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NOTICES OF THE PILGRIM FATHERS.
JOHN ELIOT AND HIS FRIENDS, OF NAZING. COLLECTED FROM ORIGINAL SOURCES.
THE life and labours of John Eliot, together with those of his Nazing associates, occupy no small space in the evangelical annals of New England. As a pioneer and reformer, Eliot stands prominent among the settlers and founders of the New World, surrounded and supported by a galaxy of Essex Nonconformists of the purest type.
It is well known that there is no county in Old England that can claim precedence of Essex for honest and intrepid men, especially those of the Reformation age, who, for the sake of truth and liberty, endured the tortures of the rack and fagot; and others of a later period feared not to exercise the right of conscience and private judgment in things agreeable to their religious impressions, until, overcome by the heat of persecution, they were necessitated to cross the stormy Atlantic in search of a home in the dreary wilds of the far West. Prelatism then triumphed in its most potent form, and Sabbath sports received encouragement from King James, who, in 1617, expressed his pleasure in allowing the people to exercise themselves after Divine service on Sabbath days ("Oh, name it not in Gath!") in "May-games," "Whitson-ales," and "Morris-dances," which, naturally enough, struck the more sober and conscientious clergy with horror, and which they severely censured. Such clergymen were deemed as being too religiously scrupulous, and tainted with Puritanism.
In "Martin Mar-Prelate's Dialogue," 1640, is a graphic description of what constituted a Puritan:
"A Puritan is he that for no meed,
Will serve the time, and great men's humours feed,
That doth the self-accusing Oaths refuse;
That hates the Ale-house, and the Stage, and Stews."
This does not speak very high of those who practised the reverse of Puritanism. It does not, however, appear that the Pilgrim Fathers were recognised as Puritans merely, but rather as Separatists from the Church of England. "Puritanism," says Bancroft, " was religion struggling for the people." And Mr. Tryon Edwards cleverly discriminates between the Pilgrim Fathers and the Puritans of New England (see Dickerson's Theological Quarterly, July, 1877).
The year before the Speedwell and the Mayflower set sail for the New World, an Essex vicar, Thomas Drax, published an address, entitled, "Ten Counter Demands," to the Nonconformist body, in which he ironically says, "Whether it were not the Separatists' best course to return again; or, if they will not take this course, whether it were not good for them to remove to Virginia, and make a plantation there, in the hope to convert the Infidels." It is presumed that Drax was a Conformist, and not of the same mind as many of his ministerial brethren, who were just then seriously contemplating leaving Old England for ever.
The names of Ward, Rogers, Hooker, Norton, Eliot, Shepherd, Firmin, Wilson, and those of other Essex divines, are familiar to most readers of the history of New England. Nathaniel Ward, minister of Standon, co. Essex, was, in 1633, proceeded against by Laud for refusing to subscribe to the Articles of the Established Church, and eventually excommunicated. In the following year he sought refuge in America, and became pastor of the church at Ipswich, N.E. N. Ward was second son of John Ward, minister of Haverhill, co. Essex, who was buried in the chancel of that church, and where a tablet is placed to his memory, with an inscription in Latin and English. Dr. Thomas Fuller, incumbent of Waltham, in the days of Charles I., has given a translation of the Latin lines, thus:
"Grant some in knowledge greater store,
None thundered more in preaching."
N. Ward "had Nathaniel Rogers for his assistant," in the church at Ipswich, N.E. Rogers was at one time curate of Bocking, Essex; but after serving that church for about five years, he was suddenly dismissed by his rector, Dr. John Barkham, dean of Bocking, for burying a person without wearing his surplice. Rogers married Margaret Crane, of Coggeshall, and about the same time became the minister of Assington, which office he sustained for five years; and consequent upon the trouble which he saw looming in the distance, he resigned his living and sailed to New England, where he arrived in November, 1636. His father, John Rogers, of Dedham, died the same year. He (the father) is said to have been one of the most lively preachers of the Puritan age. Persons in the neighbouring villages used to say, "Come, let us go to Dedham, and get a little fire." Ezekiel Rogers, brother of Daniel Rogers, of Wethersfield, embarked for New England, where he died in 1660.
Nathaniel Rogers, on his arrival in New England, met with another Essex minister, John Norton, a native of Bishop Stortford, who became his colleague at Ipswich, New England.
John Norton, on leaving Cambridge University, became curate to Thomas Bendish, vicar of Bishop Stortford and Arkesden, and eventually resigned his curacy for conscience sake, and became chaplain to Sir William Marsham,* at
* The family residence of the Marshams was at Otes, a short distance from High Laver. It was at this country seat that the immortal John Locke spent much of his time during the last ten years of his life. He was treated with great kindness by Sir Francis Marsham and his excellent wife, Damaris, and died here, October 28, 1704. His remains were buried on the south side of High Laver Churchyard, under a black marble slab, inclosed with iron rails, and on the exterior wall of the church is his epitaph in Latin. Born August 29, 1632; died October 28, 1704.
High Laver, a distance of seven miles from Epping, where he made the acquaintance of that famous divine, Jeremiah Dyke,* by whose ministry he is said to have greatly profited. Dyke was vicar of Epping from 1609 to 1639, and was probably well acquainted with the Eliots of Nazing, as his son officiated there prior to his appointment to the living of Great Parndon, about three miles from Nazing, and the same from Epping and Harlow. J. Dyke, jun., had been vicar of Stanstead Abbots. He signed the "Essex Testimony" in 1648 as minister of Great Parndon, and was returned in 1650 as "an able minister." His brother, Daniel Dyke, became a Baptist in 1640, and was the first to suffer for the cause he had espoused. John Norton married while at High Laver, and removed from thence to New England, in 1635, in company with Thomas Shepherd, and became pastor at Ipswich, and afterwards removed to Boston. Thomas Shepherd was fellow of Emmanuel College about the same time as John Eliot, and became lecturer at Coggeshall and afterwards at Earls Colne, co. Essex, where in each place he endured great persecutions; and in 1630 Laud inhibited him from preaching. He then removed to Yorkshire, where he received no better treatment at the hands of Neal, Archbishop of York. Wearied with continued trials, he, with several others, left Gravesend, in the Defence, for New England, July, 1635. Shepherd used to say of another of his Essex friends, John Wilson, "Methinks I hear an apostle, when I hear this man." Wilson was a native of Windsor; his father was Chancellor of St. Paul's. He laboured much in the neighbourhoods of Newport and Bumstead, Essex. Through Dr. Barkham he was suspended, simply because a lady compared his preaching with that of Barkham's, which circumstance reached the ears of the doctor. He was soon restored, and as soon silenced, by the Bishop of Norwich; and was again restored by the
* He had a son named after himself, who officiated at Nazing church about the time that Edward Jude, M.A., resigned. Here his daughter, Elizabeth Dyke, was christened, May 14, 1640, and, on the 29th of the previous month, Nathaniel Dyke was christened.