Ainsworth, Henry

, an eminent English nonconformist divine, who flourished in the latter end of the sixteenth, and beginning of the seventeenth centary, but it is not known when or where he was born. In 1590 he joined the Brownists, and by his adherence to that sect shared in their persecutions. He was well versed in the Hebrew language, and wrote many excellent commentaries on the holy scriptures which gained him great reputation. The Brownists having fallen into great discredit in England, they were involved in many fresh troubles and difficulties; so that Ainsworth at length quitted his country, and fled to Holland, whither most of the nonconformists, who had incurred the displeasure of queen Elizabeth’s government, had taken refuge. At Amsterdam Mr. Johnson and he erected a church, of which Ainsworth was the minister. In conjunction with Johnson he published, in 1602, “A confession of faith of the people called Brownists;” but being men of violent spirits, they split into parties about certain points of discipline, and Johnson excommunicated his own father and brother: the presbytery of Amsterdam offered their mediation, but he refused it. This divided the congregation, half of which joining Ainsworth, they excommunicated Johnson, who made the like return to that party. The contest grew at length so violent, that Johnson and his followers removed to Embden, where he died soon after, and his congregation dissolved. Nor did Mr. Ainsworth and his adherents live long in harmony, for in a short time he left them, and retired to Ireland; but when the heat and violence of his party subsided, he returned to Amsterdam, and continued with them until his | death. Dr. Heylyn’s account of their contentions at Amsterdam, sufficiently shows what implicit obedience some men expect who are not much inclined to pay it, either to the church or the state.

Ainsworth’s learned writings, however, were esteemed even by his adversaries, who, while they refuted his extravagant tenets, yet paid a proper deference to his abilities; particularly Dr. Hall, bisbop of Exeter, who wrote with great strength of argument against the Brownists. But nothing could have effect upon him, or make him return home so he died in exile. His death was sudden, and not without suspicion of violence for it is reported, that having found a diamond of great value, he advertised it; and when the owner, who was a Jew, came to demand it, he offered him any gratuity he would desire. Ainsworth, though poor, requested only of the Jew, that he would procure him a conference with some of his rabbis, upon the prophecies of the Old Testament relating to the Messiah, which the Jew promised; but not having interest to obtain such a conference, it was thought that he contrived to get Ainsworth poisoned. This is said to have happened in 1622. He was undoubtedly a person of profound learning, and deeply read in the works of the rabbis. He had a strong understanding, quick penetration, and wonderful diligence.

His most esteemed works are his annotations on some books of the Bible. Those on the Psalms were printed 1612, 4to; on the Pentateuch, 2 vols. 4to, 1621, and again in 1627, fol. and 1639; which last edition Wendler and Vogt have inserted among scarce books. The Song of Solomon, which makes part of this volume, was printed separately in 1623, 4to. He published also several treatises of the controversial kind, as, 1. “A Counter-poison against Bernard and Crashaw,1608, 4to, and 1612, which Anthony Wood improperly attributes to Henry Jacob. Bishop Hall answered this tract; yet, whenever he mentions Ainsworth, it is with the highest praise as a man of learning. 2. “An Animadversion on Mr. Richard Clyfton’s Advertisement, who, under pretence of answering Charles Lawne’s book, hath published another man’s private letter, with Mr, Francis Johnson’s answer thereto; which letter is here justified, the answer hereto refuted, and the true causes of the lamentable breach that has lately fallen out in the English exiled church at Amsterdam, manifested: | printed at Amsterdam, by Giles Thorp, Aid. 1613,” 4to; 3. “A treatise of the Communion of Saints;” 4. “A treatise of the Fellowship that the Faithful have with God, his Angels, and one with another, in this present life, 1615,” 8vo; 5. “The trying out of the Truth between John Ainsworth and Henry Ainsworth, the one pleading for, and the other against popery,” 4to; 6. “An Arrow against Idolatry;” 7. “Certain Notes of Mr. Ainsworth’s last Sermon on 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5, printed in 1630,” 8vo. 1


Biog. Brit.—Heylyn’s Hist. of the Presbyterians, p. 374, 375.—Neal’s Hist. Of the Puritans.