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ST. GEORGE's, SOUTHWARK. (R. 2 201.] HENRY JESSEY, M.A. Of St. John's Col. Camb. An account of his life and death was published in 1671, from whence it appears that he was born Sept. 3, 1601, at West Rowton, in Yorkshire, near Cleveland, where his father was minister. He was carefully educated by his parents till he was seventeen years of age, when he went to the university; where after four years diligent study, it pleased God to work a renewing change upon his heart, by the ministry of the word, whereby he was fitted for the employment for which God designed him, and to which he himself was greatly inclined. Upon the death of his father, who had supplied him according to his ability, he was so straitened as not to have above threepence a day; and yet so did he manage that small pittance, as to spare part of it for hiring books. He continued six years in the university, and often used to recollect the benefit of his well-spent time there, with great thankfulness to God. He became well versed in the Hebrew tongue, and the writings of the Rabbies. He also understood Syriac and Chaldee.
He removed from Cambridge in 1624, (though he often went at term-time till he took his degree of A. M.) and was first entertained by old Mr. Brampton Gurdon, of Assington in Suffolk. In his family he continued about nine years, improving his time well; and among other studies, applied himself to physic. In 1627 he took orders from the bishop, but was afterwards much concerned for the engagements which he thereby came under. He preached about the neighbourhood as he was invited, and distributed a number of good practical books among the poor.
He had several offers of a settlement, but listened to none of them, till in the year 1633 he was called to Aughton, nine miles from York, to succeed Mr. Alder, who was removed from thence for nonconformity. Mr. Jessey was not likely to continue there long, since he durst not conform even so far as Mr. Alder had done. Accordiugly the next year he was ejected for not using the ceremonies, and for taking down a crucifix. But he was not useless in God's vineyard, for Sir M. Boynton, of Barneston, in Yorkshire, entertained him to preach there and at Rowsby, a place not far distant.
In 1635 he removed with Sir Matthew to London, and the next year to Hedgeley-house, near Uxbridge, where he VOL. 1. NO. 3.
had not been long before he was earnestly importuned to take the charge of the congregation of which Mr. Henry Jacob and Mr. John Lathorp had been pastors, which was gathered by Mr. Jacob, in 1916.* After much consideration and prayer, though he had formed a design of guing to New England, he accepted their call about Midsummer, 1637, and continued among them till his death.
(Candour, and indeed justice, oblige the editor to insert the following extract from this good man's life, respecting his sentiments about Baptism, of which the author had taken no notice.—Some of his church becoming Baptists, left it the year after his settling among them; and soon after, a greater number of persons, of considerable note, embraced the same opinion. This put Mr. Jessey upon studying the controversy. The result was, that he himself also altered his sentiments ; but not without great deliberation, many prayers, and frequent conferences with pious and learned men of different persuasions. His first conviction was about the mode of baptism. Though he continued two or three years to baptize children, he did it by immersion. About 1644 the controversy about the subjects of baptism was revived in his church, when several of them gave up infant-baptism, as did Mr. Jessey himself. However, before he would absolutely determine on the point, and practise accordingly, he resolved to consult with several learned and judicious ministers, v.g. Dr. Goodwin, Mr. Nye, Mr. Burroughs, Mr. Craddock, &c. but these giving him no satisfaction, in June
1645, he submitted to immersion, which was performed by Mr. Hanserd Knollys. And it proved no small honour and advantage to the Baptists to have such a man among them. t But notwithstanding his differing from his brethren in this, or any other point, he maintained the same christian love and charity to all saints as before, not only as to friendly conversation, but also in regard to church-communion, and took great pains to promote the same catholic spirit among others.
He divided his labours in the ministry, according to the catholocism of his principles. Every Lord's day afternoon he was among his own people. In the morning he usually preached at St. George's church, Southwark, and once in * See Neal's History. Vol. 1. p. 100 and 800.
+ Mr. Neale, in his account of the matter, (which differs from the above) remarks, “ Thus a foundation was laid for the first Bartist congregation I tave met with in England.” Compare Crosbie's Hist. Bapt. vol. 1. n. 147, &c.
the week day at Ely-house, and in the Savoy to the wounded soldiers.]
Besides his constant labours in the ministry, he took great pains for many years in making a new translation of the Bible, in which he called in the assistance of many learned men at home and broad. This he made the inaster-study of his life, and would often cry out, “ Oh that I might see this done “ before I die!" It was almost compleated, but the great turn to public affairs at the restoration caused this noble design to prove abortive.] To shew the necessity of amending the common translation, he observed that, (as Dr. Hill de clared in a great assembly,) Abp. Bancroft, who was a supervisor of this work, altered it in fourteen places to make it speak the prelatical language.
Mr. Jessey chose a single life, that he might be the more entirely devoted to his sacred work, and the better enabled to do good. Besides his own alms, he was a constant soli. citor and agent for the poor with others, who, he knew, were able to supply their wants.
For this end he always carried about with him a list of the names of the greatest objects of charity known to him, with their afflictions, necessities, and characters affixed. Above thirty families had all their subsistence from him. [Nor did he limit his charity to those of his own congregation or opinion ; he did good to all. And where he thought it no charity to give, he would lend, without interest or security. One of the most remarkable instances of his charity, which was perhaps without precedent, was that which he shewed to the poor Jews at Jerusalem, who, by reason of a war between the Swedes and Poles, (A. D. 1657) were reduced to great extremity; their chief means of subsistence, from their rich brethren in other countries being hereby cut off. Mr. Jessey collected for them 300l. and with it sent letters with a view to their conversion to Christianity; the copies of which may
be seen in his life.
It is easy to suppose that a man of his character must be crowded with visitors of various kinds. He resolved how. ever to have time for his devotions and studies ; and as he hated idle talk and fruitless visits, he took all possible means
* Dr. Smith also, who was one of the Translators of the Bible, and wrote the preface, who was afterwards bishop of Gloucester, complained to a minister of that county, of the Archbishop's unwarrantable alcerations. (says he) he is so potent, there is no contradicting him."
to avoid them. One was this: he put over his study-door, where he usually received his visitors, this writing:
AMICE, QUISQUIS AUC Ades;
H. J. During the time that episcopacy was laid aside in England Mr. Jessey was in high esteem, and free from the persecu: tions which the Baptists too generally suffered. But before and after that period, he shared the sufferings of the noncons formists. On Feb. 21, 1637, he and a number of others being met together to worship God, the greatest part of them were seized and carried away froin Queenhithe by the bishop's pursuivants ; and they met with the like disturbancë, May following, in another place. In Nov. 1639, he was sent by the congregation into Wales to assist old Mr. Wroth, Mr. Cradock and others, in gathering a church in Llanfaches in Monmouthshire. On April 21, 1640, he with a great number of the members of several congregations, being met together upon Tower-hill, to seek God by fasting and prayer, were interrupted by the pursuivants, and imprisoned in the Tower by Sir W. Balfore, who soon released them; they being bound over by Abp. Laud to answer at the next sesa sions. They appeared there, but were never called, the pros secutors not thinking it adviseable to proceed. On Aug. 22, 1641, he, with five of his congregation, were seized by order of the lord mayor, and committed prisoners to Woodstreet compter, when they appealed to parliament, and were soon released.
Upon the restoration he was ejected from his living at St. George's, and silenced froin his ministry.
On Nov. 27, 1661, he was seized, and kept in the messenger's hands, but released by the privy council, after a month's wrongful restraint. Aug. 30, 1662, he was again apprehended, upon misinformation, and secured six months in the messenger's house, till by an order of council he was again released, on Feb. 20. following*. About five or six months after his release, he fell into his last sickness; but neither he nor they that were about him apprehended his death to be so near as
* Crosby says, (vol. 1. p. 230.) that he died in prison : but this is inconsistent with the circumstances of the following narratiou.
it really was., . However, the good man fell presently to the trimming of his lamp, as diligently as if God had expressly told him of his approaching end. He spent his last days and nights in searching his heart, humbling his soul, extolling free grace, and exhorting all about him to keep close to God, to persevere in the faith, and prepare for trials: adding for their encouragement, the long experience he had had of the goodness of the Lord in all times and conditions. The last evening but one before his departure, having a mind to walk, he was led about the room, and often repeated this expression, “ God is good: he doth not lead me whither I would not, as he did Peter: good is the Lord to me.”. Being soon tired, he sat down on his bed, and one who sat by him said, “ They among whom you have laboured can witness, that you
have been a faithful servant of Christ, making his glory your utmost end, for the good of their souls.” But he replied, " Say no
Say no more of that; exalt God, exalt God." He spent the first part of his last night in blessing God, and singing praises to his name, and fell asleep about eleven o'clock. Waking again between two and three, he fell into a wonderful strain of abasing himself, and admiring the love of God, " that he should chuse the vilest, the unworthiest, and the basest,” which last word he repeated many times, and then cried out, “Oh the unspeakable love of God, that he should reach me when I could not reach him!” And when the cordial ordered for that night was brought, he said, “ Trouble me not; upon your peril, trouble me not.” He was then as if the had seen some glorious vision, or had been in a rapture, In this his last night he was not unmindful of those who were his daily care, viz. the widows and fatherless, whom he spake of with pity, in a low lamenting -voice, and the bystanders judged he was praying for them. Then he desired one present to pray with him ; during which time he was still, and seemed afterwards much refreshed. He repeated Joel ji. 28. and bid them turn to several other texts that he mentioned ; and as he lay, he often called out, “more julep, mcaning more passages of scripture; for he drank in much consolation from the exceeding great and precious promises therein contained, and continued to his last gasp praising God. The last words he was heard to speak were these : s. He counted me worthy." And when the sound of his words ceased, his lips were observed still to move, and he seemned to be inwardly adoring that God whon in his health hç served, feared and praised, and made his boast of conti