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Puritan Memoirs - Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs

Puritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers

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The life and death of Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs.

THIS amiable divine was born 1599, and educated at Cambridge, from which university, as well as from the kingdom, he was forced to retire on account of his nonconformity. Having finished his studies in the university, he entered on, the ministerial work, and was chosen colleague to Mr. Edmund Calamy, at Bury St. Edmund’s. In the year 1631 be became rector of Titshall in Norfolk county; but upon the publication of bishop Wren’s Visitation Articles, in 1633, he was suspended, and deprived of his living. From the intolerable oppression of the ruling ecclesiastics, Mr. Burroughs sheltered himself for some time under the hospitable roof of the patriotic earl of Warwick; but the noble earl, unable to afford him any longer protection, he soon found it necessary to retire into Holland, from the persecution that raged in England against the puritans, After his arrival in Holland he settled at Rotterdam} where be became teacher to the congregational church, of which Mr. William Bridge was the pastor. He is charged with having attempted to bribe the bishop’s chancellor with &n offer of forty pounds, after being suspended, and of sailing into Holland, and returning, disguised in the habit of a soldier, with a great quantity of libelous pamphlets for circulation in England; on which account he is said to have been deprived for his non-residence. Mr. Edwards, however, has given a very different account of ibis affair; and says, that for speaking against the Scotch war, in a company which he could not trust, he fled to Rotterdam for fear of the consequences, at which he (Mr. Edwards) greatly stumbled. Animadverting on this misrepresentation, Mr. Burroughs observes, “That had Mr. Edwards conferred with him on that matter, before be put his book to the press, as he had requested him to do, he would have given him such complete satisfaction respecting his leaving the kingdom, that he neither could have stumbled himself, nor caused others to stumble. I am so fully clear in that business, says he, that I wiped off before my lord of Warwick, every thing that might have the appearance of indiscretion, not by my own testimony, but by that of two gentlemen, which, beside the accuser, were all that were in company while that affair was spoken of. The truth is, no such speeches were made. That I fled to Rotterdam, in all haste, is equally uncandid and untrue. It was four or five months after this accusation before I went to Rotterdam. Had not the prelatical faction been incensed against me, for standing out against their superstitions, I could have stood to what I had spoken, as I only put some queries, but affirmed nothing. But I knew how dangerous the times were, and what the power of the prelatical party at that time was: That they were extremely incensed against me, and that, in my case, innocence itself could afford me no security. I had been deprived of any living by bishop Wren, where, I believe, I suffered as great a brunt as most of those who remained in England; though Mr. Edwards has been pleased to say we fled that we might be safe ashore, while our brethren were enduring the tempest at sea Four or five months having thus elapsed since my accusation, I began to think all would blow over, when my lord of Warwick, falling sick in London, sent for me, with whom I remained three weeks, going freely up and down the city. My lord, who knew the whole affair, was also of opinion that the storm was over; and when I was thus in hopes that I bad been set free from my accuser, a messenger from Rotterdam arrived, with a call to me in writing, signed by the elders, and many other hands, in the name of the church; upon which we agreed upon the time when, and, the place where, we should meet in Norfolk, to make a full conclusion, and prepare for our voyage.”

Upon Mr. Burroughs’ arrival at Rotterdam, he was cordially received by the church, where he continued a zealous and faithful laborer for several years, and gained a very high reputation among the people. After the commencement of the civil war; when the power of the bishops was no longer dangerous, he returned to England, says Granger, not to preach sedition, but peace; for which he earnestly prayed and contended. As a divine, Mr. Burroughs was greatly honored and esteemed, and became a most popular and admired preacher. He was chosen by the congregations of Stepney and Cripplegate, London, at that time accounted two of the largest congregations in England. Mr. Burroughs preached at Stepney at seven o’clock in the; morning, and Mr.; William Greenhill at three in the afternoon. These tw6 men, whom Wood stigmatizes’ with the name of notorious schismatics and independents, were denominated, by Hugh Peters, the morning and evening stars of Stepney.

Mr. Burroughs was chosen one of the assembly of divines, and was one of the dissenting brethren, but a divine of great wisdom and moderation. He united, with Mr. Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye, and Sydrach Sympson, in publishing their Apologetical Narration, in defense of their own peculiar sentiments. The authors of this work, who had all been exiles for their religion, to speak in their own language, consulted the scriptures without prejudice. They considered the word of God as impartially as men of flesh and blood are likely to do, in any juncture of time; the place they went to, the condition they were in, and the company they were with, affording no temptation to any bias whatever. They assert, that every “congregation has power within itself sufficient to regulate and govern all religious concerns, and is subject to no external spiritual authority whatever. The principles upon which they founded their church government, were to confine themselves, in every particular, to what the scriptures prescribe, without the least regard to either the opinions or practice of men, leaving themselves room for alterations upon receiving additional light from the word of God.”

In conformity with these principles, Mr. Burroughs united with his brethren in writing and publishing their reasons against certain propositions concerning presbyterial government. In 1645 he was chosen one of the committee of accommodation, and was especially serviceable in their important deliberations. He possessed uncommon candor and moderation; and during their debates, he made a declaration in the name of the independents, “That unless their congregations could be exempted from the coercive power of the classes, and left to govern themselves in their own way, so long as they conducted them, selves with propriety toward the civil magistrate, they were resolved to suffer, or retire to some other place of the world, where they could enjoy the liberty of conscience. For, said he, so long as men continue to think there can be no religious peace without forcing all into one opinion; so long as they consider the sword an ordinance of God to determine all religious controversy; that fines, imprisonment, and persecution, are the only means for reclaiming the disobedient; and that there is no middle course between an exact conformity and a general confusion—there must, of necessity, be a base subjection of men’s consciences to the most unsufferable slavery, a suppression of much truth, and the whole Christian world remain a scene of animosity and universal discord.”

After his return from exile, Mr. Burroughs never gathered a separate congregation, nor accepted of any parochial benefice, but continued to exhaust his strength by constant preaching, and other ministerial services, for the advantage of the church of Christ. He was of a meek and amiable spirit, yet had he some bitter enemies, who, to their own disgrace, poured upon him the bitterest falsehoods. Mr. Edwards, whose pen was often dipped in gal, heaps upon him many reproachful and unfounded reflections. This peevish and bigoted writer warmly censures Mr. Burroughs for propagating his own sentiments on church government, and even for pleading for a general toleration; but our divine, with his usual candor, repelled the foolish charges, proved his own innocence, and exposed the malevolence of his enemy.

The last subject on which Mr. Burroughs preached, and which he also published, was his Irenicum, or an Attempt to Heal the Divisions among Christian Professors. His incessant labors, and the grief occasioned by the distractions of the times, greatly contributed to hasten his end. He died of a consumption] November 14th, 1646, in the forty-seventh year of his age. Granger says, “He was a man of learning, candor, and modesty; in his life irreproachable, and highly exemplary.” Fuller has classed him with the learned writers of Emanuel college, Cambridge. Dr. Williams says, “That his exposition of Hosea is a pleasing specimen of the popular mode of preaching, and serves to show with what facility the preachers of his time applied the scriptures to the various cases of their hearers in their expository discourses. He published several of his writings while he lived, and his friends sent forth many others after his death, most of them were highly esteemed by all pious Christians.”

His works, are, 1. Moses’ Choice.—2. Sion’s Joy, a Sermon, preached to the Honorable House of Commons at their Public Thanksgiving, September 7th, 1641.—3. An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea.—4. The Lord’s Heart Opened.—5. A Vindication of Mr. Burroughs against Mr. Edward’s Foul Aspersions, in his spreading Gangarena, and his angry Antapologia, concluding with a brief Declaration of what the Independents would have.—6. Irenicum, to the Lovers of Truth and Peace.—7. Two Treatises, the first of Earthlymindedness, the second of Conversing in Heaven, and Walking with God.—8. An Exposition of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of Hosea. 9. An Exposition upon the 8th and 9th chapters of Hosea.— 10. _ The rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.—11. Gospel Worship.—12. Gospel Conversation.—13. The Evil of Evils, or the exceeding Sinfulness of Sin.—14. The Saint’s Treasury. 15. Of Hope and Faith, and the Saint’s Walk by Faith.—16. Reconciliation, or Christ’s Trumpet of Peace.—17. The Saint’s Happiness.—18. A Treatise of Holy Carriage in Evil Times.— 19. True Blessedness, which consists in the Pardon of Sin.— 20. Four useful Discourses.

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