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John Dod (1549-1645)

A celebrated puritan divine, exceedingly useful in the Christian ministry.
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“Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.” – John Dod

His Works:

Mr. Dod was commonly called the Decalogist, because he and Mr. Robert Cleaver, another puritan minister, published “An Exposition of the Ten Commandments,” in 1635. They also published, “The Patrimony of Christian Children;” and were authors of, “ Ten Sermons to fit Men for the Worthy Receiving of the Lord’s Supper.” He also wrote a commentary on the book of Proverbs.


Biography of John Dod:

John Dod (1549-1645) was a celebrated divine born at Shotwich in Cheshire, about the year 1549. He was the youngest of seventeen children, and educated in Jesus college, Cambridge; where he continued nearly sixteen years, and was chosen fellow of the house. During his residence in the university, he became thoroughly convinced of his sins, fell to deep humiliation, and earnestly pursued the blessings of pardon and peace through Jesus Christ; which, to his unspeakable comfort, he at last obtained. While at Cambridge he was particularly intimate with Dr. Fulke, Dr. Chadderton, Dr. Whitaker, and others, who held their weekly meetings for prayer and expounding the scriptures. In the year 1615, he was elected proctor of the university.[1] Having received an invitation to become pastor at Hanwell in Oxfordshire, he left the university, and entered on the stated exercises of the Christian ministry. In this situation he preached frequently, catechized the youth, and united with others in a weekly lecture at Banbury.

Dod’s labors at Hanwell were numerous, and most extensively useful. It is observed that hundreds of souls were converted at this place under his ministry.[2] He was about thirty years old when he first settled at Hanwell, and remained there about twenty years. He had twelve children by his first wife, the daughter of Dr. Nicholas Bound. After her death he took a second wife, and was married by his old friend Dr. William Gouge.

Mr. Dod’s great popularity and usefulness in his ministry roused the envy of several neighboring ministers, who, though they seldom preached themselves, would not allow their people to go and hear him. And for the singular crime of multitudes flocking to his ministry, several times he was questioned in the bishops’ courts.[3] In addition to this, being exercised with some other trials, he was induced to consult Mr. Greenham, his excellent father-in-law. This reverend divine, after hearing his complaints, said, “Son, son, when affliction lies heavy, sin lies light.” On this he gave Mr. Dod such suitable advice, that he had abundant cause to bless God for it, and found it of excellent use all the rest of his days. However, he was at length suspended from his ministry at Hanwell by Dr. Bridges, bishop of Oxford. Being driven from his affectionate and beloved people, he preached a short time at Fenny Compton in Warwickshire, then accepted an invitation to Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire. In the latter situation he was treated with peculiar kindness by Sir Erasmus Dryden, a gentleman of great learning and piety; but he did not continue long without trouble. For, on the complaint of Bishop Neile, he was silenced by the archbishop.[4]

Though this excellent divine was cast aside, he did not remain idle. When his efforts of public usefulness were set aside, he went about from house to house, giving private instructions; and by his pious discourse and holy deportment, he was nearly as useful as when he enjoyed his public ministry.[5] He was particularly desirous of a more pure reformation of the church,[6] and therefore united with his brethren in subscribing the “Book of Discipline.”[7] He continued under the above suspension several years. But on the accession of King James, Sir Richard Knightly gained him his liberty; and he renewed his ministerial labors at Fausley in Northamptonshire. There he continued in great reputation and usefulness all the rest of his days. Here, also, he felt the iron rod of the prelates; and, as in the three former situations, he was for a time suspended from his public ministry.[8]

Mr. Dod was a pattern of patience. He bore his numerous trials with great meekness of spirit and holy resignation to the will of God. He used to say, “Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.” In the sixty-third year of his age, he labored under extreme bodily affliction, and was brought to the very brink of the grave. But when the physician, who gave a check to his complaint, told him he had some hope of his recovery, the good old man replied, “You think to comfort me by what you say; but you make me sad. It is the same as if you had told one who had been sorely weather-beaten at sea, and was expecting to enter the desired haven, that he must return to sea, to be tossed by fresh winds and waves.” Having a comfortable assurance of heaven, he was desirous to leave the world, and to, “be with Christ.” And as he enjoyed much divine consolation in his own mind; so, in numerous remarkable instances, he administered the same to others.

This venerable divine used to say, “I have no reason to complain of any crosses, because they are the bitter fruit of my sin. Nothing shall hurt us but sin; and that shall not hurt us, if we can repent of it. And nothing can do us good but the love and favor of God in Christ; and that we shall have if we seek it in good earnest. Afflictions are God’s potions, which we may sweeten by faith and prayer; but we often make them bitter, by putting into God’s cup the ill ingredients of impatience and unbelief. There is no affliction so small but we shall sink under it, if God uphold us not: and there is no sin so great but we shall commit it, if God restrain us not. A man who hath the spirit of prayer hath more than if he hath all the world. And no man is in a bad condition, but he who hath a hard heart and cannot pray.”

During the civil wars,[9] when some of the king’s party came to his house, and threatened to take away his life, this heavenly divine, with holy confidence replied, “If you do, you will send me to heaven, where I long to be; but you can do nothing except God give you leave.” When they broke open his chests and cupboards, and carried away what they pleased. His only complaint was, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of’ the Lord.” When they came a second time, he was confined to his bed by sickness; but though they cut away the curtains from his bed, and took the pillow-cases from under his head, he uttered not a murmuring word.[10] Coming a third time, and having taken most of the linen and household stuff, and brought them into the room in which the good old man sat warming himself by the fire; he, during their absence to search for more, took a pair of sheets, and put them under the cushion on which he sat, greatly pleasing himself. After they were gone, he had plundered the plunderers, and, by a lawful robbery, saved so much of his own property.[11]

Mr. Dod was exceedingly beloved, though not without his enemies. These, out of malice, stigmatized him for his Faith and Repentance; because he was constantly recommending these two things. He was a person of great moderation; and when he was questioned about subscription’ and the ceremonies, he was always equally ready to give his opinion, and cautious in giving his advice. He urged all who desired his opinion on these points, to take heed against being influenced by the example or arguments of others, but to look to God and his holy word for direction. He used to ask them whether they could suffer in that cause alone, if all others were dead. Though he was a strict nonconformist, and bore his share of sufferings in the cause, he was of a most liberal spirit, and loved all who loved Christ.

As old age and afflictions came on him, he usually compared himself to Samson when his hair was cut; saying, “I rise in the morning as Sampson did, and think I will go forth as at other times; but, alas! I soon find an alteration: I must stoop to old age, which hath dipped my hair, and taken away my strength. But I am not afraid to look death in the face. I can say, death, where is thy sting? Death cannot hurt me. To a wicked man death is unwelcome; but to a child of God, who hath labored and suffered much, death is welcome, that he may rest from his labors.” During his last sickness he was exercised with most grievous pains, but was eminently supported and comforted in the exercise of faith and patience. He wrestled hard with Satan, and at last overcame. He longed to be with Christ, and his desire was granted. His last words were, “I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.” He finished his course, and received the crown of righteousness in the year 1645, aged ninety-six years, when his remains were interred in Fausley church.

Dr. Lloyd gives the following account of this venerable divine: “Mr. Dod,” he says, “had no delight in contradiction, nor could he find in his heart to disturb the peace of the church. He was so far from it, that, as I have frequently heard from his grandchild and others, when some thought their dissents ground enough for a war, he declared himself against it, and confirmed others in their allegiance. He professed to the last a just hatred of that horrid rebellion.”[12] The celebrated Archbishop Usher had the highest opinion of him, and said, “Whatever some affirm of Mr. Dod’s strictness, and scrupling some ceremonies, I desire that when I die my soul may rest with his.” Wood describes him “a learned and godly divine.”[13] Fuller describes him as, “patient, humble, meek, and charitable; an excellent scholar, especially in Latin and Hebrew, and exceedingly profitable in conversation. He was a good chemist, to extract gold out of other men’s lead; and however loose were the premises of other men’s discourse, piety was always his unforced conclusion.”[14] He is classed among the learned writers of Jesus College, Cambridge.[15] Echard calls him “a learned decalogist, an exquisite Hebrician, and a most pious and hospitable divine;” and says, “he was highly valued by all good men.”[16] Granger observes, “that in learning he was excelled by few, and in unaffected piety by none. Nothing was ever objected to this meek and humble man but his being a puritan.”[17] His sayings have been often printed, and are still to be seen pasted on the walls of cottages. An old woman in his neighborhood, he adds, told him, “that she would have gone distracted for the loss of her husband, if she had been without Mr. Dod’s sayings in her house.”

It is recorded of Mr. Dod, that one evening, being late in his study, his mind was strongly impressed, though he could assign no reason for it, to visit a gentleman of his acquaintance, at a very unseasonable hour. Not knowing the design of providence, he obeyed and went. When he came to the house, after knocking a few times at the door, the gentleman himself came, and inquired whether he wanted him on any particular business. Mr. Dod having answered in the negative, and signified that he could not rest until he had seen him, the gentleman replied, “O, sir, you are sent of God at this very hour; for I was just now going to kill myself,” and immediately pulled the gun out of his pocket, by which he had intended to commit the horrid deed. In this way the deed was prevented.

It is observed of Mr. Dod, that a person being once enraged at his close and awakening doctrine, picked a quarrel with him, struck him in the face, and dashed out two of his teeth. This meek and lowly servant of Christ, without taking the least offence, spit out the teeth and blood into his hand, and said, “See here, you have knocked out two of my teeth, without any just provocation; but on condition I might do your soul good, I would give you leave to dash out all the rest.” So, Mr. Dod was not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

[1] Fuller’s History of Camb. p. 139.

[2] Clark’s Live’s annexed to his Martyrologie, p, 165, 169. Vol. 3.

[3] Clark’s Live’s annexed to Martyrologie, p. 170.

[4] Bishop Neile of Durham and Bishop Andrews of Winchester, attending King James, and they had the following conversation with him: “His majesty, always intent upon his prerogative, asked the bishops, “My lords, cannot I take my subjects’ money when I want it, without all this formality in parliament?” The Bishop of Durham readily answered, “God forbid, sir, but you should; you are the breath of our nostrils.” Upon this the king turned, and said to the Bishop of Winchester, “Well, my lord, what say you?” “Sir,” replied the bishop, “I have no skill to judge of parliamentary cases.” The king answered, “No do not put it off my lord and answer me presently.” “Then, sir,” said he, “I think it lawful for you to take my brother Neile’s money, for he offers it.” This pleasantry afforded great entertainment to the company.—Biog. Brilan. vol. i. p. 185. Edit. 1778.

[5] Clark’s Live’s annexed to Martyrologie, p. 170.’

[6] Fuller’s Worthies, part i. p. 181.

[7] Neal’s Puritans, vol. 1. p. 423.

[8] Fuller’s Worthies, part i. p. 181.

[9] The first ill blood between King Charles and his subjects, which afterwards led to all the horrors of civil war, was occasioned by the severe proceedings in the high commission court, and the cruel censures in the star-chamber; in both of which the court clergy were allowed too much power.—Biog. Britan. vol. i. p. 372.

[10] Clark’s Live’s, p. 174, 175.

[11] Fuller’s Church Hist. i. p. 880.

[12] Biog. Britan. vol. iii. p. 436-9.

[13] Wood’s Athena, vol. i. p. 758.

[14] Fuller’s Worthies, part i. p. 181.

[15] Church Hist. b. xi. p. 220.

[16] Echurd’s Hist. of Eng. vol. ii. p. 543.

[17] Granger’s Biog. Hist. vol. i. p. 370.


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