Howe, John

, a learned non-conformist divine in the seventeenth century, was a minister’s son, and nephew to Mr. Obadiah Howe, vicar of Boston in Lincolnshire. He was born May 17, 1630, at Loughborough in Leicestershire, of which town his father was minister, being settled there by archbishop Laud, though afterwards ejected by that prelate on account of his adherence to the Puritans; upon which he went with his son to Ireland, where they continued till the Irish Rebellion broke out, when they returned to England, and settled in Lancashire, where our author was educated in the first rudiments of learning and the knowledge of the tongues. He was sent pretty early to Christ college in Cambridge, where he continued till he had taken the degree of bachelor of arts, and then removed to Oxford, and became bible-clerk of Brazen-nose college in Michaelmas term 1648, and took the degree of bachelor of arts Jan. 18, 1649. He was made a demy of Magdalen college by the parliament visitors, and afterwards fellow; and July 9, 1652, took the degree of master of arts. Soon after this he became a preacher, and was ordained by Mr. Charles Herle at his church of Winwick in Lancashire, and not long after became minister of Great Torrington in Devonshire. His labours here were characteristic of the times. He informed Dr. Calamy, that on the public fasts it was his common way to begin about nine in the morning with a prayer for about a quarter of an hour, in which he begged a blessing on the work of the day; and afterwards read and expounded a chapter or psalm, in which he spent about three quarters; then prayed for about an hour, preached for another hour, and prayed for about half an hour. After this he retired, and took some little refreshment for about a quarter of an hour or more (the people singing all the while), and then came again into the pulpit, and prayed for another hour, and gave them another sermon of about an hour’s length, and so concluded the service of the day, about four o’clock in the evening, with half an hour or more in prayer.

In March 1654 he married the daughter of Mr. George Hughes, minister of Plymouth. Having occasion to take a journey to London, he went as a hearer to the chapel at Whitehall. Cromwell was present, and, struck with his demeanor and person, sent a messenger to inform him that he wished to speak with him when the service was over. In the course of the interview he desired him to preach | before him the following Sunday: he requested to be excused, but Cromwell would not be denied, and even undertook to write to his congregation a sufficient apology for his absence from them longer than he intended. This led to the appointment of Mr. Howe to the office of his domestic chaplain, and he accordingly removed with his family to Whitehall. Dr. Calamy tells us, that while he was in this station, he behaved in such a manner that he was never charged, even by those who have been most forward to inveigh against a number of his contemporaries, with improving his interest in those who then had the management of affairs in their hands, either to the enriching himself, or the doing ill offices to others, though of known differing sentiments. He readily embraced every occasion that offered, of serving the interest of religion and learning, and opposing the errors and designs which at that time threatened both. The notion of a particular faith prevailed much at Cromwell’s court; and it was a common opinion among them, that such as were in a special manner favoured of God, when they offered up prayers and supplications to him for his mercies, either for themselves or others, often had such impressions made upon their minds and spirits by a divine hand, as signified to them, not only in the general that their prayers would be heard and answered, but that the particular mercies which were sought for would be certainly bestowed; nay, and sometimes also intimated to them in what way and manner they would be afforded, and pointed out to them future events beforehand, which in reality is the same with inspiration. Mr. Howe told Dr. Calamy, that not a little pains was taken to cultivate and support this notion at Whitehall and that he once heard a sermon there from a person of note, the avowed design of which was to defend it. He said, that he was so fully convinced of the ill tendency of such a principle, that after hearing this sermon, he thought himself bound in conscience, when it came next to his turn to preach before Cromwell, to set himself industriously to oppose it, and to beat down that spiritual pride and confidence, which such fancied impulses and impressions were apt to produce and cherish. He observed, while he was in the pulpit, that Cromwell heard him with great attention, but would sometimes knit his brows, and discover great uneasiness. When the sermon was over, a person of distinction came to him, and asked him, if he knevy. | what he had done? and signified it to him as his apprehension, that Cromwell would be so incensed at that dis’A course, that he would find it very difficult ever to make his peace with him, or secure his favour for the future. Mr. Howe replied, that he had but discharged his conscience, and could leave the event with God. He afterwards observed, that Cromwell was cooler in his carriage to him than before; and sometimes he thought he would have spoken to him of the matter, but never did.

Upon the death of Oliver Cromwell, his son Richard succeeding him as protector, Mr. Howe stood in the same relation to him of chaplain as he had done to the father; and was in his judgment very much averse tp Richard’s parting with his parliament, which he foresaw would prove his ruin. When the army had set Richard aside, Mr. Howe returned to his people at Great Torrington, among whom he continued till the act of uniformity took place August 24, 1662, after which he preached for some time in private houses in Devonshire. In April 1671 he went to Ireland, where he lived as chaplain to the lord Massarene in the parish of Antrim, and had leave from the bishop of the diocese and the metropolitan to preach in the public church of that town every Sunday in the afternoon, without submitting to any terms of conformity. In 1675, upon the death of Dr. Lazarus Seaman, he was chosen minister of his congregation, upon which he returned to England and settled at London, where he was highly respected, not only by his brethren in the ministry among the dissenters, but also by several eminent divines of the church of England, as Dr. Whichcot, Dr. Kidder, Dr. Fowler, Dr. Lucas, and others. In August 1685 he travelled beyond sea with the lord Wharton, and the year following settled at Utrecht, and took his turn in preaching at the English church in that city. In 1687, upon king James’s publishing his “Declaration for liberty of conscience,” Mr. Howe returned to London, where he died April 2, 1705, and was interred in the parish church of Allhallows Bread-street.

Mr. Howe, abating his attachment to the family of the Usurper, was a man of more moderation than most of his brethren, and as a divine laboured zealously to promote the interests of real practical religion, and to diffuse a spirit of candour, charity, and mutual forbearance, among his dissenting brethren. He was a man of distinguished piety and virtue, of eminent intellectual endowments, and of | extensive learning. Granger says, “He was one of the most learned and polite writers among the dissenters. His reading in divinity was very extensive: he was a good Orientalist, and understood several of the modern languages.

Among his works are, 1. “A Treatise on the blessedness of the righteous,1668, 8vo. 2. “A Treatise on delighting in God,1674. 3. “Of thoughtfulness for the morrow;” and many sermons and discourses on several subjects. His whole works were printed in 1724, 2 vols. folio, with a life by Dr. Galamy. 1

1 Life by —Calamy. Gen. Dict. Biog. Brit. vol. VII. Birch’s Tillotson. Wilson’s Hist, of Dissenting Churches.