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Matthew Newcomen (1610-1669)

One of the most prolific Westminster puritans.
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“We, like foolish and unthankful wretches, gave away the honor of acquaintance and communion with God for an apple.”

Biography of Matthew Newcomen (1610–1669):

Matthew Newcomen (1610?–1669), ejected minister, and one of the authors of “SMECTYMNUS”, born at Colchester about 1610, was second son of Stephen Newcomen by his first wife, and second cousin of Elias Newcomen The father was the third son of John Newcomen, and Alice, daughter of John Gascoigne of Leasingcroft, Yorkshire. He was grandson of Brian, and great-grandson of Martyn le Newcomen (d. 1536), all of Saltfleetby, Lincolnshire. He was presented to the vicarage of St. Peter’s, Colchester, on July 18, 1600, and was enrolled a burgess of the town (Morant MSS., Colchester Museum). His will was proved on May 31, 1631.


Matthew was educated under William Kempe, at the Royal Grammar School of Colchester, and on 8 Nov. 1626 was elected the second scholar on the foundation of “Robert Lewis and Mary his wife,” at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He graduated with a B.A. in 1629, and an M.A. in 1633. Calamy says “he was much esteemed as a wit, and for his curious parts, which being afterwards sanctified by Divine grace fitted him for eminent service in the church.” On the death of John Rogers on Oct. 18, 1636, Newcomen was recommended by his friend John Knowles (1600?–1685), then lecturer at Colchester, to the lectureship, which was supported by voluntary contributions at Dedham, seven miles off.

Newcomen soon became the leader of the church reform party in Essex. He married the sister of Calamy’s wife, and assisted Calamy to write ‘smectymnuus” [see under Calamy, Edward, the elder], published in London in 1641. The authors at once became marked men, and on Nov. 24th, when Newcomen preached at the weekly lecture at Stowmarket, where Thomas Young, another Smectymnuan, was vicar, there were “abundance of ministers,” and a quart of wine was ‘sent for” at the lecture dinner (churchwarden’s accounts in Hollingsworth’s Hist. of Stowmarket, pp. 146, 189).

Newcomen, who drew up a catechism with John Arrowsmith (1602–1659) and Anthony Tuckney, was chosen one of the Westminster divines, and preached the opening sermon before the assembly and both houses of parliament on the afternoon of Saturday, July 7, 1643. He wishes that “their traducers might be witnesses of their learned, grave, and pious debates.” He was on the third committee, which met in the Jerusalem Chamber, and was to deal with Articles 8, 9, and 10. He was also on committees to “consider a way of expediting the examination of ministers,” to inquire of scandalous books, to petition parliament, and to communicate with the Scottish assembly.

Newcomen did not sign the petition for the presbyterian form of church government presented by the Essex and Suffolk clergy on May 29, 1646, but he drew up and signed, with one hundred and twenty-nine others, the “Testimony of the Ministers in Essex,” London, 1648.

When the “Agreement” was sent down for the signatures of the clergy, Essex men were again in arms, and headed by Rogers of Wethersfield, Collins of Braintree, Newcomen and his friend, George Smith, vicar of Dedham, they drew up “The Essex Watchmen’s Watchword,” London, 1649, protesting against evils lurking under its proposals, and especially against “one parenthesis [proposing toleration], which like the fly in the box of ointment may make it abhorrent in the nostrils of every one who is judicious and pious.”

Newcomen was appointed an assistant to the commission of “Triers of Scandalous Ministers,” &c., for Essex in 1654. In 1655 he was town lecturer at Ipswich (Browne, Hist. of Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk, pp. 152, 157). He refused the office of chaplain to Charles II at the Restoration, although Calamy, Young, Manton, Spurstow, and others accepted. He was a member of the Savoy conference in 1660, “the most constant,” Baxter wrote, “in assisting us.” On Oct. 10, 1661 he was created D.D. But “for such a man to declare unfeigned assent and consent, as required by the Act of Uniformity, was impossible” (Davids, Hist. of Evangel. Nonconf. in Essex). He preached his last sermon as lecturer at Dedham, on Aug. 20, 1662, on Rev. 3:3. He urged those “unable to enjoy public helps for sanctifying the Lord’s day at home, to travel to other congregations, or to redouble their fervor in secret and family devotion.” A few weeks later he preached “Ultimum Vale, or the Last Farewell of a Minister of the Gospel to a beloved People,” London, 1663.

On July 30, 1662 the English community at Leyden was authorised by the magistrate to call Newcomen from Dedham. In December following he accepted the call, and became pastor of the English church there. Professor Hornbeck, and many others of the university, appreciated his abilities. In 1668 his congregation voted him a yearly salary of one thousand florins, with an additional five hundred on Feb. 1, 1669 (Leyden Stadtarchiv).

The name of “Newcomen, minister,” was included among fourteen persons warned home by a royal proclamation issued March 26, 1666, signed by Charles II on April 9, (State Papers, Dom. 1665–6, pp. 318, 342), but it was struck out owing to personal influence. Sir John Webster, under date March 5, 1667, wrote to the king from abroad, begging license to remain for himself, and also for “Mr. Nathaniel [an obvious error for Matthew] Newcomen, a poore preacher at Leyden, that hath a sicke wife and five poore and sicklye children. He came out of England with license, and liveth peaceably, not meddling with anie affaires in England, hath done nothing towards printing or dispersing bookes, and has constantly prayed for the King and Council. He humbly craveth to be exempt from the summons, and is readye to purge himself by word or oath before any Comissary yr. Majie. may appoint.” Webster says he writes at “the entreaty of several persons of respect, and by Mr. Richard Maden, preacher at Amsterdam” (ib. 1666–7, p. 549).

Newcomen died at Leyden about Sept. 1, 1669 of the plague. On Sept. 16th his funeral sermon was preached at Dedham by John Fairfax (1623–1700) [q.v.], ejected minister of Barking, Suffolk. Great numbers were present, and in the returns made to Sheldon that year the service is spoken of as “an outrageous conventicle.” The sermon was published under the title of “The Dead Saint yet speaking,” London, 1679. Newcomen’s widow was granted on March 13, 1670 permission to sell his books, and on 8 April she, meaning to return to England, was voted five hundred florins “in consideration of the good services of her deceased husband, and of her receiving as guests the preachers who came to Leyden since his death about seven months ago” (Leyden Stadtarchiv). Newcomen’s house at Dedham, “which cost him 600l.,” was purchased from his representatives in 1703 by a successor in the lectureship, William Burkitt the commentator, and, together with a sum collected by him, settled upon the lecturers (Letter from Burkitt, quoted in The Church in Dedham in the Seventeenth Century by the Rev. G. Taylor, D.C.L., lecturer, 1868).

Newcomen married in 1640 Hannah, daughter of Robert Snelling, M.P. for Ipswich 1614–25, sister of Edmund Calamy’s first wife, and widow of Gilbert Reyney or Rany, rector of St. Mary’s Stoke, Ipswich. Newcomen was her third husband, the first being one Prettiman (Hunter MSS.) Four sons and seven daughters were born to Newcomen at Dedham, but six died in early childhood, and were buried there. There were living in 1667 Stephen, baptised on Sept. 17, 1645; Hannah, baptised on March 9, 1647; Martha, March 30, 1651; Alice, July 25, 1652; and Sarah, Aug. 26, 1655. Stephen was inscribed a member of Leyden University on May 28, 1663, æt. 17, ‘student in philosophy.” It is probable that he was the father of Stephen Newcomen, vicar of Braintree 1709–38, donor to that living of a considerable sum of money as well as curious communion plate, and vicar of Boreham, Essex, from 1738 until his death, July 15, 1750, aged 72.

Matthew Newcomen is said to have written a work called “Irenicum,” which must not be confounded with Stillingfleet’s “Irenicum, a Weapon Salve for the Church’s Wounds,” 1662. He also published seven sermons separately, and is stated by Hunter (Chorus Vatum) to have written verses on the death of Richard Vines.

Matthew’s elder brother, Thomas Newcomen (1603–1665), born at Colchester about 1603, was educated at the Royal Grammar School there, and on 6 Nov. 1622 elected the first Lewis scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge (“Admissions,” in Essex Arch. Trans. vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 7, New Ser.) He graduated B.A. in 1624, and M.A. 1628–9. After holding the living of St. Runwald’s, Colchester, for a short time, he was presented on Nov. 10, 1628 to Holy Trinity. Unlike his puritan brother Matthew, he became a strong royalist, and in the parliamentarian town of Colchester was an object of marked hate. He was arrested at one o”clock on the morning of Aug. 22, 1642, as he was starting to join the royal army at Nottingham in the company of Sir John Lucas. An infuriated mob tore the clothes off his back, beat him with cudgels and halberds, and carried him to the Moot Hall. On the Friday following he was committed to the Fleet, where he remained until Sept 24. Complaints of Newcomen were laid before the committee for scandalous ministers in Essex on 2 April 1644, on the ground that he left his cure unprovided for, “when in town preached but seldom,” and refused to administer the sacrament except at the rails (State Papers, Dom. 1641–3, p. 520). He was no doubt sequestered, but was apparently allowed to return to his living. He was instituted to the rectory of Clothall, Hertfordshire, on June 12, 1653 (Cussans, Hertfordshire). At the Restoration he petitioned the king, as a “great sufferer for his loyalty, and a true sonne of the church,” for a mandamus to take his D.D. (State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, 163). This was issued in October 1660. He was also given a prebend at Lincoln in 1660 (Le Neve, Fasti, ii. 103). He died before May 31, 1665, when his successor at Clothall was appointed (Cussans). His eldest son, Stephen, born May 26, 1647, was admitted to Merchant Taylors” School 1655.

[For both Matthew Newcomen and his brother see Davids’s Evangelical Nonconformity in Essex, pp. 203, 227–8, 380–3; Newcourt’s Eccles. Rep. i. 620, ii. 182, 265; and the registers of St. John’s Coll. Cambridge, per the bursar, R. F. Scott, esq.

For Matthew alone see Calamy and Palmer’s Nonconf. Memorial, ii. 195–8, Continuation, ii. 294, Abridgement, p. 212; Neal’s Hist. of Puritans, iv. 389, 390 n.; Baxter’s Reliquiæ pp. 229, 232, 281, 303–7; Mitchell’s Westminster Assembly, pp. xviii, 138, 296, and his Minutes of the Session, pp. 304, 409, 419, 420, 423; Kennett’s Register, pp. 162, 188, 295, 398, 431, 546, 900; Stevens’s Hist. of the Scottish Church in Rotterdam, p. 315; Drysdale’s History of the Presbyterians in England; Trans. Essex Archæol. Soc. New Ser. vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 11; Baker’s MSS. Harl. 7046, ff. 272 d, 292 d; Hunter’s Chorus Vatum, Addit. MS. 24489, fol. 283, and 24492, fol. 19; Davey’s Athenæ Suffolcienses, Addit. MS. 19165, fol. 520; information from the registers of Dedham per the Rev. C. A. Jones; and from the Leyden Stadtarchiv, per C. M. Dory. For Thomas Newcomen see Walker’s Sufferings of the Clergy, pt. ii. p. 318; Mercurius Rusticus, pp. 1–6; Laud’s Hist. of the Troubles and Tryals, pp. 260–1; Sanderson’s Complete Hist. of the Life and Raigne of King Charles, 1658, p. 563; Addit. MS. 15669, fol. 259; Baker MS. Harl. 7046, fol. 272 d.; Cole MSS. xxviii. ff. 70, 71, Addit. MS. 5829.]



His Works:

God, the Best Acquaintance of Christians by Matthew Newcomen – eBook
Buy the Print Book HERE

The All-Seeing Unseen Eye of God and Other Sermons by Matthew Newcomen – eBook
Buy the Print Book HERE

The Works of Matthew Newcomen (1610-1669) available in old English:

1. [co-author] An Answer to a Book entitled, An Humble Remonstrance; in which, the Original of Liturgy and Episcopacy is discussed: and Queries propounded concerning both. The Parity of Bishops and Presbyters in Scripture demonstrated. The occasion of their Imparity in Antiquity discovered. The Disparity of the Ancient and our Modern Bishops manifested. The Antiquity of Ruling Elders in the Church vindicated. The Prelatical Church bounded. Written by Smectymnuus. 4to. pp. 94. 1641.
2. Smectymnuus Redivivus… Composed by five…divines. 4to. 1669.
3. The All-Seeing Unseen Eye of God; a Sermon from Heb. 4:13. preached before the Hon. House of Commons, Dec. 30th, 1646, being the day of their solemne monethly fast. 4to. London, 1647.
4. Another Sermon in the Country Collection, which is the last in the volume, from Acts 20:32. entitled, Ultimum Vale; or, The last Farewell of a Minister of the Gospel to a beloved people. pp. 78. London, 1663.
5. The Best Acquaintance, and Highest Honour of Christians. A Discourse on Job 22:21. A small book. London, 1668. (1679)
6. The Craft and Cruelty of the Churches Adversaries, discovered in a Sermon [on Neh. 4:11] preached at St. Margarets in Westminster before the Honourable House of Commons assembled in Parliament, Nov. 5, 1642. 4to. pp. 70. London, 1643.
7. The Duty of Such as would Walke worthy of the Gospel, to endeavour Union, not Division, nor Toleration; opened in a Sermon from Phil. 1:27 at Paul’s, upon the Lord’s day, 8th Feb. 1646. 4to. London, 1646.
8. An Endeavour of making the Principles of Christian religion…plain and easie. London, 1640.
9. Irenicum. Jersalem’s Watchmen, the Lord’s Remembrancers: a sermon on Isa. 62:6-7 preached…before both Houses of Parliament, and the Assembly of Divines, upon their solemn Fast, July 7, 1643. 4to. pp. 34. London, 1643.
10. Mr. M. Newcomen his farewel-sermon [on Rev. 3:3], preached at Dedham in Esses, Aug. 20, 1662. [in A compleat collection of Farewell Sermons] 8vo. 1663.
11. The Necessity and Encouragement, of Utmost Venturing for the Churches Help… . preached to the Honourable House of Commons, on the day of the Monthely solemn Fast, 28 June 1643. London, 1643.
12. Scripture and Reason pleaded for Defensive Armes: or the whole Controversie about Subjects taking up armes. Wherein besides other pamphlets, an Answer is punctually directed to Dr. Fernes Booke, entitled, Resolving of Conscience &c. London, 1643.
13. A Sermon on Acts 13:36 preached at the Funerals of …Mr Samuel Collins, Pastor of the Church of Christ at Braintree in Essex, who exchanged this life for immortality…in the year 1657. 8vo. London, 1658.
14. A Sermon on Josh. 7:10-11 tending to set forth the Right Use of the Disasters that befall our Armies: preached before the Hon. Houses of Parliament, at a fast specially set apart,… Sept. 12th, 1644. 4to. pp. 41. London, 1644.
15. The Upright Protestant, as he was reformed from the superstitious errours of Popery in the happy reignes of Edward the 6th, Qu. Elizabeth, and King James…and for which this…Parliament will live and die. London, 1643.


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