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lar coincidence so wholly beyond the foresight of human minds, made a deep impression upon all the parties interested, and was especially marked with devout gratitude by Mr Howe.
The circumstances connected with his introduction to Cromwell when protector are especially worthy of the reader's notice. Mr Howe had some business which called him to London. Being there, he was detained longer than he expected, and having one, and only one Sunday to remain in town, his curiosity led him to the chapel at Whitehall. The protector, who was present, and who was generally observant of all persons about him, perceived the stranger, and suspecting that he was a country minister, watched him narrowly. Being much struck with his appearance, and persuaded that he was no ordinary man, he sent a messenger to say that he desired, after the conclusion of the service, to speak with him. Mr Howe, not a little surprised at being thus unexpectedly summoned to appear before the protector, nevertheless obeyed. After some inquiries as to who he was, and whence he came, Cromwell desired that he would preach before him the next Sunday. Mr Howe endeavoured to excuse himself, modestly declining the honour. But Cromwell told him it was a vain thing to attempt to excuse himself, for that he would take no denial. Mr Howe pleaded that having despatched his business in town, he was tending homewards, and could not be absent any longer without inconvenience. Cromwell inquired what damage he was liable to sustain, by tarrying a little longer. Mr Howe replied, that his people, who were very kind to him, would be uneasy, and think he neglected them, and slighted their respect. Cromwell promised to write to them himself, and send down one to supply his place; and actually did so; and Mr Howe stayed and preached as he was desired : and when he had given him one sermon, Cromwell still pressed for a second and a third ; and at last after a great deal of free conversation in private, nothing would serve him (who could not bear to be contradicted, after he had once got the power into his hands) but he must have him to be his household chaplain, and he would take care his place should be supplied at Torrington to the full satisfaction of his people. Mr Howe did all that lay in his power to excuse himself and get off; but no denial would be admitted. And at length (though not without great reluctance) he was prevailed with to comply, and remove with his family to Whitehall, where several of his children were born: and in this difficult station he endeavoured to be faithful, and to keep a good conscience. During Mr Howe's residence at Whitehall we find him lecturer at St Margaret's, Westminster, where he was greatly esteemed as a preacher, and highly respected for the urbanity, moderation, and uniform consistency of his conduct. While he held the situation of chaplain he employed his influence with the protector on behalf of good men of all parties, and was especially serviceable to Dr Seth Ward, afterwards bishop of Exeter and Salisbury. Indeed Mr Howe lost no opportunity of promoting the interests of religion and learning. Cromwell once said to him, in allusion to his frequent appli. cations,—“ You have obtained many favours for others, but I wonder when the time is to come that you will move for any thing for yourself and family." “A plain argument,” says Calamy, “ that he took him for a very disinterested person, and as free from selfishness as he was from partiality."
Although Mr Howe enjoyed a considerable share of the protector's favour, yet he was not afraid to risk it in the cause of truth. He observed, what he considered to be a fanatical opinion respecting faith in the efficacy of prayer, and an enthusiastical notion of the impression made on the minds of such as prayed that their prayers would be answered, wbatever they might ask, and that this notion was a favourite one with the protector, and had been publicly taught by one preacher of note at Whitehall. He, therefore, determined publicly to oppose it, when it came to his turn to preach again before the protector. He accordingly did so, and observed that Cromwell listened with great attention, and would sometimes knit his brows and discover great uneasiness. Mr Calamy says, “Mr Howe told me, that when the sermon was over, a person of distinction came to him, and asked him if he knew what he had done—that Cromwell would be so incensed upon that discourse, that he (Mr H.) would find it difficult ever to make his peace with him, or secure his favour for the future.” Mr Howe replied, “ that he had but done his duty, and could leave the event with God." It appears, however, that though Cromwell became, or Mr Howe thought he became, cooler to him than formerly, yet he no otherwise expressed his dissatisfaction, and Mr Howe himself never had cause to regret what he had done. It is no little credit to the protector, that he continued his favours to Mr Howe, and never appeared further to withdraw that confidence he had reposed in him, although he had so boldly attacked a favourite opinion. This is what few persons in his exalted station would have done, and evinces a high respect for the sacredness of the ministerial office. In our opinion this anecdote is al. most equally honourable to the magnanimity of both parties.
Mr Howe continued in his situation of chaplain at Whitehall till the death of Cromwell. After that event he was continued in the same situation by Richard Cromwell, and was present at the assembly of congregational ministers held at the Savoy, when they discussed the confession of their faith. He took no conspicuous part in the politics of that period, any more than in those of former times, but endeavoured to preserve his mind steadily fixed on his professional engagements. It is recorded of him, however, that he was decidedly opposed to Richard's dissolving his parliament at the instigation of the council of officers,—foreseeing, as he said he clearly did, that it would prove his ruin. After the deposition of Richard Cromwell, Mr Howe returned to his former charge at Great Tørrington, where he continued quietly and zealously discharging his pastoral duties until the restoration. After that event he soon began to feel the hand of oppression and persecution. But on the passing of the act of uniformity, he was ejected from his living and exposed to much hardship. Some time after, falling accidentally into the company of the learned Dr Wilkins, bishop of Chester, who held Mr Howe in great esteem, the doctor told him the act of uniformity had produced consequences at which he was a little surprised : some, he observed, whom he should have thought too stiff and rigid ever to have fallen in with the establishment, had conformed, while others, whom he thought possessed sufficient latitude to conform, had stood out and continued non-conformists; and he intimated to Mr Howe, that he took him to be of the latter description. Among other observations Mr Howe replied, that his latitude of which the doctor
had been pleased to take notice, was so far from inclining him to conformity, that it was the very thing that made him and kept him a nonconformist.
After his ejectment Mr Howe continued for some time to reside in the neighbourhood of his late charge, preaching when opportunity offered in the private houses of his friends. On one of these occasions, upon his return home from a visit to a gentleman's house where he had been spending some days, he was informed that an officer from the bishop's court had been to inquire after him, and had left word that there was a citation out, both against himself and the gentleman at whose house he had been preaching. Upon this, the next morning he rode to Exeter, and soon after alighting from his horse, a dignified clergyman, who was acquainted with him, saw him in the street, and expressed much surprise at seeing him there, telling him that a process was out against him, and that as he was so well known he did not doubt but he would soon be apprehended. He then asked him whether he would not himself wait upon the bishop. But Mr Howe thought it best not to do so unless the bishop should hear that he was there and send for him. Upon this the clergyman said he would wait upon the bishop, and soon return with an intimation of what would be acceptable to his lordship. Accordingly he soon returned with an intimation that the bishop would be glad to see him. When he arrived at the palace, the bishop received him as an old acquaintance with great civility, and after expostulating with him on his non-conformity, which Mr Howe defended, he urged him to enter the church, assuring him that he might have considerable preferments, and at length he dismissed him in a very friendly manner. As the bishop took no notice of the process which had been issued, so neither did Mr Howe, but taking his horse, rode home, and heard no more of the matter, either in reference to himself, or the gentleman at whose house he had officiated.
Several years now passed away, during which Mr Howe, and many of his brethren, were much harassed, and occasionally imprisoned. At length, in 1671, he accepted the office of chaplain to Lord Massarene, who lived at Antrim in Ireland. He, therefore, removed thither with his family and was treated with great respect. His great learning, talents, and piety, soon procured him the friendship of the bishop of that diocese, together with the favour of the metropolitan, both of whom gave him liberty to preach in the church at Antrim as often as he pleased, without conforming to the peculiarities of the Church of England. He continued about four years in this situation, when he received an invitation to succeed Dr Lazarus Seaman in the charge of his congregation at Silver-street, London. This invitation he embraced, and in 1675 removed to London. Here he made a peaceable use of King Charles's indulgence, preaching to a considerable and judicious auditory, by whom he was most fondly esteemed. During this period he had the happiness not only of being beloved by his own brethren, but of being highly respected by such men as Doctors Tillotson, Whichcot, Kidder, Fowler, and Lucas, with many others.
In 1680, a bill was brought into parliament for “uniting his inajesty's protestant subjects," which seemed to promise a liberal comprehension. With this view Bishop Lloyd sent Mr Howe an invitation to dine with him ; but, being engaged, he next invited him to meet him at the house of Dean Tillotson. They accordingly all met, had a conversation, and agreed to meet again the next evening at the house of Dean Stillingfleet. But the bill of exclusion being that evening thrown out of the house of peers, the bishop absented himself, and there was no further talk of comprehension. Dr Tillotson that year was called to preach before the king, and in the course of his sermon maintained “that no man is obliged to preach against the religion of a country, though a false one, unless he has a power of working miracles.” The king slept during the greater part of the discourse. As soon as it was over, a distinguished nobleman stepped up to the king, and said, “ 'Tis a pity your majesty slept, for we have had the rarest piece of Hobbism that ever you heard in your life.”—“Odds fish, he shall print it then !" said the king, and immediately directed the Lord Chamberlain to communicate his will to the dean. When it came from the press, Dr Tillotson, as was usual with him, presented a copy to Mr Howe, who, on the perusal was not a little concerned to find that Dr Tillotson entertained so pernicious a sentiment. He therefore drew up a long letter, in which he freely expostulated with the dean, for giving such a wound to the Reformation, and went himself to present his letter. Upon the sight of him, and an understanding of the purport of the visit, the dean proposed a short journey into the country, that they might talk the matter over without interruption. They accordingly agreed to dine that day with Lady Falconbridge, at Sutton Court; and Mr Howe, in their way thither, read over his letter to the dean. At length the good doctor fell to weeping freely, saying, “This was the most unhappy thing that had of a long time befallen him.” He owned that what he had asserted was not to be maintained ; and urged in his excuse, that he had but a short notice to preach, and none to print the sermon. This anecdote places the character of both these good men in a very amiable light.
The dissenters were exposed to very severe and general persecution some few
years before the revolution. In consequence of these troubles Mr Howe relinquished his public labours, and accepted an invitation from Lord Wharton to accompany him on his travels through several foreign countries. In the course of these journeys he visited the principal continental nations, and enjoyed the advantage of intercourse with many learned foreigners, both catholic and protestant. In 1686 he gave up the prospect of returning to his native country, considering that its prospects were in all respects growing darker. He therefore settled at Utrecht, and took his turn in preaching at the English church in that city. Here also he engaged in assisting some of the English students to prosecute their studies at that university. His residence at Utrecht is said to have brought him into acquaintance with many eminent English men who had withdrawn from the troubles which agitated, or which threatened their native country. Here he became acquainted with Dr Burnet, afterwards bishop of Salisbury. Once conversing with the doctor freely upon various subjects, Burnet called his attention to non-conformity, observing, that in his opinion it could not last long; but that when Mr Baxter, Dr Bates, himself, and a few more, were laid in their graves, it would sink and come to ng. thing. In reply, Mr Howe observed, that he was led to entertain just the contrary opinion, in consequence of its depending not upon persons, but principles, which, when approved of after serious and sincere in. quiry, could not be laid aside by men of conscience.
While Mr Howe continued in Holland he was admitted to frequent audiences with the prince of Orange, afterwards William III. who conversed familiarly with him, and ever after retained for him a peculiar degree of respect. Upon the declaration issued by King James in favour of liberty of conscience, in 1687, Mr Howe returned to England and resumed his ministerial labours, although he openly declared agains! the king's dispensing power. In the discharge of his pastoral duties he continued to enjoy the liberty illegally conceded, till the revolution placed the rights of dissenters upon a firmer basis than royal will.
After the revolution he enjoyed some considerable influence at court, and was frequently admitted to familiar intercourse by King William. He appears, however, never to have intermeddled needlessly with public affairs. His studies, his various publications, and the duties of his pastoral office fully occupied his time, and demanded all the energies he could devote to them. He lived to enjoy the repose and liberty wbich the revolution brought with it, seventeen years, and part of these was consumed in a succession of painful disorders. He died in 1705, at the age of seventy-five. Mr Howe was tall and graceful in his person.
“ He had a piercing but pleasant eye; and there was something in his aspect that indicated uncommon greatness, and excited veneration. His intellectual accomplishments were of the first order. Those who are acquainted with his writings will discover great abstractedness of thought, strong reasoning, and a penetrating judg. ment. Even Wood, the Oxonian, who seldom had a good word for a non-conformist, passes a high encomium upon Mr Howe.” There are indeed few of the divines of any school who displayed so many excellencies and so few defects. His works may be classed among the very first, both for eloquence and depth of judgment. “ His ministerial qualifications were very extraordinary. He could preach extempore with as great exactness as many others upon the closest study. His sermons, which were always delivered without notes, were often of uncommon depth, especially at the beginning, but were plain in the sequel, and towards the close generally cane home with great force to the consciences of his hearers.'
His works, which are numerous, have been all published in 6 vols. 8vo, with a life. The several treatises, letters, sermons, &c. are too numerous to be here detailed. They have been the admiration of learned men of all parties, and are to the present day perhaps among the most choice writings of the old divines. His reputation will suffer in comparison with no theologian of his own age, nor indeed of any other. Mr Granger speaks of him as one of the most learned and polite writers among the dissenters, and says there is an uncommon depth of thought in several of his works. Dr Doddridge observes," he seems to have understood the gospel as well as any uninspired writer; and to have imbibed as much of its spirit. The truest sublime is to he found in his writings, and some of the strongest pathos. He has a great variety of uncommon thoughts; and on the whole, is one of the most valuable writers in our language, and, I believe, in the world.” 1
Life by Calamy. Wilson's Disscnting Church, vol. III. p. 29.