Reformed Churchmen

We are Protestant, Calvinistic and Reformed Prayer Book Churchmen and Churchwomen. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; in 2012, we also remembered the 450th anniversary of Mr. (Bp., Salisbury) John Jewel's sober, scholarly, Protestant, and Reformed defense An Apology of the Church of England. In 2013, we remember the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. Our book of the month for Aug 2014 is Mr. Underhile's "The Church's Favorite Flower: A Patristic Study of the Doctrines of Grace," a handy little volume at: We've added Mr. Underhile's anti-Marcionite and Reformed "Comfort in Chaos: A Study in Nahum" as the book of the month for September 2014 at: Our book for October 2014 is Francis Turretin's 3-volume "Institutes of Elenctic Theology" at:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chris Matthews: "Do You Think Obama Is Ready To Change And Become A Real Chief Executive, Not Just A Good Speech Giver?"

(WARNING-GRAPHIC): ISIS Mass Executions/Beheadings of Iraqi Soldiers/Civilians

Deer-in-Headlights Look: DNC Debbie Wasserman Schultz Can't Name Single Senate Race in Which Obama Has Campaigned

The First Baptist Theologian: Tertullian of Carthage (c.160 - c.225) - Reformation21 Blog

The First Baptist Theologian: Tertullian of Carthage (c.160 - c.225) - Reformation21 Blog

CENTURIONS FORUM: The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity - 2014

CENTURIONS FORUM: The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity - 2014: The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity Psalm 119.145-152 Clamavi in toto corde meo 145 I CALL with my whole heart : hear me, O Lord, I...

24 October 2014 A.D. Countdown: Reformation Day Minus Seven: Sola Gratia—Christians Saved by God’s Grace Alone

24 October 2014 A.D.  Countdown: Reformation Day Minus Seven:  Sola Gratia—Christians Saved by God’s Grace Alone

Waters, Guy.  “Sola Gratia.”  Ligonier Ministries.  3 Oct 2014.  Accessed 3 Oct 2014.

Sola Gratia: Christians Are Saved by the Grace of God Alone

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” “Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin; how shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?”

Christians love to sing of the saving grace of God—and rightly so. John tells us that out of Jesus’ “fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Many of the New Testament letters begin and end with the writers expressing their desire that the grace of Jesus would be with His people. The very last words of the Bible read: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).

The Reformers understood the importance of the grace of God to the Bible’s teaching on salvation. In fact, one of the slogans that came to define Reformation teaching was sola gratia, which is Latin for “by grace alone.” Christians are saved by the grace of God alone.

Among Protestants, there is a popular misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on grace. Sometimes it is said, “Rome teaches that we are saved by works, but Protestants teach that we are saved by grace.” This statement, common as it is, is a slander against the Roman Catholic Church. Rome does not teach that one is saved by works apart from the grace of God. She, in fact, teaches that one is saved by the grace of God.

To what, then, did Rome object in the Reformers’ teaching? Where does the line of difference between Rome and the Reformation lie? It lies in a single word—sola (“alone”). The Reformers maintained that the sinner is saved by the grace of God, His unmerited favor, alone. This doctrine means that nothing the sinner does commends him to the grace of God, and that the sinner does not cooperate with God in order to merit his salvation. Salvation, from beginning to end, is the sovereign gift of God to the unworthy and undeserving. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, who were inclined to boasting: “Who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). No one can ever stand before God and say, “Look at me and at what I have done!” God is no one’s debtor, not least in matters of salvation (Rom. 11:35).

One passage of Scripture in which the doctrine of salvation by grace alone shines brightly is Ephesians 2:1–10. Paul wrote to the Ephesians after having ministered among them for some three years (Acts 20:31). It is clear from the Acts of the Apostles that Paul had deeply devoted himself to preaching and teaching the Word of God to them (19:8–10; 20:20–21).

The letter to the Ephesians gives us a glimpse into the feast of teaching that Paul had set before that church. In the first chapter, Paul takes us into the “heavenly places” (1:3). He shows us the plan of the Father to save sinners by the work of His Son, a work that is applied and guaranteed by the Spirit. This plan is a lavish plan— the Father has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (v. 3). Above all, Paul stresses how this plan of redemption redounds to the praise of the glorious grace of God (vv. 6, 12, 14).

After pausing to thank God and to intercede for the Ephesians, Paul applies the heavenly realities of 1:3–14 to our individual Christian lives in 2:1–10. He twice stresses the fact that it is “by grace you have been saved” (2:5, 8). How is the grace of God evident in salvation? We see God’s grace on display, Paul says, when God makes the dead alive in Christ. To appreciate fully the grace of God, let us consider from Ephesians 2:1–10 what it means to be “dead” and what it means to be “alive.”

Who are the “dead”? They include the Ephesians. (“You were dead in … trespasses and sins,” v. 1.) They include Paul and his fellow Jews. (“We all once lived in the passions of our flesh,” v. 3.) In fact, they include every man, woman, and child in Adam. (“[We] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind,” v. 3.) The “dead” include folks like you and I.

What does it mean to be “dead”? Paul points to three things in this passage. First, it means to be under condemnation. Before Christ, we were “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked.” Death, God told Adam in Genesis 2, is the penalty for sin. When we violate the law of God, we stand guilty before this holy God, accountable to His justice. Second, to be dead means we were under the yoke. We served three masters—the world (“following the course of this world,” 2:2), the flesh (“we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” 2:3), and the Devil (“following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” 2:2) . Third, to be dead means we were under wrath. We “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (2:3). We were justly subject to the holy displeasure of God for our sin. We were this way “by nature”— in other words, we were born into this condition.

Many do not accept this teaching. Outside the church, many assume that people are basically good. They tend to believe, at least implicitly, that if we give people the right education, examples, or laws, then they will follow the right path. Just laws, noble examples, and proper education are invaluable, but they are powerless to change a heart committed to its rebellion against God. Inside the church, many have said and still say that people are sick, even desperately sick. These sick people, however, are still said to have the wherewithal to respond to and cooperate with the grace of God. But Paul does not say we are sick. He says that apart from Christ, we are dead. Spiritually speaking, we are corpses in the ground without Jesus. We can no more draw near to God than a corpse can summon the strength to get out of its grave. That is how bad off we are outside of Christ.

Thankfully, Paul does not stop there. Beginning in verse 4, Paul turns from us to God, from the evil we have done to the good that God is doing in Christ. He highlights three things about the grace of God in the rest of this passage:

First, he points us to God’s work in verses 5–6: “God made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand (1:18–20), and He has done something incredible to us in our union with Christ. God, Paul says, has made the dead alive. That is what evokes Paul’s exclamation, “By grace you have been saved” (2:5).

Second, Paul points us to God’s motive. Why did God make the dead alive? It was not because of our works, Paul says in verse 9, neither the works that we did before we became Christians nor the works we have done after we became Christians. Otherwise, we might have cause to “boast” (v. 9). Instead, Paul says, God made us alive because of His “mercy,” His “great love with which he loved us” (v. 4). Paul goes out of his way to impress upon us that God’s own love and mercy are the font of our salvation.

Third, Paul points us to God’s purpose. For what purpose did God make the dead alive? It was, Paul says in verse 7, that we might put on display, both now and in eternity, the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” How do we do that? We do it by displaying in our lives the master workmanship of our Maker and Redeemer— we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10).

We are saved, then, sola gratia—by the grace of God alone. Far from leading us to embrace lives of license and moral recklessness, the grace of God in the gospel leads us to pursue lives of consecration and holiness. Why is this so? The great hymnwriter Isaac Watts captured Paul’s point well when he wrote in his hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Think about that the next time you sing of the grace of God.

24 October 2014 A.D. Salomon Reinach: Quotations on Islam from Notable Non-Muslims

24 October 2014 A.D.  Salomon Reinach: Quotations on Islam from Notable Non-Muslims

For 88 more quotes from other leaders regarding Islamo-Fascists, see:

We bring one of 89 quotes:  this is from Salomon Reinach.

Salomon Reinach

Salomon Reinach (1858 – 1932) was a French archaeologist, who made valuable archaeological discoveries at Myrina near Smyrna in 1880-82, at Cyme in 1881, at Thasos, Imbros and Lesbos (1882), at Carthage and Meninx (1883-84), at Odessa (1893) and elsewhere. He received honours from the chief learned societies of Europe. 

“From the literary point of view, the Koran has little merit. Declamation, repetition, puerility, a lack of logic and coherence strike the unprepared reader at every turn. It is humiliating to the human intellect to think that this mediocre literature has been the subject of innumerable commentaries, and that millions of men are still wasting time absorbing it.[101

Salomon Reinach.  Orpheus: A History of Religions. 1909.  Accessed 24 Oct 2014.

AND NOW,  for illustrative quotes on Islam from a world class scholar, Imam Barack Hussein Obama, see: 

20 Quotes By Barack Obama About Islam and Mohammed

#1 “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam”

#2 “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

#3 “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

#4 “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

#5 “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.

#6 “Islam has always been part of America”

#7 “we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities

#8 “These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

#9 “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

#10 “I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.”

#11 “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

#12 “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed”

#13 “In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.”

#14 “Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

#15 “Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality

#16 “The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”

#17 “I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.”

#18 “We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe.”

#19 “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

#20 “I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”

AND NOW, for more scholarly quotes from Imam Obama, see the URL.






OR, beside Imam Obama’s insights above, a few Quranic verses that have insired many Islamo-fascists.

Qur'an 3:32—Say: Obey Allah and the Apostle; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers.

Qur'an 48:29—Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and falling down prostrate (in prayer), seeking Bounty from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. The mark of them (i.e. of their Faith) is on their faces (foreheads) from the traces of (their) prostration (during prayers). This is their description in the Taurat (Torah). But their description in the Injeel (Gospel) is like a (sown) seed which sends forth its shoot, then makes it strong, it then becomes thick, and it stands straight on its stem, delighting the sowers that He may enrage the disbelievers with them. Allah has promised those among them who believe (i.e. all those who follow Islamic Monotheism, the religion of Prophet Muhammad SAW till the Day of Resurrection) and do righteous good deeds, forgiveness and a mighty reward (i.e. Paradise).

Qur'an 4:24—Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess. Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property—desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.

Qur'an 5:33—The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.

Qur'an 9:5—Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

Qur'an 9:29—Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day [notice it says "fight those who do not believe," not "fight people who are attacking you"], nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book [the people of the book are Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

Qur'an 9:73—O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.

Qur'an 9:111—Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this, that they shall have the garden; they fight in Allah's way, so they slay and are slain; a promise which is binding on Him in the Taurat and the Injeel and the Quran; and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Rejoice therefore in the pledge which you have made; and that is the mighty achievement.

Qur'an 47:35—Be not weary and fainthearted, crying for peace, when ye should be uppermost: for Allah is with you, and will never put you in loss for your (good) deeds. 

Qur'an 2:106—Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?

From the 1662 Book of Common Prayer,  the Collect for Good Friday:

O MERCIFUL God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. 

24 October 1851 A.D. Funeral of Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) Archibald Alexander, Princeton Seminary. Missionary Work in Western Africa: Fruit.

24 October 1851 A.D. Funeral of Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) Archibald Alexander, Princeton Seminary.  Missionary Work in Western Africa:  Fruit.

The funeral for the esteemed Pastor, Professor, Theologian, Exegete and Seminary President of Princeton Seminary was held on 24 October 1851 A.D.  It was held at First Presbyterian Church, Princeton, NJ. The funeral procession passed in front of Nassau Hall before following Witherspoon Street to the cemetery.

A very young man, age 16, a college student, was on hand and witnessed the event.  His name was Robert Hamill Nassau.  He had wanted to be a soldier.  He was moved by the ministry, reports and the funeral.  Christ’s governing and redeeming hand was on the lad’s life through the ordinary means of God’s grace.

He graduated from the college at age 19 and entered Princeton Seminary.  He was industrious.

  • On Sundays, Mr. Nassau taught Sunday School at the town’s black Presbyterian Church. 
  • During his first summer after year 1 in seminary, he asked the Presbyterian Board of Publications for the toughest job available.  He was assigned a colporteur’s job, that is, distributing Bibles and Christian literature in Missouri and Kansas.
  • During his second summer after year 2 in the seminary, he was assigned as a missionary to boatmen on the Pennsylvania Canal.

He graduated in 1859.  He again asked the Presbyterian Board for the tough job.  He was appointed to the Corsica mission in present-day Equitorial Guinea on the coast of Western Africa. But, he sought more training for his mission.

In 1861, he received his M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania.  At this point, we wonder if Mr. Nassau had any connection with the famous Rev. Dr. Boardman of Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia, an old school Presbyterian who also was a trustee of Princeton Seminary, but we digress. Mr. or now Dr. Nassau was ordained in 1861 as well.

By September 1861, Dr. Nassau was in Corsica.  He spent 45 years of faithful ministry there. He established several missions.  He mastered several African dialects. He also translated the OT and NT into Benga, a dialect of Bantu. 

Dr. Nassau, affected by the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander’s funeral and influenced under the teaching ministry of the Rev. Dr. Charles Hodge, passed Christ’s Word and Gospel to 100s or more in Western Africa.

A rather ruder sort suggests that Reformed Churchmen have little interest in evangelism or missions.  However, to the degree that the charge is justified and in some places it is justified, let it be noted that evangelism and missions, in fact, is integral to Reformed witness.  For example, French Huguenots took their faith with them as they experienced the tumults and repressions of faith.  Dr. Nassau, Dr. Alexander, and Dr. Hodge, though dead, speak anew and afresh.


Calhoun. Princeton Seminary.

Hornerk, Norman A. “Nassau, Robert Hamill.” BDCM. 486-7.

Nichols, Robert Hastings. “Nassau, Robert Hamill.” DAB. 13: 390-1.

24 October 1669 A.D. William Prynne Dies—English Lawyer; Parliamentarian; “Good Friend” of the Archbate of Canterbury, Billygoat Laud; Erastian Presbyterian; Post-Restoration Favors.

24 October 1669 A.D.  William Prynne Dies—English Lawyer; Parliamentarian; “Good Friend” of  the Archbate of Canterbury,  Billygoat Laud;  Erastian Presbyterian;  Post-Restoration Favors.

Editors.  “William Prynne.”  Encyclopedia Britannica.  N.d.  Accessed 18 Jul 2014.

William Prynne,  (born 1600, Swainswick, Somerset, Eng.—died Oct. 24, 1669, London), English Puritan pamphleteer whose persecution by the government of King Charles I (reigned 1625–49) intensified the antagonisms between the king and Parliament in the years preceding the English Civil Wars (1642–51).

Though trained as a lawyer, Prynne began to publish Puritan tracts in 1627. Soon he was attacking the ceremonialism of the Anglican church and the alleged frivolous pastimes of his age. In his famous book Histrio Mastix: The Players Scourge, or, Actors tragoedie (1633), he tried to prove that stage plays provoked public immorality. Many believed his vigorous denunciation of actresses was directed at Charles I’s theatrically inclined wife, and the powerful Anglican William Laud (archbishop of Canterbury 1633–45) had him committed to prison in February 1633; a year later Prynne was sentenced to life imprisonment and his ears were partially cut off. Nevertheless, from his cell he issued anonymous pamphlets attacking Laud and other Anglican prelates, resulting in further punishments: the stumps of his ears were shorn (1637) and his cheeks were branded with the letters S.L., meaning “seditious libeler”—though he preferred “Stigmata Laudis” (“the marks of Laud”).

Freed from prison by the Long Parliament in November 1640, Prynne devoted himself to bringing about the conviction and execution (January 1645) of Archbishop Laud. Then, as the Parliamentarians fragmented into Presbyterian (moderate Puritan) and Independent (radical Puritan) camps, Prynne wrote pamphlets attacking both factions and calling for a national Puritan church controlled by the king. This attack led to his expulsion from Parliament by the Independents in 1648, and from June 1650 to February 1653 he was imprisoned for refusing to pay taxes to the Commonwealth government, which he deemed unconstitutional and morally lax. As a member of the Convention Parliament of 1660, he supported the restoration of King Charles II to the throne; Charles rewarded him with the office of Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London in 1661. Prynne spent the last nine years of his life writing histories that contain valuable compilations of official documents.

24 October 1669 A.D. William Prynne Dies—English Lawyer, Parliamentarian, “Good Friend” of the Archbate of Canterbury (Goat Laud), Pamphleteer, & Object of Charles II’s Post-Restoration Favors

24 October 1669 A.D.  William Prynne Dies—English Lawyer, Parliamentarian, “Good Friend” of the Archbate of Canterbury (Goat Laud), Pamphleteer,  & Object of Charles II’s Post-Restoration Favors


William Prynne (1600 – 24 October 1669) was an English lawyer, author, polemicist, and political figure. He was a prominent Puritan opponent of the church policy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. Although his views on church polity were presbyterian, he became known in the 1640s as an Erastian, arguing for overall state control of religious matters. A prolific writer, he published over 200 books and pamphlets.


Early life

Born at Swainswick, near Bath, Somerset, he was educated at Bath Grammar School and Oriel College, Oxford. He graduated B.A. on 22 January 1621, was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn in the same year, and was called to the bar in 1628. According to Anthony à Wood, he was confirmed in his militant puritanism by the influence of John Preston, who was then lecturer at Lincoln's Inn. In 1627 he published his first book, a theological treatise,[1] followed in the next three years by three others attacking Arminianism and its teachers. In the preface to one of them he appealed to parliament to suppress anything written against Calvinist doctrine and to force the clergy to subscribe to the conclusion of the Synod of Dort.[2] Prynne was ever the stark disciplinarian. After arguing that the custom of drinking healths was sinful, he asserted that for men to wear their hair long was 'unseemly and unlawful unto Christians,' while it was 'mannish, unnatural, impudent, and unchristian' for women to cut it short.[3][4]


Like many Puritans abhorring decadent celebrations, Prynne was strongly opposed to religious feast days, including Christmas, and revelry such as stage plays, He included in his Histriomastix (1632) a denunciation of actresses which was widely felt to be an attack of Queen Henrietta Maria. This book led to the most famous incidents in his life, but the timing was accidental.[4]

About 1624 Prynne had begun a book against stage-plays; on 31 May 1630 he obtained a license to print it, and about November 1632 it was published. Histriomastix is a volume of over a thousand pages, showing that plays were unlawful, incentives to immorality, and condemned by the scriptures, Church Fathers, modern Christian writers, and pagan philosophers. By chance, the queen and her ladies, in January 1633, took part in the performance of Walter Montagu's The Shepherd's Paradise: this was an innovation at court. A passage reflecting on the character of female actors in general was construed as an aspersion on the queen; passages which attacked the spectators of plays and magistrates who failed to suppress them, pointed by references to Nero and other tyrants, were taken as attacks on the king, Charles I.[4]

William Noy as attorney-general instituted proceedings against Prynne in the Star-chamber. After a year's imprisonment in the Tower of London, he was sentenced (17 February 1634) to be imprisoned during life, to be fined £5,000, to be expelled from Lincoln's Inn, to be deprived of his degree by the university of Oxford, and to lose both his ears in the pillory. Prynne was pilloried on 7 May and 10 May. On 11 June he addressed to Archbishop Laud, whom he regarded as his chief persecutor, a letter charging him with illegality and injustice. Laud handed the letter to the attorney-general as material for a new prosecution, but when Prynne was required to own his handwriting, he contrived to get hold of the letter and tore it to pieces. In the Tower Prynne wrote and published anonymous tracts against episcopacy and against the Book of Sports. In one[5] he introduced Noy's recent death as a warning. Elsewhere[6] he attacked prelates in general (1635). An anonymous attack on Matthew Wren, bishop of Norwich[7] brought him again before the Star-chamber. On 14 June 1637 Prynne was sentenced once more to a fine of £5,000, to imprisonment for life, and to lose the rest of his ears. At the proposal of Chief-justice John Finch he was also to be branded on the cheeks with the letters S. L., signifying 'seditious libeller'. Prynne was pilloried on 30 June in company with Henry Burton and John Bastwick, and Prynne was handled barbarously by the executioner. He made, as he returned to his prison, a couple of Latin verses explaining the 'S. L.' with which he was branded to mean 'stigmata laudis' ("sign of praise", or "sign of Laud").[4][8]

His imprisonment was then much closer: no pens and ink, and allowed no books except the Bible, the prayer-book, and some orthodox theology. To isolate him from his friends he was removed first to Carnarvon Castle (July 1637), and then to Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey. The governor, Sir Philip Carteret, treated Prynne well, which he repaid by defending Carteret's character in 1645 when he was accused as a malignant and a tyrant. He occupied his imprisonment by writing verse.[4]


He was released by the Long Parliament in 1640. The House of Commons declared the two sentences against him illegal, restored him to his degree and to his membership of Lincoln's Inn, and voted him pecuniary reparation (as late as October 1648 he was still trying to collect it). He supported the Parliamentary cause in the English Civil War, particularly in the press, and in many pamphlets, while still pursuing the bishops.[4]

In 1643 Prynne became involved in the controversy which followed the surrender of Bristol by Nathaniel Fiennes. Together with his ally Clement Walker, he presented articles of accusation against Fiennes to the House of Commons (15 November 1643), managed the case for the prosecution at the court-martial, which took place in the following December, and secured a condemnation of the offending officer.[9] Prynne was also one of the counsel for the parliament at the trial of Lord Maguire in February 1645.[4][10]

He was able to have the satisfaction of overseeing the trial of William Laud, which was to end in Laud's execution. He collected and arranged evidence to prove the charges against him, bore testimony himself in support of many of them, hunted up witnesses against the archbishop, and assisted the counsel for the prosecution in every way. At the time some thought he was clearly tampering with the witnesses. Prynne had the duty of searching Laud's room in the Tower for papers. He published a redacted edition of Laud's diary[11] and a volume intended to serve as an introduction to his trial.[12] After Laud's execution, Prynne was charged by the House of Commons (4 March 1645) to produce an account of the trial;[13] other controversies prevented him from finishing the book.[4]

In the rapidly shifting climate of opinion of the time, Prynne, having been at the forefront of radical opposition, soon found himself a conservative figure, defending Presbyterianism against the Independents favoured by Oliver Cromwell and the army. From 1644 he wrote pamphlets against Independents.[14] He attacked John Goodwin[15] and crossed his old companion in suffering, Henry Burton.[16] He controverted and denounced John Lilburne, and called on Parliament to crush the sectaries.[17] Prynne was equally hostile to the demands of the presbyterian clergy for the establishment of their system: Prynne maintained the supremacy of the state over the church. 'Mr. Prynne and the Erastian lawyers are now our remora,' complains Robert Baillie in September 1645. He denied in his pamphlets the right of the clergy to excommunicate or to suspend from the reception of the sacrament except on conditions defined by the laws of the state.[18] He was answered by Samuel Rutherford.[4][19] William M. Lamont writes:

... Prynne had no distrust of power or abstract love of freedom. His pamphlet, The Sword of Christian Magistracy, is one of the most blood-curdling pleas for total repressive action from the civil authority in the English language.[20]

Prynne also came into collision with John Milton, whose doctrine on divorce he had denounced, and was replied to by the poet in a passage in his Colasterion. Milton also inserted in the original draft of his sonnet On the Forcers of Conscience a reference to 'marginal Prynne's ears'.[4]

During 1647 the breach between the army and the Parliament turned Prynne's attention from theology to politics. He wrote a number of pamphlets against the army, and championed the cause of the eleven presbyterian leaders whom the army impeached.[21] He also undertook official work. Since February 1644 he had been a member of the committee of accounts, and on 1 May 1647 he was appointed one of the commissioners for the Visitation of the University of Oxford. In April 1648 Prynne accompanied Philip Herbert, 5th Earl of Pembroke when he came as chancellor of Oxford to expel recalcitrant heads of houses.[4]

In November 1648 Prynne was elected Member of Parliament for Newport in Cornwall for the Long Parliament.[22] As soon as he took his seat, he showed his opposition to the army. He urged the Commons to declare them rebels, and argued that concessions made by Charles in the recent treaty were a satisfactory basis for a peace.[23] Two days later Pride's Purge took place. Prynne was arrested by Colonel Thomas Pride and Sir Hardress Waller, and kept prisoner first at an eating-house (called Hell), and then at the Swan and King's Head inns in the Strand.[4]

Pride's Purge to the Restoration

The purged Prynne protested in letters to Lord Fairfax, and by printed declarations on behalf of himself and the other arrested members. He published also a denunciation of the proposed trial of King Charles, being answered by a collection of extracts from his own earlier pamphlets.[24] Released from custody some time in January 1649, Prynne retired to Swanswick, and began a paper war against the new government. He became a thorn in Cromwell's side. He wrote three pamphlets against the engagement to be faithful to the Commonwealth, and proved that neither in conscience, law, nor prudence was he bound to pay the taxes which it imposed.[25] The government retaliated by imprisoning him for nearly three years without a trial. On 30 June 1650 he was arrested and confined, first in Dunster Castle and afterwards in Taunton Castle (12 June 1651) and Pendennis Castle (27 June 1651). He was finally offered his liberty on giving security to the amount of £1,000 that he would henceforward do nothing against the government; but, refusing to make any promise, he was released unconditionally on 18 February 1653.[4]

On his release Prynne returned to pamphleteering. He exposed the machinations of the papists, showed the danger of Quakerism, vindicated the rights of patrons against the triers, and discussed the right limits of the Sabbath.[26] The proposal to lift the thirteenth-century ban on the residence of Jews inspired him with a pamphlet against the scheme. Oliver Cromwell allowed the Jews to return to the British Isles on the condition that the Jews attend compulsory Christian sermons on a Sunday, to encourage their conversion to Christianity. Cromwell based this decision on St. Paul's epistle to the Romans 10:15.[27] The offer of the crown to Cromwell by the ' petition and advice' suggested a parallel between Cromwell and Richard III.[28] Similarly, when the Protector, as Cromwell then was styled, set up a House of Lords, Prynne expanded the tract in defence of their rights which he had published in 1648 into an historical treatise of five hundred pages.[29] These writings, however, attracted little attention.[4]

After the fall of Richard Cromwell he regained the popular ear. As soon as the Long Parliament was re-established, Prynne got together a few of the members excluded by Pride's purge and endeavoured to take his place in the house. On 7 May 1659 he was kept back by the guards, but on 9 May he managed to get in, and kept his seat there for a whole sitting. Arthur Haslerig and Sir Henry Vane threatened him, but Prynne told them he had as good right there as either, and had suffered more for the rights of parliament than any of them. They could only get rid of him by adjourning the house, and forcibly keeping him out when it reassembled.[30] On 27 December when the parliament was again restored after its interruption by John Lambert, Prynne and his friends made a fresh attempt to enter, but were once more excluded.[31] From May 1659 to February 1660 he went on publishing tracts on the case of the 'secluded members and attacks on the ref-formed Rump Parliament and the army. Marchamont Nedham, Henry Stubbe, John Rogers, and others printed serious answers to his arguments, while obscure libellers ridiculed him.[4][32]

On 21 February 1660 George Monck ordered the guards of the house to readmit the secluded members. Prynne, girt with an old basket-hilted sword, marched into Westminster Hall at their head; though the effect was spoiled when Sir William Waller tripped on the sword. The house charged him to bring in a bill for the dissolution of the Long parliament. In the debate on the bill Prynne asserted the rights of Charles II of England and claimed that the writs should be issued in his name. He also helped to forward the Restoration by accelerating the passing of the Militia Bill, which placed the control of the forces in the hands of the king's friends. A letter which he addressed to Charles II shows that he was personally thanked by the king for his services.[4]

From 1660

Prynne supported the Restoration, and was rewarded with public office. In April 1660 he was elected MP for Bath in the Convention Parliament.[22] He was bitter against the regicides and the supporters of the previous government, trying to restrict the scope of the Act of Indemnity. He successfully moved to have Charles Fleetwood excepted, and urged the exclusion of Richard Cromwell and Judge Francis Thorpe. He proposed punitive and financial measures of broad scope, was zealous for the disbanding of the army, and was one of the commissioners appointed to pay it off. In the debates on religion he was one of the leaders of the presbyterians, spoke against the Thirty-nine Articles, denied the claims of the bishops, urged the validity of presbyterian ordination, and supported the bill for turning the king's ecclesiastical declaration into law.[4]

As a politician Prynne was during his latter years of minor importance. He was re-elected MP for Bath to the Cavalier Parliament of May 1661.[22] He asserted his presbyterianism by refusing to kneel when the two houses received the sacrament together. A few weeks earlier he had published a pamphlet demanding the revision of the prayer-book, but the new parliament was opposed to any concessions to nonconformity. On 15 July a pamphlet by Prynne against the Corporation Bill was voted scandalous and seditious. In January 1667 Prynne was one of the managers of Lord Mordaunt's impeachment. He spoke several times on Clarendon's impeachment, and opposed the bill for his banishment. On constitutional subjects and points of procedure his opinion had weight, and in 1667 he was privately consulted by the king on the question whether a parliament which had been prorogued could be convened before the day fixed for its resumption.[4]

He became the Keeper of Records in the Tower of London; as a writer his most lasting works belongs to that period, for the amount of historical material they contain. Histriomastix is the one of his works that receives attention from modern scholars, but for its relevance to English Renaissance theatre. Anthony à Wood found him affable, obliging towards researchers, and courteous in the fashion of the early part of the century. Prynne died unmarried on 24 October 1669.[4]


  • Kirby, Ethyn WIlliams. William Prynne: A Study in Puritanism. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1931.
  • Lamont, William M. Puritanism and Historical Controversy. Montreal, McGill-Queen's Press, 1996.


1.     Jump up ^ The Perpetuity of a Regenerate Man's Estate.

2.     Jump up ^ A Brief Survey of Mr. Cozens his cozening Devotions.

3.     Jump up ^ Health's Sickness. The Unloveliness of Lovelocks, 1628.

4.     ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Prynne, William". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

5.     Jump up ^ A Divine Tragedy lately acted, or a Collection of sundry memorable Examples of God's Judgment upon Sabbath-breakers

6.     Jump up ^ In an appendix to John Bastwick's Flagellum Pontificis, and, in A Breviate of the Bishops' intolerable Usurpations

7.     Jump up ^ News from Ipswich (1636)

9.     Jump up ^ True and Full Relation of the Trial of Nathaniel Fiennes, 1644.

10.                        Jump up ^ The Subjection of all Traitors, &c. 1658).

11.                        Jump up ^ A Breviate of the Life of William Laud

12.                        Jump up ^ Hidden Works of Darkness brought to Public Light.

13.                        Jump up ^ Canterburies Doom, or the first part of a complete History of the Commitment, Trial, &c., of William Laud (1646).

14.                        Jump up ^ Independency Examined, Unmasked, and Refuted, 1644.

15.                        Jump up ^ Brief Animadversions on Mr John Goodwin's Theomachia, 1644.

16.                        Jump up ^ Truth triumphing over Falsehood, 1645.

17.                        Jump up ^ Just Defence of John Bastwick, 1645; The Liar Confounded, 1645; Fresh Discovery of some prodigious new wandering blazing Stars, 1645.

18.                        Jump up ^ Four Serious Questions, 1644; A Vindication of Four Questions, 1645; Suspension Suspended, 1646; The Sword of Christian Magistracy Supported, 1647.

19.                        Jump up ^ The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication, 1646.

20.                        Jump up ^ William M. Lamont, Godly Rule: Politics and Religion 1603–60 (1969), p. 170.

21.                        Jump up ^ Brief Justification of the Eleven Accused Members, 1647; Full Vindication and Answer of the Eleven Accused Members, 1647; Hypocrites Unmasking, 1647.

22.                        ^ Jump up to: a b c History of Parliament Online – Prynne, William

23.                        Jump up ^ The Substance of a Speech made in the House of Commons by William Prynne, 4 December 1648.

24.                        Jump up ^ True and Perfect Narrative of the Officers and Army's Force upon the Commons House; Brief Memento to the Present Unparliamentary Junto; Mr. Prynne's Charge against the King.

25.                        Jump up ^ A Legal Vindication of the Liberties of England against all Illegal Taxes and Pretended Acts of Parliament, 1649.

26.                        Jump up ^ A Brief polemical Dissertation concerning the Lords Day Sabbath, 1655; The Quakers Unmasked, 1655; A New Discovery of some Romish Emissaries, 1656.

27.                        Jump up ^ A Short Demurrer to the Jews long-discontinued Remitter into England, 1656.

28.                        Jump up ^ King Richard the Third Revived, 1657.

29.                        Jump up ^ A Plea for the Lords, 1658.

30.                        Jump up ^ A True and Perfect Narrative of what was done by Mr. Prynne, &c. , 1659.

31.                        Jump up ^ Brief Narrative how divers Members of the House of Commons were again shut out, 1660.

32.                        Jump up ^ The Character or Earmark of Mr. W. Prynne, 1659; A Petition of the Peaceable and well-affected People of the three Nations, &c.

External links
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
William Prynne
Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Prynne.