, that "he was for feeling that he was dire, though most willing to die, and lay the clog of mortality aside." He once told Mrs Howe that "though he thought 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." Great as he was accounted by others, he had no dependence but on Christ ; - " I expect," said he, "my salvation, not as a profitable servant, but as a pardoned sinner."
Shortly before his dissolution a change took place which raised the hopes of his friends. Probably it was during this partial revival, that he laid on his son the command to destroy his "memorials." The change was of brief duration. On Thursday, March 29th, it was certain that his end was near; and on the following Monday, April 2, 1 705, "being quite worn out," he expired. Thus died JOHN HOWE, with a composure that became his sanctified, majestic soul, confiding in "the First and the Last and the Living One, who has the keys of Hades and of Death," did this honoured servant, at his Master"s bidding, lay down his earthly charge, and rise to receive the "Well-done," which sovereign mercy, through the Cross in which he gloried, had prepared to compensate and crown for ever his watchful, toilsome, suffering, faithful stewardship below.
http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/nederlandse/howe-leven.html Dutch biography
http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/ Resources list of Reformed/Puritan
http://www.sdgbooks.com/sdgbooks/hall7_howe.html Still Waters article on Howe
http://www.gtorrington.freeserve.co.uk/documents/howe.htm another life - by Martin Sutherland.
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