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and what he professed he was ready to defend without that modesty which is always prudent, and generally necessary, and which, though it was not agreeable to Mr. Cheynel's temper, and therefore readily condemned by him, is a very useful associate to truth, and often introduces her by degrees, where she never could have forced her way by argument or declamation.
A temper of this kind is generally inconvenient and offensive in any society, but in a place of education is least to be tolerated; for, as authority is necessary to instruction, whoever endeavours to destroy subordination, by weakening that reverence which is claimed by those to whom the guardianship of youth is committed by their country, defeats at once the institution; and may be justly driven from a society by which he thinks himself too wise to be governed, and in which he is too young to teach, and too opinionative to learn.
This may be readily supposed to have been the case of Cheynel; and I know not how those can be blamed for censuring his conduct, or punishing his disobedience, who had a right to govern him, and who might certainly act with equal sincerity, and with greater knowledge.
With regard to the visitation of Merton College, the account is equally obscure. Visitors are well known to be generally called to regulate the affairs of colleges, when the members disagree with their head, or with one another; and the temper that Dr. Cheynel discovers will easily incline his readers to suspect that he could not long live in any place without finding some occasion for debate; nor debate any question without carrying opposition to such a length as might make a moderator, necessary. Whether this was his conduct at Merton, or whether an appeal to the visitor's authority was made by him, or his adversaries, or any other member of the college, is not to be known; it appears only, that there was a visitation, that he suffered by it, and resented his punishment.
He was afterwards presented to a living of great value, near Banbury, where he had some dispute with Archbishop Laud. Of this dispute I have found no particular account. Calamy only says, he had a ruffle with Bishop Laud, while at his height.
was engaged in the controversy about the rights of the church, and necessity of episcopacy, he declared himself a Presbyterian, and an enemy to bishops, liturgies, ceremonies, and was considered as one of the most learned and acute of his party; for, having spent much of his life in a college, it cannot be doubted that he had a considerable knowledge of books, which the vehemence of his temper enabled him often to display, when a more timorous man would have been silent, though in learning not his inferior.
Had Cheynel been equal to his adversary in greatness and learning, it had not been easy to have found either a more proper opposite; for they were both, to the last degree, zealous, active, and pertinacious, and would have afforded mankind a spectacle of resolution and boldness not often to be seen. But the amusement of beholding the struggle would hardly have been without danger, as they were too fiery not to have communicated their heat, though it should have produced a conflagration of their country. About the year 1641, when the whole nation
When the war broke out, Mr. Cheynel, in consequence of his principles, declared himself for the Parliament; and as he appears to have held it as a first principle, that all great and noble spirits abhor neutrality, there is no doubt but that he exerted himself to gain proselytes, and to promote the interest of that party which he had thought it his duty to espouse. These endeavours were so much regarded by the Parliament, that, having taken the covenant, he was nominated one of the assembly of divines, who were to meet at Westminster for the settlement of the new discipline.
This distinction drew necessarily upon him the hatred of the cavaliers; and his living being not far distant from the king's head-quarters, he received a visit from some of the troops, who, as he affirms, plundered his house and drove him from it. His living, which was, I suppose, considered as forfeited by his absence, (though he was not suffered to continue upon it,) was given to a clergyman, of whom he says, that he would become a stage better than a pulpit; a censure which I can neither confute nor admit, because I have not discovered who was his successor. He then retired into Sussex, to exercise his ministry among his friends, in a place where, as he observes, there had been little of the power of religion either known or practised. As no reason can be given why the inhabitants of Sussex should have less knowledge or virtue than those of other places, it may be suspected that he means nothing more than a place where the Presbyterian discipline or principles had never been received. We now observe, that the Methodists, where they scatter their opinions, represent themselves as preaching the gospel to unconverted nations; and enthusiasts of all kinds have been inclined to disguise their particular tenets with pompous appellations, and to imagine themselves the great instruments of salvation; yet it must be confessed that all places are not equally enlightened; that in the most civilized nations there are many corners which may be called barbarous, where neither politeness, nor religion, nor the common arts of life, have yet been cultivated; and it is likewise certain, that the inhabitants of Sussex have been sometimes mentioned as remarkable for brutality.
From Sussex he went often to London, where, in 1643, he preached three times before the Parliament; and, returning in November to Colchester, to keep the monthly fast there, as was his custom, he obtained a convoy of sixteen soldiers, whose bravery or good fortune was such, that they faced and put to flight more than two hundred of the king's forces.
In this journey he found Mr. Chillingworth About this time Cheynel, in pursuance of his in the hands of the Parliament's troops, of whose natural ardour, attended the army under the sickness and death he gave the account, which command of the Earl of Essex, and added the has been sufficiently made known to the learned praise of valour to that of learning; for he distinworld by Mr. Maizeaux, in his Life of Chilling-guished himself so much by his personal bravery, worth. and obtained so much skill in the science of war, that his commands were obeyed by the colonels with as much respect as those of the general. He seems, indeed, to have been born a soldier, for he had an intrepidity which was never to be shaken by any danger, and a spirit of enterprise not to be discouraged by difficulty, which were supported by an unusual degree of bodily strength. His services of all kinds were thought of so much importance by the Parliament, that they bestowed upon him the living of Petworth, in Sussex. This living was of the value of £700 per annum, from which they had ejected a man remarkable for his loyalty, and therefore, in their opinion, not worthy of such revenues. And it may be inquired, whether, in accepting this preferment, Cheynel did not violate the protestation which he makes in the passage already recited, and whether he did not suffer his resolutions to be overborne by the temptations of wealth.
With regard to this relation, it may be observed, that it is written with an air of fearless veracity, and with the spirit of a man who thinks his cause just, and his behaviour without reproach; nor does there appear any reason for doubting that Cheynel spoke and acted as he relates for he does not publish an apology, but a challenge, and writes not so much to obviate calumnies, as to gain from others that applause which he seems to have bestowed very liberally upon himself for his behaviour on that occasion.
Since, therefore, this relation is credible, a great part of it being supported by evidence which cannot be refuted, Mr. Maizeaux seems very justly, in his Life of Mr. Chillingworth, to oppose the common report, that his life was shortened by the inhumanity of those to whom he was a prisoner; for Cheynel appears to have preserved, amidst all his detestation of the opinions which he imputed to him, a great kindness to his person, and veneration for his capacity; nor does he appear to have been cruel to him, otherwise than by that incessant importunity of disputation, to which he was doubtless incited by a sincere belief of the danger of his soul, if he should die without renouncing some of his opinions.
The same kindness which made him desirous to convert him before his death, would incline him to preserve him from dying before he was converted; and accordingly we find, that when the castle was yielded, he took care to procure him a commodious lodging: when he was to have been unseasonably removed, he attempted to shorten his journey, which he knew would be dangerous; when the physician was disgusted by Chillingworth's distrust, he prevailed upon him, as the symptoms grew more dangerous, to renew his visits; and when death left no other act of kindness to be practised, procured him the rites of burial, which some would have denied him.
Having done thus far justice to the humanity of Cheynel, it is proper to inquire how far he deserves blame. He appears to have extended none of that kindness to the opinions of Chil. lingworth, which he showed to his person; for he interprets every word in the worst sense, and
seems industrious to discover in every line heresies, which might have escaped for ever any other apprehension: he appears always suspicious of some latent malignity, and ready to persecute what he only suspects, with the same violence as if it had been openly avowed: in all his procedure he shows himself sincere, but without candour.
In 1646, when Oxford was taken by the forces of the parliament, and the reformation of the University was resolved, Mr. Cheynel was sent, with six others, to prepare the way for a visitation; being authorised by the Parliament to preach in any of the churches, without regard to the right of the members of the University, that their doctrine might prepare their hearers for the changes which were intended.
When they arrived at Oxford, the began to execute their commission, by possessing themselves of the pulpits; but, if the relation of Wood is to be regarded, were heard with very little veneration. Those who had been accustomed to the preachers of Oxford, and the liturgy of the church of England, were offended at the emptiness of their discourses, which were noisy and unmeaning; at the unusual gestures, the wild distortions, and the uncouth tone with which they were delivered; at the coldness of their prayers for the king, and the vehemence and exuberance of those which they did not fail to utter for the blessed councils and actions of the Parliament and army; and at, what was surely not to be remarked without indignation, their omission of the Lord's Prayer.
* Vide Wood's Hist. Autiq. Oxon. Orig. Edit.
But power easily supplied the want of reverence, and they proceeded in their plan of reformation; and thinking sermons not so efficacious to conversion as private interrogatories and exhortations, they established a weekly meeting for freeing tender consciences from scruple, at a house that, from the business to which it was appropriated, was called the Scruple-shop.
With this project they were so well pleased, that they sent to the Parliament an account of it, which was afterwards printed, and is ascribed by Wood to Mr. Cheynel. They continued for some weeks to hold their meetings regularly, and to admit great numbers, whom curiosity, or a desire of conviction, or a compliance with the prevailing party, brought thither. But their tranquillity was quickly disturbed by the turbulence the Independents, whose opinions then prevailed among the soldiers, and were very industriously propagated by the discourses of William Earbury, a preacher of great reputation among them, who, one day, gathering a considerable number of his most zealous followers, went to the house appointed for the resolution of scruples, on a day which was set apart for the disquisition of the dignity and office of a minister, and began to dispute with great vehemence against the Presbyterians, whom he denied to have any true ministers among them, and whose assemblies he affirmed not to be the true church. He was opposed with equal heat by the Presbyterians, and at length they agreed to examine the point another day, in a regular disputation. Accordingly, they appointed the 12th of November for an inquiry, "Whether, in the Christian church, the office of minister is committed to any particular persons ?"
sure, and being convicted from their own declarations, in which they had frequently condemned Episcopacy as contrary to Christianity; nor durst they deny it, because they might have been confuted, and must at once have sunk into contempt. The soldiers, seeing their perplexity, insulted them; and went away, boasting of their victory; nor did the Presbyterians, for some time, recover spirit enough to renew their meetings, or to proceed in the work of easing consciences.
On the day fixed the antagonists appeared, each attended by great numbers; but when the question was proposed, they began to wrangle, not about the doctrine which they had engaged to examine, but about the terms of the proposition, which the Independents alleged to be changed since their agreement; and at length the soldiers insisted that the question should be, "Whether those who call themselves ministers have more right or power to preach the gospel than any other man that is a Christian?" This question was debated for some time with great vehemence and confusion, but without any prospect of a conclusion. At length, one of the soldiers, who thought they had an equal right with the rest to engage in the controversy, demanded of the Presbyterians, whence they themselves received their orders, whether from bishops, or any other persons? This unexpected interrogatory put them to great difficulties; for it happened that they were all ordained by the bishops, which they durst not acknowledge, for fear of exposing themselves to a general cen
Earbury, exulting at the victory, which, not his own abilities, but the subtilty of the soldier had procured him, began to vent his notions of every kind without scruple, and at length asserted, that "the Saints had an equal measure of the divine nature with our Saviour, though not equally manifest." At the same time he took upon him the dignity of a prophet, and began to utter predictions relating to the affairs of England and Ireland.
His prophecies were not much regarded, but his doctrine was censured by the Presbyterians in their pulpits; and Mr. Cheynel challenged him to a disputation, to which he agreed, and at his first appearance in St. Mary's church addressed his audience in the following man.
"Christian friends, kind fellow-soldiers, and worthy students, I, the humble servant of all mankind, am this day drawn, against my will, out of my cell, into this public assembly, by the double chain of accusation and a challenge from the pulpit. I have been charged with heresy ; I have been challenged to come hither in a letter written by Mr. Francis Cheynel. Here then I stand in defence of myself and my doctrine, which I shall introduce with only this declaration, that I claim not the office of a minister on account of any outward call, though I formerly received ordination, nor do I boast of illumination, or the knowledge of our Saviour, though I have been held in esteem by others, and formerly by myself. For I now declare, that I know nothing, and am nothing, nor would I be thought of otherwise than as an inquirer and seeker."
He then advanced his former position in stronger terms, and with additions equally detestable, which Cheynel attacked with the vehemence which in so warm a temper, such horrid assertions might naturally excite. The dispute, frequently interrupted by the clamours of the audience, and tumults raised to disconcert Cheynel, who was very unpopular, continued about four hours, and then both the controvertists grew weary, and retired. The Presbyterians afterwards thought they should more speedily put an end to the heresies of Earbury by power than by argument; and, by soliciting General Fairfax, procured his removal. Mr. Cheynel published an account of this lisY
pute under the title of "Faith triumphing over | found her not more obsequious than her hásError and Heresy in a revelation," &c.; nor band. They repeated their orders with menacan it be doubted but he had the victory, where ces, but were not able to prevail upon her to rehis cause gave him so great superiority. move. They then retired, and left her exposed Somewhat before this, his captious and petu- to the brutality of the soldiers, whom they comlant disposition engaged him in a controversy, manded to keep possession, which Mrs. Fell, from which he could not expect to gain equal however, did not leave. About nine days afterreputation. Dr. Hammond had not long before wards she received another visit of the same published his Practical Catechism, in which kind from the new chancellor, the Earl of PemMr. Cheynel, according to his custom, found broke; who having, like the others, ordered her many errors implied, if not asserted; and there- to depart without effect, treated her with refore, as it was much read, thought it convenient proachful language, and at last commanded the to censure it in the pulpit. Of this Dr. Ham-soldiers to take her up in her chair, and carry mond being informed, desired him in a letter to her out of doors. Her daughters, and some communicate his objections; to which Mr. other gentlewomen that were with her, were Cheynel returned an answer, written with his afterwards treated in the same manner; one of usual temper, and therefore somewhat perverse. whom predicted, without dejection, that she The controversy was drawn out to a considera- should enter the house again with less difficulty, ble length; and the papers on both sides were at some other time: nor was she mistaken in her afterwards made public by Dr. Hammond. conjecture, for Dr. Fell lived to be restored to his deanery.
In 1647, it was determined by Parliament, that the reformation of Oxford should be more vigorously carried on; and Mr. Cheynel was nominated one of the visitors. The general process of the visitation, the firmness and fidelity of the students, the address by which the inquiry was delayed, and the steadiness with which it was opposed, which are very particularly related by Wood, and after him by Walker, it is not necessary to mention here, as they relate not more to Dr Cheynel's life than to those of his associates.
There is, indeed, some reason to believe that he was more active and virulent than the rest, because he appears to have been charged in a particular manner with some of their most unjustifiable measures. He was accused of proposing that the members of the University should be denied the assistance of counsel, and was lampooned by name, as a madman, in a satire written on the visitation.
One action, which shows the violence of his temper, and his gard both of humanity and decency, when they came in competition with his passions, must not be forgotten. The visitors, being offended at the obstinacy of Dr. Fell, Dean of Christ-church, and Vice-chancellor of the University, having first deprived him of his vice-chancellorship, determined afterwards to dispossess him of his deanery; and, in the course of their proceedings, thought it proper to seize upon his chambers in the college. This was an act which most men would willingly have referred to the officers to whom the law assigned it; but Cheynel's fury prompted him to a different conduct. He, and three more of the visitors, went and demanded admission; which being steadily refused them, they obtained by the assistance of a file of soldiers, who forced the doors with pick-axes. Then entering, they saw Mrs. Fell in the lodgings, Dr. Fell being in prison at London, and ordered her to quit them; but
At the reception of the chancellor, Cheynel, as the most accomplished of the visitors, had the province of presenting him with the ensigns of his office, some of which were counterfeit, and addressing him with a proper oration. Of this speech, which Wood has preserved, I shall give some passages, by which a judgment may be made of his oratory.
Of the staves of the beadles he observes, that "some are stained with double guilt, that some are pale with fear, and that others have been made use of as crutches, for the support of bad causes and desperate fortunes ;" and he remarks of the book of statutes which he delivers, that "the ignorant may perhaps admire the splendour of the cover, but the learned know that the real treasure is within." Of these two sentences it is easily discovered, that the first is forced and unnatural, and the second trivial and low.
Soon afterwards Mr. Cheynel was admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Divinity, for which his grace had been denied him in 1641, and, as he then suffered for an ill-timed assertion of the Presbyterian doctrines, he obtained that his degree should be dated from the time at which he was refused it; an honour which, however, did not secure him from being soon after publicly reproached as a madman.
But the vigour of Cheynel was thought by his companions to deserve profit as well as honour and Dr. Bailey, the president of St. John's College, being not more obedient to the authority of the Parliament than the rest, was deprived of his revenues and authority, with which Mr. Cheynel was immediately invested; who, with his usual coolness and modesty, took possession of the lodgings soon after, by breaking open the doors.
This preferment being not thought adequate to the deserts or abilities of Mr. Cheynel, it was
therefore desired, by the committee of Parliament, that the visitors would recommend him to the lectureship of divinity founded by the Lady Margaret. To recommend him, and to choose, was at that time the same; and he had now the pleasure of propagating his darling doctrine of predestination, without interruption, and without danger.
Being thus flushed with power and success, there is little reason for doubting that he gave way to his natural vehemence, and indulged himself in the utmost excesses of raging zeal, by which he was indeed so much distinguished, that, in a satire mentioned by Wood, he is dignified by the title of Arch-visitor, an appellation which he seems to have been industrious to deserve by severity and inflexibility: for, not contented with the commission which he and his colleagues had already received, he procured six or seven of the members of Parliament to meet privately in Mr. Rouse's lodgings, and assume the style and authority of a committee, and from them obtained a more extensive and tyrannical power, by which the visitors were enabled to force the solemn League and Covenant and the negative Oath upon all the members of the University, and to prosecute those for a contempt who did not appear to a citation, at whatever distance they might be, and whatever reasons they might assign for their absence.
By this method he easily drove great numbers from the University, whose places he supplied with men of his own opinion, whom he was very industrious to draw from other parts, with promises of making a liberal provision for them out of the spoils of heretics and malignants.
Having, in time, almost extirpated those opinions which he found so prevalent at his arrival, or at least obliged those, who would not recant, to an appearance of conformity, he was at leisure for employments which deserve to be recorded with greater commendation. About this time, many Socinian writers began to publish their notions with great boldness, which the Presbyterians, considering as heretical and impious, thought it necessary to confute; and therefore Cheynel, who had now obtained his doctor's degree, was desired, in 1649, to write a vindication of the doctrine of the Trinity, which he performed, and published the next year.
by him only with an opprobrious book against the Presbyterian clergy.
Of the remaining part of his life there is found only an obscure and confused account. He quitted the presidentship of St. John's, and the professorship, in 1650, as Calamy relates, because he would not take the engagement; and gave a proof that he could suffer as well as act in a cause which he believed just. We have, indeed, no reason to question his resolution, whatever occasion might be given to exert it; nor is it probable that he feared affliction more than danger, or that he would not have borne persecution himself for those opinions which inclined him to persecute others.
He did not suffer much upon this occasion; for he retained the living of Petworth, to which he thenceforward confined his labours, and where he was very assiduous, and, as Calamy affirms, very successful in the exercise of his ministry, it being his peculiar character to be warm and zealous in all his undertakings.
This heat of his disposition, increased by the uncommon turbulence of the times in which he lived, and by the opposition to which the unpopular nature of some of his employments exposed him, was at last heightened to distraction, so that he was for some years disordered in his understanding, as both Wood and Calamy relate, but with such difference as might be expected from their opposite principles. Wood appears to think, that a tendency to madness was discoverable in a great part of his life; Calamy, that it was only transient and accidental, though, in his additions to his first narrative, he pleads it as an extenuation of that fury with which his kindest friends confess him to have acted on some occasions. Wood declares, that he died little better than distracted; Calamy, that he was perfectly recovered to a sound mind before the Restoration, at which time he retired to Preston, a small village in Sussex, being turned out of his living at Petworth.
It does not appear that he kept his living till the general ejection of the Nonconformists; and it is not unlikely that the asperity of his carriage, and the known virulence of his temper, might have raised him enemies, who were willing to make him feel the effects of persecution which he had so furiously incited against others; but of this incident of his life there is no particular account.
He drew up likewise a confutation of some Socinian tenets advanced by John Fry; a man who spent great part of his life in ranging from After his deprivation, he lived (till his death, one religion to another, and who sat as one of which happened in 1665,) at a small village near the judges on the king, but was expelled after- Chichester, upon a paternal estate, not augwards from the House of Commons, and dis-mented by the large preferments wasted upon abled from sitting in parliament. Dr. Cheynel him in the triumphs of his party; having been is said to have shown himself evidently superior remarkable, throughout his life, for hospitality to him in the controversy, and was answered and contempt of money.