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in their public relations, not unfrequently personal, and sometimes intimate friends, mutually lamenting the causes, that prevented their christian fellowship. The great characteristic principles, the sublime philosophical views, the true spirituality and aloofness from all narrow and secular views, which belong in common to many of the writings of men belonging to each of the two parties, show in a striking manner, how far the essential spirit of religion is elevated above the interests and opinions, with which it is too often associated. That these volumes may be instramental in cherishing the same spirit among the churches of our land, enlarging their views of divine truth, building them up in the most holy faith, and imparting to them abundantly, the riches of spiritual understanding, is the earnest wish and
REV. JOHN HOWE.
In giving such a sketch of the life and character of the Rev. John Howe, as corresponds with the plan of this work, I can hardly hope to satisfy the curiosity respecting him, which the following treatises will excite. The history of his life, indeed, was such as might have furnished materials for a biography excelling in its general interest that of most literary men and theological writers even of the first rank in talents and reputation. The distinguished literary men with whom he was intimately connected, at a most interesting period in the history of English literature and philosophy, and, more especially, the place which he held for so long a time at the court of the Cromwells, must have given him the means of preparing a "memoir of his own life and times," not less instructive than any other work of the kind which that age has furnished. I mention this, because it appears that he accumulated a mass of papers for an object of this sort, but unfortunately for us, when near his death, required his son to commit them to the flames. The memoirs of his life, collected by Calamy and contained in the folio edition of his works, though scanty and unsatisfying, still contain much that is valuable, and nearly all that can now be known of one of the greatest men of the age in which he lived.
The Rev. John Howe was born at Loughborough, in Leicestershire, May 17, 1630. His father was for sometime the minister of the town, a man of great piety and worth, and his mother is mentioned as a woman of distinguished abilities, whose influence was undoubtedly much felt in forming the charaeter of her son. While he was yet very young his father, who had received the parish of Loughborough from Archbishop Laud, was ejected for siding with the Puritans, and went into Ireland with his family. After residing here for some time, and narrowly escaping with their lives during the rebellion of the Papists, the family returned and settled in Lancaster, where the subject of this memoir recei
ved his early education and was prepared for the university. He first entered at Christ's College, Cambridge, in what year is uncertain, though it must have been at a very early age, as he took his degree and removed to Brazen Nose College, Oxford, as early as 1648, when he was but 18 years of age. Here, in the next year, he was admitted to the same degree of Bachelor of Arts, which he had taken at Cambridge, was not long after elected a fellow of Magdalen College, and took the degree of M. A. in 1652.
Soon after taking his second degree, Mr. Howe returned to the county in which his family resided, and was ordained, by Mr. Charles Herle, in what he considered the primitive mode of ordination, believing, as he said, that Mr. Herle was a scriptural bishop, and that the concurrence of the ministers, who assisted him, was the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. Being now regularly devoted to the labors of the ministry, he was soon called to a distant part of the island, and settled as pastor of a congregation at Great Torrington in Devonshire. Here he devoted himself with unsparing labor and zeal and with great success to the duties of his office, and acquired the respect and confidence of the neighboring churches and clergy. Among the latter he became particularly intimate in the family of Mr. George Hughes of Plymouth, the most distinguished minister in those parts, and married his daughter March 1, 1654, a connexion which resulted it seems to his great happiness, and which he never had occasion to regret.
It could not have been long after this event, that his situation and sphere of usefulness were suddenly and unexpectedly changed. Having occasion to go to London, on business, he was detained longer than he expected, and being there on the Sabbath gratified his curiosity by going to the chapel at Whitehall.
While there, “ Cromwell, who,” as Calamy observes, “ generally had his eyes everywhere, spied out Mr. Howe in the auditory, knew him by his garb to be a country minister, and thinking he discerned something more than ordinary in his countenance, sent a messenger to him to desire to speak with him, when the worship of God was over.” Such was his introduction to Cromwell, and the result of it was, that, notwithstanding his surprise and his efforts to excuse himself, his objections were overruled, and after preaching two or three times before the Protector, and much free conversation in private, he was at length prevailed upon, though with great reluctance, to leave his charge at Torrington, which Cromwell undertook to have supplied to their satisfaction, and became established as domestic chaplain, at the seat of government.
In this most trying and critical situation, considering the character of the times, Mr. Howe continued till the death of Cromwell, and through the protectorate of his son, exhibiting many
examples of that prudence, moderation and good will to all parties, so necessary in his circumstances, both for his usefulness and his personal tranquillity. Several instances are mentioned, in which he employed his influence with the court for the benefit of those who differed from him in their views of church and state, and among
the rest, in 1657, Dr. Seth Ward, afterwards bishop of Exeter. As a proof of his disinterestedness, and that he used his influence more for others, than for himself, it is related that Cromwell once said to him," Mr. Howe, you have obtained many favors for others, I wonder when the time is to come, that you will ask any thing for yourself or your own family.” So little of the courtier had he indeed, that on one occasion he preached expressly against a favorite notion of Cromwell's respecting particular faith in prayer, and was supposed to have produced a coolness between himself and the Protector by so doing. Cromwell however had too high a value for his integrity and too much good sense to break with him for such a cause.
During the protectorate of Richard, Mr. Howe, assisted with Dr. Owen, and other leaders of the same persuasion, at the meeting of the Independents at the Savoy, in October, 1658. It was here that, with unexpected unanimity, they agreed upon articles of faith; which, however, were afterwards silently abandoned for the Assembly's Catechism.
On the removal of Richard Cromwell, Mr. Howe returned to his former charge at Torrington, and continued his labors in peace, till some months after the restoration. He was informed against for preaching seditious and treasonable sentiments, in October, 1660; but, proving his innocence, was discharged, and continued to preach to his people till the act of uniformity went into effect, Aug. 24, 1662. On that day he took a final leave of his congregation at Torrington, in a farewell sermon and parting addresses, deeply affecting to his congregation. Being now ejected from consecrated walls, he preached occasionally in the houses of his friends; but, a citation being out against him, he was obliged to desist, and seems to have been saved from further trouble from the citation by Dr. Ward, now bishop of Exeter, who it will be recollected had formerly been under obligations to Mr. Howe. In 1665 he took the oath under the "five mile act,” but was still obliged to shift from place to place in order to avoid persecution, and it is supposed by his biographer, though he could not ascertain the circumstances of it, was imprisoned for two months, during the same year, in the isle of St. Nicholas. He still continued
among his friends in the western counties, rendering himself as useful as the times would permit, and, while in this unsettled state, published, in 1668, the treatise on “the Blessedness of the Righteous," the substance of which it seems had been preached in a course of sermons at Torrington.
Being now out of regular employment, with a family dependen