Puritan Memoirs - Mr. Richard BlackerbyPuritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers
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THIS eminently pious and learned divine was born at Worlington in Suffolk, in 1574. He had his education at Trinity college, Cambridge, where he remained nine years, and made amazing proficiency in all branches of useful learning. Here he sat under the ministry of that eminent servant of Christ, Mr. Perkins, whose sermons were the means of effectually converting him to the faith of the gospel. For several years he labored under the most painful apprehensions as to the state of his soul; and while groaning under these convictions, in a state approaching to melancholy, his father, unconscious of the cause of his dejection, called him home, in hopes that a change of air might restore his health; but the change had no effect. Some time after this he found peace with God, and comfort in his own soul, which never after forsook him till his last hour. Upon leaving the university, he became domestic chaplain to Sir Thomas Jermin of Rushbrook in Suffolk, and afterwards to Sir Edward Lukenor of Denham, in the same county. In this situation he remained till he married the daughter of Mr. Timothy Oldham, minister of Denham. Mr. Blackerby, after having remained with his father-in-law the matter of two years, had a call to preach at Feltwell in Norfolk, where he remained but a short time, being obliged, on account of his nonconformity, to remove to Ashdon in Essex, where, for twenty-three years, he was employed in the education of youth. Some of Mr. Blackerby’s scholars became men of considerable celebrity. Dr. Bernard, whom he recommended to archbishop Usher, and afterwards became his chaplain, was one of them. On account of his nonconformity, though he could not, with a good conscience, accept of any pastoral charge, he always continued to preach and exhort wherever he could find an opportunity; and during the last ten years of the above period, he preached regularly at Henningham in Essex, or Stoke, or Hundon in Suffolk. Thus Mr. Blackerby, when persecuted in one place, retired to another; ‘by which means, though living in hard and troublesome times, he was seldom kept silent for any considerable time. His method of preaching consisted chiefly an opening the scriptures, from which he made appropriate observations, concluding with a close and impressive application. He had an uncommon understanding of the original languages; studied hard to discover their, true meaning and import, and had much holy converse with God in prayer; and his preaching was attended with such a copious outpouring of the Spirit, that it is said he became the spiritual father of more than two thousand persons. The word of God, dropping from his lips, became the savor of life unto life to them who heard it; or it had the effect of hardening and enraging them, both against the preaching and the preacher. At Hundon he met with powerful opposition from many of the principal inhabitants, who, uniting together against him, procured his suspension; but it is said that the judgments of God pursued them, so that they were Wasted in their estates, some reduced to paupers, and all of them, with one exception, died miserable deaths. The Sabbath after his suspension, one of these men, boasting in the churchyard, that now they had got Blackerby out of the pulpit, a woman, standing by, replied, “Blackerby will preach in Hundon pulpit when you will be roaring in hell;” and it was observed, that the very Sabbath after this man was buried, Mr. Blackerby, having obtained his liberty, preached on that day in Hundon pulpit.
After the persecuting prelates were stripped of their oppressive and tyrannical power, and conformity was no longer required to their superstitious ceremonies, Mr. Blackerby was chosen pastor of Great Thurlow in Suffolk, where he continued the remainder of his days, laboring, with zeal and faithfulness, to promote the glory of God, and the best interests of men. He was taken ill in the pulpit, and continued in a weak state for six weeks, though he kept his bed only for two days, when he died, in 1648, aged seventy-four years.
Mr. Blackerby was a man of exemplary character, as appears from the account given us by Mr. Clark. “During his long life (says this author) he never seemed to lose a moment in idleness; but, like a wise man, occupied his leisure hours in preparing and providing for a state of immortality. He rose early both in winter and summer, and spent the whole day in reading, meditation, and prayer, or in the instruction of others. He was ever conscientious in the discharge of the duties of family religion. He instructed his pupils daily in the knowledge of religion and the practice of piety, as well as in useful learning, and walked before them in love, holiness, and propriety of conduct and; conversation. Young students from the university put themselves under his tuition, that they might be, in fact, prepared for the work of the ministry, to whom he taught Hebrew, explained the scriptures, read lectures on divinity; and gave instructions relative to learning, doctrine, moral conduct, and ministerial duty.”
He was, a strict observer of the Sabbath, and particular careful to recommend the observance of that holy day to others. Being once: invited to, preach at Linton in, Cambridgeshire, where a fain was; kept on the Lord’s day, he so effectually convinced the inhabitants of the sin and shamefulness of the practice, that, it is said, the fair was ever often kept on another day of the week. This holy man was crucified to; the. world, and the world was crucified, to him; and though no man had a moral regard for his relations and friends, that loss, of them, never discomposed his, mind, nor interrupted his communion with God. The love of the creature could never draw his heart and affections away from the Creator. He had often, before his death, declared, that for more than forty years he never had; a single doubt of his salvation. He was accounted the best Hebrew scholar in Cambridge; and Granger accounts him perfectly skilled, in the learned languages.