Puritan Memoirs - Mr. John DuryPuritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers
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THIS persevering Christian pacificator, according to Wood, was born in Scotland. He became a sojourner in the University of Oxford in 1624, for the sake of the public library. After this he travelled into various countries, particularly through most parts of Germany, where he visited the recesses of the muses. Here he continued so long, and spake their language so fluently, that after his return to England, he was often taken for a native German.
Mr. Dury was, for many years, engaged in a design of uniting the Lutherans and Calvinists; or, as he himself expresses h, “For making and settling a protestant union, and peace in the churches beyond seas.” The following account of Mr. Dury’s exertions, in prosecuting this bold undertaking, comes from one who censured both the man and his whole project: “He made a remarkable figure (says he) in his time, running up and down, with enthusiastic zeal, for uniting the Lutherans and Calvinists. He was so strongly prepossessed with the hopes of ultimate success, that no difficulties could discourage him, nor apparent impossibilities, induce him to relinquish the object of his pursuit. That he might be at full liberty to range the Christian world to promote the desired object, he applied for, and obtained, a dispensation of nonresidence on his living: he not only procured a license for the purpose, but even the approbation and recommendation of archbishop Laud, and had encouragement and pecuniary assistance from bishop Hall and the bishop of Kilmpre, he began by publishing his plan of union in 1634; and during the same year he appeared in a famous assembly of Lutherans at Frankfort, in Germany. The churches of Transylvania likewise sent him their advice and counsel the same year; after which he negotiated with the divines of Sweden and Denmark. He consulted the universities; communicated their answers; he directed his attention to every quarter, and conferred with the learned in most places of the continent, and obtained their approbation of his design. His project, however, was much ridiculed, which only served to inflame his zeal, and give renovating vigour to his exertions. He seems to have been an honest man, but enthusiastical. His notions were but idle fancies, and his whole scheme equally wild and impracticable.” (Biog. Britan. vol. vii. p. 4383, Edit. 1747).
Notwithstanding the censorious remarks of this writer, it is evident that Mr. Dury’s undertaking was patronized and encouraged by many celebrated divines. In 1635 he corresponded on this subject with the learned Mr. Joseph Mede, requesting his thoughts on the best method of prosecuting and promoting the design; stating also the manner in which be had addressed the Batavian churches on that subject. Mr. Mede most cordially approved of his pacific endeavors, commended his method of addressing the foreign churches, and spoke of his abilities in terms of the highest approbation; but expressed his doubts as to the success of his labors. “From his wisdom and abilities therein (says he), I am fitter to receive instruction than to censure or give direction.” Mr. Dury communicated his design to the most celebrated of the New England divines, who signified their hearty concurrence in his generous undertaking. Mr. Baxter also informs us, that “Mr. Dury, having spent thirty years in his endeavors to reconcile the Lutherans and Calvinists, was again going abroad on the same business. He desired the judgment of our association (says he), how it might be most advantageously accomplished; upon which, at their desire, I drew up a letter more largely, in Latin, and more briefly in English.”
On the commencement of the civil war, Mr. Dury espoused the cause of parliament, and was chosen one of the superadded members of the Westminster assembly. He took the covenant with the rest of his brethren, and was appointed one of the committee of accommodation. It is said that he afterwards joined the independents, took the engagement, and all other oaths that were imposed under the commonwealth. He was a man of the most disinterested and worthy character, much revered and beloved by many individuals greatly distinguished for learning and piety; among whom we cannot omit the famous Mr. Robert Boyle, his kind friend. The very design of promoting concord among Christians, discovered a most excel lent spirit; and the unyielding perseverance, and indefatigable efforts made to realize an object so desirable, manifest a generosity of soul that has seldom been equaled, and probably never outdone.
In July 1660, he addressed the following letter to the lord chancellor Hyde: “MY LORD, In the application which I made to your honor, when you were at the Hague, I offered the fruit of my thirty years’ labors towards healing the breaches among protestants; and this I did as one who had never served the turn of any party, or had been biased by particular interests for any advantage to myself. But by walking in the light by rule and principle, have stood free from all in matters of strife, that I might be able to serve them in love. My way hath been, and is, to solicit the means of peace and truth amongst the dissenting parties, to do good offices, and to quiet their discontents, and I must still continue in the same way if I can be useful. But not being rightly understood in my aims and principles, I have been constrained to give this brief account thereof, as well to rectify the misconstruction of former actions, as to prevent farther mistakes concerning my intention and manner, that such as love not to foment prejudices, may be clear in their thoughts concerning me, and may know where to find me, if they would discern me, or any of the talents which God hath bestowed upon me, for the public welfare of his churches; which is my sole aim, and wherein I hope to persevere unto the end, as the Lord shall enable me, to be without offence unto all, with a sincere purpose to approve myself to his majesty in all faithfulness.
“Your lordship’s most humble servant in Christ,
In the same month he wrote to the earl of Manchester, lord chamberlain of his majesty’s household, giving an account of certain proceedings relative to the universal pacification of Christians. In 1660, through favor of the same earl he was presented with so much7 of the Lithuanian bible as was then printed, which was down to the Chronicles. Thus Mr. Dury lived till after the restoration; but does not appear to have either conformed or been ejected. Every thing seems to have given way to his favorite object. It is probable, therefore, that he had discontinued his stated ministerial labors some time prior to this period.
His works are, 1. Consultatio Theologica Super Negotio Pacis Ecclesiast.—2. Epistolary Discourse to Thomas Goodman, Ph. Nye, and Sam. Hartlip.—3. On Presbytery and Independency.—4. Model of Church Government.—5. Peacemaker, the Gospel way.—6. Seasonable Discourse for Reformation.—1. The Reformed School.—8. The Reformed Librarykeeper.—9. Bibliotheca Augusta Sereniss Princ. D. Augusti Ducis Brunovicensis, etc.—10. The unchanged, constant, and singlehearted Peacemaker drawn forth into the world.—11. Supplement to the Reformed School.—12. Earnest Plea, for Gospel Communion.—13. Summary Platform of Divinity.— 14. A Declaration of John Dury, to make known the truth of his way and deportment in all these times of trouble.—15. Irenicorum Tractatuum Prodromus, and some others.