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Puritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers

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The life and death of Mr. Humphrey Fenn.

THIS reverend and learned divine was minister at Northampton for several years, and more than forty a faithful laborer in the church at Coventry, yet met he with many and severe oppressions for his nonconformity. While at Northampton, he was apprehended and committed to close confinement, and that for a long period; during which the inhabitants of that town presented a humble petition for restoring him to his liberty and the exercise of his office. It is not evident what was the result of this application in his behalf; but it is most probable he never returned to Northampton. Having at length procured his liberty, it would appear that he commenced his ministerial labors at Coventry. The oppressed puritans, anxious to be relieved from the galling fetters with which they had long been bound, Mr. Fenn was unanimously chosen, by the puritan ministers in London, to accompany the earl of Leicesteirin laying a statement of their sufferings and their requests before those in public authority; but with what success this was attended we are unable to give any account. Mr. Fenn, however, consented, saying, “That he was ever ready to run when the church commanded him.” This conscientious puritan accounted it highly improper to receive the sacrament from the hands of a dumb, that is, an unpreaching clergyman, or to attend the service of the church where there was no sermon used.

Upon the persecutions that followed the publication of Whitegift’s three articles, he was cited to appear at Lambeth before the archbishop, when he was urged, by many arguments, to subscribe; all which he answered, giving cogent reasons for his refusal: But his reasons not satisfying the commissioners, be remained a long time in prison, during which period his flock was totally neglected. But it appears from his own letter to the archbishop,’ that the Earl of Leicester had spoken in his behalf, so that be was at, length restored to his ministry at Coventry, where, though he might probably enjoy peace for a season, his persecutors were not yet done with him. In the year; 1591 the information was exhibited against him; and many of his brethren, for being concerned in the puritan classes, attending their associations and subscribing their book of discipline. Accordingly, they were all apprehended and committed to prison; These conscientious sufferers, during their confinement, presented a long letter to the queen, dated April 1592, wherein, at great length, they refuted the calumnies brought against them by ignorant or evil designing men, and vindicated, the propriety of their conduct under the circumstances with which they were environed; But how long after this time they remained in prison is uncertain. On Mr. Eenn’s release, it appears he returned to Coventry; where he remained the rest of his days, and died in a firm attachment to those principles for which he so severely suffered, and which he so heroically defended. Mr. Clark says concerning him, that he was famous for his ministry, and also for his nonconformity, in the city of Coventry; and that, in his last will and testament, he so fully and openly protested against the hierarchy and ceremonies of the national church, that when his will came to be proved, the prelates, or those of their party, would not suffer it to have a place amongst the records of the court.

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