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Puritan Memoirs - Mr. William Bridge

Puritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers

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The life and death of Mr. William Bridge.

MR. BRIDGE was a student in Cambridge thirteen years, and some time fellow of Emanuel college in that university. He Was first appointed minister in Essex, where he continued about five years, after which he was called to the city of Norwich and parish of St. George, Tomland. In which situation he continued till silenced by bishop Wren for his nonconformity, in 1637; after which he was excommunicated, and retired to Holland, where he became pastor to the English church at Rotterdam, of which Jeremiah Burroughs was preacher.

About this period the puritans, especially in the diocese of Norfolk, were grievously maltreated and persecuted by bishop Wren, for not complying with his visitation articles, a string of the most foolish and oppressive regulations that any part of the Christian world had ever been pestered with. This book contained one hundred and thirty-nine articles, comprehending eight hundred and ninety-seven questions, some of them most insignificant, the greater part highly superstitious, and numbers of them such as could never be answered. For the gratification of the curious, We here insert a specimen of this strange hook, Is your communion table so placed within the chancel as the canon directs? Doth your minister pray far the king with his whole title? Doth be pray for the archbishops and bishops? Doth he observe all the orders, rites, and ceremonies proscribed in the book of common prayer in administering the sacrament? Doth he receive the sacrament kneeling himself, and administer it to none but such as kneel? Doth your minister baptize with the sign of the cross? Doth he wear the surplice while he is reading prayers and administering the sacraments? Doth he, on rogation days, use the profaner bulletin round the parish? Hath your minister read the hook of sports in his church or chapel? Doth he use conceived prayers before or after sermon? Are the churchyards consecrated? Are the graves dug east and west? Do your parishioners, at going in and out of the church, do reverence toward the chancel? Do they kneel at confession, stand up at the creed, and bow at the glorious name of Jesus? etc. These questions were intended as so many traps to catch the puritans, and answered the purpose so well, that in less than two years and four months fifty worthy ministers of the gospel were suspended, silenced, or otherwise censured, for not obeying one or other of these articles; among whom were Mr. Ashe, Mr. William Bridge, Jeremiah Burroughs, Mr. Greenhill, and Edmund Calamy. A complaint was afterwards brought before parliament against Wren, stating, that while bishop of Norwich, by his oppressions, innovations, and the requisition pf certain Psth.8, he had compelled above fifty families of that city to leave the ‘kingdom; and that, by his rigorous severities, many pf his majesty’s subjects, to the number of three thousand, had removed themselves, their families, and estates, to Holland, where they had set up their manufactories, to the great prejudice of the trade of the kingdom.

Bishop Laud, in giving the annual account of his diocese to the king for 1636, says, “Mr. Bridge, of Norwich, rather than conform, hath left his lecture and two cures, and retired to Holland.” Let him go, tee are well rid of him, said the king in his note on this article. But receiving encouragement from the long parliament, as many others, in like circumstances, did about this time, he returned to England, in 1642, and was frequently called fo preach before the parliament. He was soon after chosen minister of Great Yarmouth in the county of Norfolk, where he continued his useful labors till Bartholomew’s day, when he was ejected, with the rest of his brethren, in 1662. Mr. Bridge, after returning from Holland, was appointed a member of the assembly of divines. He was of the independent persuasion, and, of course, one of the dissenting brethren in that assembly, who opposed the Presbyterians on the three following propositions: 1. That many congregations may be under the government of one presbytery. 2. That there is a subordination of assemblies or courts: And, 3. That one congregation ought not to assume the sole power of ordination, if it can at all associate with other congregations. On these propositions there was an arduous, long, and well contested debate. Speaking on this subject, Mr. Baillie, who was present, says, “the independents urged that they might be heard in the negative. Here (says he) they spent us many of twenty long sessions. Goodwin took most of the speech upon himself; yet they divided their arguments amongst them, and gave the management of them by turns to Bridge, Burroughs, Nye, Simpson, and Caryl. Truly, if the cause was good, the men have abundance of learning, wit, eloquence, and, above all, boldness and stiffness to make it out; but when they had wearied themselves, and over wearied us all, we found the most they had to say against presbytery was but curious idle niceties, and that they could bring forward nothing conclusive. They entered their dissent to these propositions, and only these, on the assembly.”

Mr. Bridge continued minister of Yarmouth till cast out by the act of uniformity; when he and his brethren gave the world an honorable specimen of their candor and sincerity in the cause of genuine Christianity, by the sacrifice they made for what they were firmly persuaded were the truths of Christ. Mr. Bridge says, in a sermon he preached at Westminster, 1641, “Of all the reformed churches in the world, England has borne the name, and worn the crown, for the life and power of godliness; yet give me leave, with grief of heart and sadness of spirit, to make a challenge, What reformed church is there in the world, that ever knew so many suspended ministers as England? Speak, O Sun, whether, in all thy travels, from the one end of heaven to the other, thou didst ever see so many silenced ministers as thou hast done here?” After his ejection, Mr. Bridge had an opportunity of preaching sometimes at Clapham in Surrey. Wood says, that being silenced on his majesty’s return, he carried on his cause in conventicles till about the time of his death. He died at Yarmouth, 12th of March, 1670, aged seventy years. According to Neal, he was a good scholar, and had a well stocked library; a hard student, who rose every morning, winter and summer, at four o’clock; he was an excellent preacher, a candid and very charitable man, who did much good by his ministry.

His works are, 1. Babylon’s Downfall.—2. The Saints’ Hiding Place in the time of God’s anger.—3. The Great Gospel Mystery.—4. Satan’s Power to Tempt, and Christ’s Love and Care of his People under Temptation.—5. On Thankfulness.— 6. Grace for Grace.—7. The Actings of Faith through natural impossibilities.—8. Evangelical Repentance.—9. The inbeing of Christ in all Believers.—10. The Woman of Canaan.— 11. Christ’s coming is at our Midnight.—12. A Vindication of Gospel Ordinances.—13. Grace and Love beyond Gifts—14. Scripture Light the surest Light.—15. Christ in Travail, and his assurance of Issue.—16. Lifting up for the Downcast.— 17. Sin against the Holy Ghost.—18. The false Apostle tried and discovered.—19. Sins of Infirmity.—20. The Good and the Means of Establishment.—21. The great things Faith can do.—22. The great things Faith can suffer. He has, beside these, ten Sermons on God’s return to the deserted Soul, ten Sermons respecting Christ and the Covenant, eight Sermons on good and bad Company.

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