Puritan Memoirs - Mr. John CopingPuritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers
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THIS maltreated individual was minister near Bury, St., Edmund’s; a zealous puritan of the Brownist persuasion, and an almost unparalleled sufferer for nonconformity. In 1576 he was brought into trouble by the bishop of Norwich’s commissary, and committed to prison at Bury, where he was charged with maintaining the following opinions: “That unpreaching ministers were dumb dogs: That whoever kept saints’ days were idolaters: That the queen, having sworn to keep God’s law, and set forth his glory as appointed in the scriptures, but did not lay perjured: That for six months he had refused to have his own, child baptized, because he had determined that none should baptize it who did not preach; and that he would not. admit a godfather or godmother on the occasion.” Mr. Coping having, for these offences, remained in prison two years, and still refusing to conform, was brought before justice Andrews, December 1578, when the above false and malicious opinions, as they were pleased to call them, were proved against him. Mr. Coping, continuing steadfast to his principles, and resolved not to sacrifice a good conscience on the altar of conformity, was remanded to prison; where he remained almost five years more. Mr. Elias Thacker, another minister of the same denomination, was his fellow prisoner. After these two men had suffered this lingering and painful confinement, they were indicted, tried, and condemned, for circulating certain books, said to be seditiously written, by Thomas Brown, against the book of common prayer. Brown’s book, for the circulating of which these men were condemned, was charged with sedition, inasmuch as it acknowledged the supremacy of the queen in civil matters only, not in matters ecclesiastical, thereby subverting the constitution of the established church. The judges laid hold on this construction, on purpose to aggravate their offence to the queen, whom they knew to be extremely jealous of her supremacy, as the sentence passed upon them was founded upon the 23rd Eliz. against seditious libels, and for refusing the oath of supremacy. Having received the sentence of death, they were both hanged at Bury, in the month of June 1589. Such was the resentment, and even the madness of their persecutors, that they collected together all that could be found of Brown’s books, prior to their execution, and burnt them before their eyes. Under all these unavailing barbarities, the two, champions of independence continued immoveable, and died sound in the faith, and with the reputation of holy and unblemished lives. It may be considered unfair to measure the transactions of those days of ignorance by the standard of present faith or feeling; but to hang men for circulating books, while the writer himself was pardoned and set at liberty, appears more like implacable revenge than even the severity of justice.