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Samuel Lee (1625-1691)

A Puritan, Gospel Preacher and great puritan writer who lived both in England and New England.
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Secret prayer is “the invisible flight of the soul into the bosom of God.”

Biography of Samuel Lee (1625-1691):


Samuel Lee (1625–1691) was a puritan divine, born in 1625. He was the only son of Samuel Lee, haberdasher of small wares in Fish Street Hill, London. He was probably connected with the Lees of Cheshire, for which county he entertained “an exuberant and natural love.”[1] He was educated at St. Paul’s School under Dr. Gill, entered Magdalen Hall, Oxford, in 1647, and was created M.A. by the parliamentary visitors on April 14, 1648. He was elected fellow of Wadham College on October 3, 1648, was recommended for a fellowship at Merton in 1649, and was appointed to one at All Souls in 1650, but nevertheless remained at Wadham. He was elected proctor for 1651, objection on the ground of insufficient standing being overruled by the parliamentary visitors, and he was admitted April 9, 1651. He was bursar of his college in 1648, 1650, and 1664, sub-warden in 1652, and dean in 1653. From about 1650 he was a constant preacher in and near Oxford, although he had not received orders from a bishop.

After preaching in London he was, in 1654, recalled to his duties at Wadham by the visitors of that year. He gave up his rooms on June 13, 1656, and vacated his fellowship in 1657. In July 1655 he was made minister of St. Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, by Cromwell, and occupied the church until August 1659, when he was removed by a committee of the Hump parliament. Towards the end of the Protectorate he was also lecturer of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate. After the Restoration he became a member of John Owen’s congregation in Leadenhall Street, preached in various London churches, and occasionally resided on an estate he possessed at Bignal, near Bicester in Oxfordshire. On the death of John Rowe (October 12, 1677) he became joint pastor with Theophilus Gale of Howe’s congregation in Baker’s Court, Holborn; but in the following year, on Gale’s death, removed to Newington Green, where he was minister of an independent congregation until Lee migrated to New England in 1686, and on the formation of a church at Bristol in Rhode Island was chosen minister on May 8, 1687, but after the revolution he decided to return to England. He sailed from Boston October 2, 1691. His ship was seized by a French privateer and taken to St. Malo. His wife and daughter were separated from him and, unknown to him, were sent to England. Overcome with grief, he died at St. Malo of a fever about December 1691, and was buried obscurely outside the town. In his will he left property to his wife Martha, and books and manuscripts to his four daughters, Rebecca, Anna, Lydia, and Elizabeth. His daughter Lydia married John George, a merchant of Boston, and after George’s death became, on July 5, 1716, the third wife of Cotton Mather. She died in January 1733-1734.

Lee was a good scholar, speaking Latin fluently, and being well acquainted with chemistry and medicine. Cotton Mather considered that “hardly ever a more universally learned person trod the American strand.”[2] He had studied astrology, but afterwards destroyed many books and manuscripts on the subject that he had collected. Lee inclined more to Independency than to Presbyterianism, but rigidly professed neither. Bishop Wilkins, his former tutor, vainly urged him to conform at the Restoration. He was charitable, and contributed generously to the Hungarian ministers taking refuge in England.

His works:

Lee wrote, in the name of the printer, H. Hall, a Latin epistle to the reader, for the fifth edition of Helvicus’ “Theatrum Historicum,” Oxford, 1651, and continued the work from 1629 to the date of publication.[3] The epistle was reprinted in the sixth edition, Oxford, 1662, when Lee further supplied a treatise, “De Antiquitate Academiæ Oxoniensis,” etc., and “Tractatulus ad Periodum Julianum spectans” (both in the name of the printer), and continued the work to 1662. His “Chronicum Cestrenæ” was published in Daniel King’s “Vale Royal of England,” London, 1656.[4] Other of his works were:

  1. ‘Orbis Miraculum, or the Temple of Solomon,’ London, 1659, 1665, printed at the expense of the university of Oxford. This book was plagiarized by one Christopher Kelly, who reproduced the last part as ‘Solomon’s Temple spiritualized’ at Dublin in 1803. It was again published as Kelly’s in 1820, at Philadelphia.[5]
  2. ‘De Excidio Anti-christi,’ 1659.
  3. ‘What means may be used towards the Conversion of our Carnal Relations?’ London, 1661; in Annesley’s ‘Morning Exercises,’ 1677 and 1844.
  4. ‘Contemplations on Mortality,’ London, 1669.
  5. ‘The Visibility of the True Church,’ in Vincent’s ‘Morning Exercises,’ 1675; Annesley, 1845.
  6. ‘How to manage Secret Prayer,’ in Annesley’s ‘Supplement,’ 1676 and 1844.
  7. ‘The Triumph of Mercy,’ London, 1677; Boston, 1718.
  8. ‘Ecclesia Gemens’ (anon.), London, 1677, 1678, 1679.
  9. ‘Israel Redux,’ London, 1677, 1678, 1679, including a hitherto unprinted essay on the Ten Tribes by Giles Fletcher, LL.D.
  10. ‘The Joy of Faith,’ Boston, 1687; London, 1689. ‘A Discourse of the Nature, Property, and Fruit of the Christian Faith,’ London, 1702, mentioned by Wood, appears to be a fresh issue of the same work.

After Lee’s death appeared “The Great Day of Judgment,” an assize sermon, Boston, 1692, 1694, 1696. He published a collection of thirty sermons by John Rowe, under the title of “Emmanuel, or the Love of Christ,” London, 1680, and is believed to have been the “S.L.” who wrote the preface to Thomas Mall’s “History of the Martyrs epitomised.” “An Answer to many Queries relative to America,” mentioned among his works under date 1690, was probably never printed. A manuscript letter of 1690, bearing a similar title, from Lee to “the very learned Dr. Nehemiah Grew,” is among the Sloane collection of letters in the British Museum (Add. MS. 4051).

For further reading:

Allen’s American Biog. Dict.; Wood’s Athenæ (Bliss) ii. cols. 345-7; Wood’s Fasti (Bliss) ii. cols. 111, 164; Palmer’s Nonconformist’s Memorial, i. 104-6; Calamy’s Contin. pp. 54-5; Gardiner’s Admission Registers of St. Paul’s School, p. 463; Gardiner’s Registers of Wadham College, pp. 172-3; Registers of Visitors of Oxford (Camden Society), pp. 476, 525-6, 562; Wood’s Hist. and Antiq. (Gutch), App. p. 137; CaL State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1655, p. 254; Churchwardens’ Yearly Accounts of St. Botolph’s, 1655-9 (manuscript); Commons’ Journals, vii. 770; Thomson’s Life of Owen, p. 139; Wilson’s Dissenting Churches, iii. 168; Wilson’s MSS. in Dr. Williams’s library (London and Suburbs), p. 256; Drake’s Cotton Mather, p. 14; Sprague’s American Pulpit, pp. 209-10; Dunn’s Eminent Divines, pp. 28-9; Kennett’s Reg. p. 673; Halkett and Laing’s Dict. of Anon, and Pseudon. Lit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.



[1] See Chron. Cestrense, p. 1.

[2] Magnalia, edit. 1853, i. 602

[3] See pages 166-185 of that volume.

[4] See pages 3-25 of that volume.

[5] Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xi. 375, 486.



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