Puritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers

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The life and death of Dr. Edmund Calamy.

MR. CALAMY was born in London in 1600, and educated at Pembrokehall, in the university of Cambridge, where he took his degree of arts in 1619, and that of divinity in 1632. By an early discovery of his opposition to arminianism, his fellowship was prevented, even when he was justly entitled, both by his standing, his learning, and his unblameable conversation.

The prelatical rulers in the church of England were strongly inclined to the doctrines of Arminius at this time, and nothing could stand more in the way of preferment, to a person of Mr. Calamy’s sentiments, than his publicly asserting and defending them; so that, considering his warm attachment to the Calvinistic doctrines, and his hostilities to those of the Arminian party, now basking in the beams of royal favor, Mr. Calamy had but little to expect. At last, however, he was elected tanquam socius, a title peculiar to Pembrokehall; which, though attended with less emolument, was at least as honorable as that of fellow. Some time after this Mr. Calamy’s studious and religious character recommended him to Dr. Felton, the pious and learned bishop of Ely, who made him his domestic chaplain; and while residing in the family, paid him singular marks of affectionate regard, and at last presented him to the vicarage of Mary’s in Swaffhamprior, in his own neighborhood, where he became singularly useful to his flock. Still, however, he continued in the family till the bishop’s death, when he was chosen one of the lecturers of Edmund’s Bury, in the county of Suffolk, where Jeremiah Burroughs was his fellow laborer. In this place he continued about ten years. Some writers have said, that during his residence in this place he was a strict conformist; but his own declaration, and that of others, affirm the contrary. It is a certain fact, that Mr. Calamy, with about thirty other worthy ministers, were driven out of bishop Wren’s diocese, for not conforming to the Visitation Articles and the unhallowed Book of Sports. With these abominations he could not comply; and being in favor with the earl of Essex, he preferred him to the living of Richford, a market town in the Marches of Essex, a rectory of considerable value; but it proved ruinous to his health, and brought on a dizziness of the head, that never wholly forsook him.

Upon the death of Dr. Stoughton he was chosen minister of Mary Aldermanbury, London, in 1639. Here he soon acquired a very distinguished reputation, and made a conspicuous appearance, by the active part he took in the important controversy respecting church government, then greatly agitated.

In 1640, he was employed, with several other puritan divines, in composing that famous book, entitled, Smectymirws; which is said to have given the first fatal blow to episcopacy in England. This strange title is made out of the first letters of the names of its various authors, viz. Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurston. This treatise is allowed, on all hands, to have been well written. It was done in answer to a book, entitled, An , Humble Remonstrance, written by the bishop of Exeter. This learned prelate attempted a confutation of Smectymnuus; to which the Presbyterians replied. After this, the farfamed Usher, bishop of Armagh, attacked it; but was repulsed by John Milton, the celebrated author of Paradise Lost. The activity, the profound knowledge, integrity, and intrepidity; evinced by Mr. Calamy, had raised his reputation, particularly among the Presbyterians, to the first rank of literary fame. He was appointed, by the House of Lords, a member of the subcommittee for accommodating ecclesiastical affairs; and shortly after this he was appointed a member of the assembly of divines. He was an active and zealous man in all their proceedings, and much distinguished, both for his learning and moderation, in the assembly.

Mr. Calamy was one of the most popular preachers in London, and frequently appointed to preach before the long parliament; for which the prelatieal party have treated him with unmerited abuse. He was the first, however, who, before the committee of parliament, defended the proposition, that a bishop and presbyter, according to the scriptures, are one office Under different appellations. His interest and influence in the city of London was very extensive, and he preached to a numerous and highly respectable audience, composed of the most eminent citizens, and many persons of quality. He was one of the London ministers who declared against the proceedings of the army, and the violent measures that brought on the king’s death; an event which he strongly deprecated.

In Cromwell’s time Calamy lived as quietly as possible; but sometimes opposed the protector’s measures. It is said of Cromwell, that having a wish to put the crown on his own head, he sent for some of the principal divines of the city, as if he made it a matter of conscience, and that he wanted their advice. Mr. Calamy was one of the party, and boldly opposed the project of Cromwell’s single government, offering to prove that the thing was not only unlawful, but that it was also impracticable. To the first of these Cromwell readily replied, “That the safety of the people was the supreme law; but, pray, Mr. Calamy, said he, how is it impracticable?” Because (says Mr. Calamy) the nation will be against you, nine out of ten at least.’“ ‘But (says Cromwell) what if I wrest the sword from the nine, and put it in the hands of the tenth—.Will not that do the business?” In 1659, Mr. Calamy concurred with the Earl of Mansfield, and other great men, in persuading general Monk to bring in the king, that an end might be put to the public confusions. He preached before the parliament the day before they voted the king’s restoration to the throne, and was one of these divines that were sent over to Holland on that business; but he had, soon after, cause to regret the hand he had in that unhappy transaction, particularly that he was received without a previous treaty.

On the restoration of Charles, Mr. Calamy was encouraged to hope that considerable favor and indulgence, both to himself and his brethren would still be granted. In June, the same year, he was sworn chaplain in ordinary to his majesty, with several other Presbyterian ministers; but none of them preached more than once before the king in that capacity. About this time Mr. Calamy was often with his majesty at earl Mansfield, the chamberlain’s lodgings, and other places, and had the royal countenance on all occasions. He had a principal hand in drawing up the proposals, at that time presented to the king, respecting church government; which led the way to the Savoy conference. He was also concerned in the concessions made by the declaration of October 25th, the same year; and being one of the commissioners, he was employed, with others, in drawing up the exceptions against the liturgy, as also the reply to the reasons of the Episcopal divines against these exceptions of the Presbyterians. In 1661 he was one of those chosen by the London ministers to represent then in the convocation; but was not permitted to sit in that assembly. He attended the several meetings at the Savoy, where he did every thing in his power to effect an accommodation; but without the least effect.

Mr. Calamy preached his farewell sermon on the 17th of August 1662, a week before the act of uniformity took effect. Having consulted with his great friends at court, the following petition was drawn up, and presented to the king, signed by a considerable number of the London ministers:

“May it please your excellent majesty.—Upon former experience of your majesty’s tenderness and indulgence to your obedient and loyal subjects, in which number we can clearly reckon ourselves, we, some of the ministers within your city of London, who, by the late act of uniformity, are likely: to be cast out of all public service in the ministry, because we cannot, in conscience, conform in all things required in said $ct, have taken the boldness humbly to cast ourselves and our concernments at your majesty’s feet, desiring that, of your princely wisdom and compassion, you would take some effectual course, whereby we may be continued in the exercise of our ministry, to teach your people their duty to God and your majesty; and we doubt not, but by our dutiful and peaceable carriage therein, we shall render ourselves not altogether unworthy of so great a favor.” This petition was presented by Mr. Calamy, Dr. Manton, Dr. Bates, and others, on the third day after the act became in force. Mr. Calamy made a speech /on the occasion, stating, that those of his persuasion were ready to contest the point of fidelity to his majesty with any description of men in England: That they little expected to be dealt with in the manner they had been; and that they were now come before his majesty, imploring his interference in their behalf, as the last application they should make. The king promised to consider their request, and the day following the matter was fully debated in council, in presence of his majesty, who was pleased to say, he intended an indulgence if it was at all possible. The mends of the silenced ministers in the council, whose hopes had been flattered with a variety of specious promises, were now permitted freely to state their reasons for not putting the act in execution; and they reasoned most strenuously on the impolicy and absurdity of the measure, and the fatal effects, to the. nation at large, that must necessarily attend its execution. But Dr. Shelden, bishop of London, in an animated speech, declared, “That it was now too late to think of suspending a law which had occupied so much of the time and the wisdom of the legislature in enacting—A law, in obedience to which he had already ejected such of his clergy as would not comply with it; and were they now to be restored, after thus being exasperated, he must, in that case, expect to feel the weight of their resentment; and in place of maintaining his Episcopal authority amongst them, be subjected to their scorn and animosity, being thus countenanced by the court.’ Besides, should the sacred authority of this law be now suspended, it would render the legislature both ridiculous and contemptible; and should the pressing importunity of such disaffected people be considered a sufficient reason why they should be humored on this occasion, it would establish a precedent upon which all future malcontents would build their hopes, and maintain their claims to similar indulgence:—the obvious consequence of which would be, convulsions, and neverceasing distractions, both in church and state.” It was, on these grounds, carried that no indulgence whatever should be granted. Mr. Calamy was offered a bishopric; which he refused, because he could not obtain it on the terms of the king’s declaration. He preserved his temper and moderation after his ejection, and lived much retired; but going to Alder Manbury church one day as a hearer, and the clergyman appointed to preach failing to come forward; to gratify the wishes of the people who were assembled, and prevent a disappointment, he condescended to give them a dis coupse, though unpremeditated. For this he was shut up in Newgate prison, by warrant from the lord mayor, as a violator of the apt of uniformity, the great Diana of that tyrannical period.

A popish lady, passing through the city, found it almost impossible to proceed through Newgate Street for the number of coaches in waiting. Surprised at this incident, curiosity led her to inquire into the occasion. Some of the bystanders informed her, that an ejected minister, greatly beloved in the city, had been imprisoned for preaching a single sermon, and his friends were calling to pay him a visit in prison. This information so struck the lady, that she waited on the king at Whitehall, and told him the whole affair, expressing her apprehension, that such steps might alienate the affection of the city from his majesty. It was partly owing to this, that Mr. Calamy was soon released by an express order from the king. This circumstance being afterwards •complained of in the House of Commons, it was signified that his release was occasioned by a deficiency of the act itself, and not by the sole orders of his majesty. The following entry was therefore made on the journal of the House: “Die Jovis, 1662—63. Upon complaint made to this House, that Mr. Calamy, being committed to prison upon breach of the act of uniformity, was discharged upon pretence of some defect in the act—Resolved, That it be referred to a committee to look into the act of uniformity as to the matter in question, and see whether the same be defective, and wherein.” And shortly after this, a committee was appointed to bring in the reasons of the House for advising the king to grant no toleration, with an address to his majesty; which paved the way for all that unqualified severity, and tyrannical procedure, that followed during this and the succeeding reign. Mr. Calamy lived to see the dreadful fire of London in 1666. This awful conflagration is said to have overrun 373 acres of ground within the walls, and to have burned down 13,200 houses, and 89 parish churches, beside chapels, and that only 11 parishes within the walls were left standing. This dreadful spectacle is said to have broken Mr. Calamy’s heart. He was driven through the ruins of the city in a coach, and viewing the dreadful solitude, and far spread desolation, he went home with a heavy heart, and never after left his chamber; but died in less than a month, October 1666, in the sixty-seventh year of his age.

His works are not numerous. He was one of the authors of Smectymnuus, formerly mentioned. He was also concerned in drawing up the Vindication of the Presbyterial Church Government and Ministry, and Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici et Anglicani. He has also several sermons extant—1. England’s Looking glass.—2. The Nobleman’s pattern of true and real Thankfulness.—3. God’s free mercy to England.—4. England’s Antidote against the Plague of Civil War.—5. An Indictment against England because of her Self murdering Divisions.—6. The great danger of Covenant refusing and Covenant breaking. —1. The Door of Truth Opened.—8. The Saint’s Rest 9. The Fragility of the Body.—10. The Monster of sinful self-seeking Anatomized.—11. A Sermon at the Funeral of the Earl of Warwick. 12. A Sermon at the Funeral of Mr. Ashe. —13. The Godly Man’s City of Refuge in the day of his distress, containing five Sermons.—Mr. Calamy’s oldest son was ejected at the same time with his father; and his grandson, a dissenting divine of great eminence, is well known by his learned works.

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

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