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John Chester

N. H. Keeble, John Coffey, Tim Cooper, and Tom Charlton (eds), Reliquiae Baxterianae: Or, Mr. Richard Baxter's Narrative of the Most Memorable Passages of his Life and Times, Vol. 4: Documents and Appendices

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pg 340Document 80: J[ohn?] C[hester?]'s 'ruff coppy' of his Account of Baxter's Trial addressed to Matthew Sylvester, 2 June 1694


(i) Text

Letters, iii: 208–211v (CCRB, 1261)

(ii) Context

This eyewitness document is the primary source for the conduct of Baxter's trial before Judge Jeffreys on 30 May 1685 on a charge of seditious libel.1 In DWL, iv: 127, is a note of charges for securing Baxter's release from imprisonment following his conviction, with annotations by Baxter disputing both the work undertaken and the exorbitant sums claimed.2

(iii) Textual comment

The headnote to CCRB, 1261, conjectures that the writer of this letter to Matthew Sylvester, signed simply 'I. C.', was John Chester, ejected rector of Witherley, Leics., whom Baxter knew and admired, at least since 1676 when both were preaching in Southwark.3 Its date suggests that, even at this late stage in the process of preparing Baxter's autobiographical papers for the press, Sylvester was still contemplating a continuation of Baxter's narrative beyond its end date of January 1685.4 In the event, he made no use of this material. This letter was, however, used extensively by Calamy in his own account of the trial in his 1702 Abridgment of the pg 341Reliquiæ.5 In the early nineteenth century it was printed in The Christian Reformer, and it was drawn on in William Orme's biography.6 It was used by Macaulay in his History of England and reproduced in large part by Lloyd Thomas in his 1925 edition of Baxter's Autobiography republished in the Everyman series.7 The copy of the 1925 edition of this abridgement in Dr Williams's Library has marginal annotation illustrative of the unpredictable history of the Baxter Treatises in the early twentieth century. Where Lloyd Thomas notes that 'The following account is by an unknown I.C., who wrote it in a letter once among the MSS. in Dr Williams's Library', 'once' has been deleted in pencil and 'now' added in the left margin.8

J[ohn?] C[hester?]'s 'ruff coppy'

Letters,| Honored Old Friend

iii: 208 


I must not omitt giveing you an accompt of Mr Baxter's tryall, lately at Guild-Hall before Sr George Jeffery's our now Lord Cheif Justice, where you'l find him declameing violently, upon the common theam of his owne ignorance, and puttid9 mallice, against that most excellent saint, and grave Minister of Christ, Mr Baxter. When I saw the meeke man stand before the flameing eyes, and feirce look's of this Biggott, I thought of Pauls standing before Nero, and also what a good story this would make for the future ages, if any hath taken it well, & exactly, to hand it down to posterity: And indeed the barbarous usage of this saint, with other considerations drew plenty of tears from my eyes, as well as from others of the Auditors, and spectators. Yet I could not but smile sometimes, when I saw my Lord imitate our modern pulpet drollery: which as one saith any man ingag'd in such a designe would not lose for a world, and what a Ruefull clutter he \made/ 〈XXX〉 against his owne Moreneas,10 and the pg 342poor man at the Bar: You'l see him driveing on furiously, like the Great Hanebal, makeing his way Over the alps with fire & vinegar, pouring all the contempt and scorn upon him, as if he had bin a link boy,11 or rake Kennel,12 or at lest his Owne countrey man,13 which made the people that could not \come/ neere enough to hear the inditement nor Mr Baxters plea: cry out Surely this Baxter Burnt the City, or had Rob'd the temple of Delphos &c. But others said it was not the custome now aday's to here Ill but for doing well, and this must needs be some good man that my Lord did so Raile at.

Sr you may be sattisfied in the truth of this accompt, I being an eye & eare wittness of the whole, & had plac'd my self as neere the poor prisoner as I could, because I was pretty sure, I should heare the full mouth'd Judge. Sr Hen. Ashurst held Mr Bax: up By the Right arme 〈XXX〉i \and/ I put my hand and held him up on the other side: Mr Bax: said to me thank you Sr: Indeed, I thought it the honorablest office that ever Sr Hen Ashurst & poor I 〈m〉, were 〈ever〉 Imploy'd in, in our lives.

Letters,| But when the Clark read the \matter of the/ inditement, I wonder'd iii: 208vwhere the venome and evil would ly, that could exasperate a sweet natur'd Gentelman, and admir'd to see this mighty Hercules fetch such a huge blow at a man, nothing but skin and Bones. & yet with all I would feighn see with what 〈errors and sinnes of Brawny Reason, my Lord would answer it, & confute the parap\hrase/ and indeed one would wonder they should storme at this Book if they had but 〈q〉\C/onsiderd how extreemly civil Mr Baxter had Bin to them \(for I'le conceal nothing)/ in the Thesalonians where he did not determine the pope to be Antichrist, only upon consideration of the sighnes & Characters of him, said 〈he〉 he had Ill luck to be so like him 〈XXX〉 But yet you must expect by an by a Great storme after a fire drops, Borrowd it may-be from Lestrange, or some of his ecclesiasticall \creatures/ 〈XXX〉 that make loud & learned clamors against seperation and devision, But yett take care, we shall never want matter to devide us, as like the Church of Rome that Build high walls of seperation, & then beat & Raile at us because we cannot leap over them, Or like some Grand sages of a Nationall Church that I have read of, that sett all their witts to work to make some deviding or excluding ingines, and when they had turn'd out \about/ 2000 of their Best, and so hold all there pg 343Benifices to scramble for, yett don't Rest here, but Quarrell with them for wrighting, & punish them for preaching (Tho' in places where there is the most \Palpable/ 〈XXX〉 need of their Ministry.) & the People too for being so saucie & stuborn, that they will not rather go \untaught/ 〈XXX〉 then learn the way of life & salvation from those men:

These beat their servants out of Doors, & then send hew & cry after them: But I forgett my self – this game will not pay for the candle14 therfore I am now begining to make an end and will come to the Tragicall business of the day, as far as I can well Remember & have time to wright, and the rest you may expect 〈hereafter〉

A. So then a Jury was sworn, But Mr Bax: made objections to them, as inferior & uncapable men, Tradesmen & no scholars, therfore could not be proper Judges of his paraphrase, whether he 〈XXX〉 had swerv'd from the originall, or no, therfore he desir'd a Jury of Learned men, nay tho' one of them were papists, but in this he \was/ 〈is〉 over Rul'd, as the method is now a day's so they went on with the inditement wherein \as I remember/ Letters,were the \places of/ Scripture | which Mr Baxter had not pleased them iii: 209in, And after a grave agravatting Blockhead had given many blows upon the naile to make it enter.

Polexfalain15 stod up and said, My Lord, and you Gentelmaen of the Jury, I am of councel in this cause for Mr Baxter, and truly I have an unusuall plea to manage, being farst to consult all our learn'd commentators, where I find many concur with Mr Bax in his exposition or paraphrase upon those very texts of Scripture, in the inditement, both learned, & pious, and of the Church of England to sume of them, learned prelates whose works I have fain forst to loock in, that I might be able to manage my Clients defence, and the first that I shall begin with is Dr Hammon,16 and Gentelmen tho Mr Bax made an objection against you as not fitt Judges of the greek tongue (in which he is Over Rul'd) Yett gentelmen I hope you understand English, Common sence & can Read.

To which the foreman made a Reverend bow & said (Yes Sr)

But now my Lord Breaks in upon Polexfin like a fin,17 and tells him he should not sit there to hear him preach neither,

pg 344

POLL No my Lord I am of Councel for Mr Bax, & shall offer nothing but what is ad 〈Judice〉 rem:

LORD C J why this is not, that you cant to \the/ Jury beforehand

POLL I beg your Lordships pardon then, Ile go to the business

LORD C J Come what do you say to that text there, read it Clark

CLARK Who devower widows houses & for a pretence make long prayers. those &c (then the paraphrase too was read)

LORD C J Oy is not this now an old Knave to interpret this to be long 〈lethargies〉 liturgies?

POLL So do others of the Church of England (to my Lord) and we are loth to wrong the cause of litergies as to make them such a Novel invention as not to be 〈&c〉 able to date them as early as the scribes and pharisees: &c:

LORD C J No No Mr Pollixfin they were long winded \extemporary/ 〈extemory〉 prayers Such as they use to say when they apropriate God Letters,to themselves, Lord we are thy people, thy peculiar people | Thy Dear iii: 209vpeople &c

and then he snorts, & speaks through the nose, and cluches his hands, & lifts up his Gogle eyes, in a mimicall way, runing on furiously as he saith they use to pray: But old pollixfin gave him a bite now and then, tho' he could hardly croud in a word

POLL Why some will tel you my Lord tis hard measure to stop those mens mouths & yet not suffer them to speak thro' the nose

L: C: J: Pollixfin I know you well enough, & \Ile/ set a mark upon you for you are the patron for the faction, this is an old Rouge,18 & hath poyson'd the world with his Kederminster Doctrines don't we know how he preacht formerley, curse yee Meros, curse them bitterly that come not to help the Lord against the mighty, and incourag'd all the women and maids to bring in their Bodkins and thimbles to cary on the war against that King of ever blessed memory, an old schismaticall Knaue an hipocritticall villain

POLL I beseech your Lordship suffer me a word for my Clyent: tis well known to all intelligable men \of age/ of this Nation, that these things pg 345agree not at all to the carracter of Mr Bax: who wished as well to the King, and Royall family as Mr Love 〈the〉 that Lost his head for endeavoring to bring in the son \long/ before he was Restor'd, and my Lord Mr Bax Loyall & peaceble spirit King Charles the 2d woud have rewarded with a Bishoprick when he came in, if he could haue conformed.

LORD CJ Oy oy we know that but what al'd the old stockcole19 the unthankfull villaine, that he could not conforme, was he better or wiser then other men, he hath been ever since the spring of the faction, I am sure he hath poyson'd the world with his lincie wolsie doctrin: and here I thought he would have run starck stareing mad, for by the stuff that came out of his mouth I found he had rak'd all the comon showers of freindly debates, eclesiasticall pollicies, and counter mind, and Yett his Larrum was not Run down yet neither, for he was a conceited stuborn fanaticall dog, that he did not conforme when he might have been prefer'd, hang him this one old fellow hath cast more reproach upon the constitution, & exalent discipline, of our Church, then will be 〈whipt〉 Letters,wip'd | of this hundred years, but Ile handle him for it, for by God he iii: 210deserves to be whipt thro the city.

POLL My Lord, I am sure these things are not ad \rem/ 〈Judice〉 and my Lord some men think it is very hard that these men must \be forst to/ use the Cross or bare the Cross, But that's not my business my Lord I come not to Justifie mens nonconformity, nor to give here the Reasons of their scruples, why they cannot accept of Beneficall places, but had rather suffer any thing, My Lord I know not what Reasons swaie other mens Consciences, My Business is to plead for my Client, and to answer the Charge of dangerous sedition that is \aledged/ 〈said〉 to be in this paraphrase \of his\ upon the new Testament:

Then my Lord took Breath a little, and Turning his ey's all round I supose to see how the multitude lik'd this harriing, spies Dr Bates20 laughing, & perces him through like a vultur, but Dr Bates not careing, \I suppose,/ to be star'd upon by him, steps down 〈XXX〉 and Jefferys took notice of it & said there's Bates I〈le〉 saw him just now, I'le say that for him hee's a Gentleman & a scholar, & the best of the whole pack of them: he hath allways taken care to keep his pitcher whole & his water cleer But this old Rogue hath bin always a troublesome factious fellow, 〈So I saw〉

pg 346So I saw Dr Bates afterwards in the court & told him of it & he smild, & shook his head, & 〈answer'd what evill〉 answer'd as one said, what evill have I done &c: that this wicked man praiseth me:

POLL: My Lord my Client mr Bax: is a man of another Spirit, he hath written a book for Episcopall goverment &c & that's his judgement my Lord: I have it in court & will shew it your Lordship if you please

L: C: J: I'le see none of his books: its for primitive Episcopacy I'le warrant you, a bishop in every parish: a pox take 'um we know their Bishops well enough.

POLL: Nay: my Lord 〈it〉 it is the same with Arch Bishop Usher, but a silly Jerk he had 〈XXX〉 at him to: tho he mumbld it so softly 〈he〉\I/ could not well hear it:

POLL: My Lord mr Bax: was a commissioner appointed by the King at the Savoy to settle Ecclesiasticall affairs, & he never offer'd anything for agreement & accommodation, but Arch Bishop Ushers reduction of Letters,Episcopacy,21 & nothing at all against Lithurgies as such |

iii: 210v

L: C: J: It's no matter what he or Bishop Usher offers, our Church is established & wee'l bate nothing: neither do we care what such a company of whyning Hypocritical fellows talk of: & this is one of the Ringleaders of them: but Ile handle him well-enough Ile warrant you:

Now Dr Oates being whip'd a little before22 & my Lord & the goverment being in the whipping mood for Dangerfeild was condemn'd this very morning at Westminster Hall by my Lord (whose tryall I heard to{o}) the people especially the Lady's, of whome there were some of good quality burst out a weeping, & amongst the rest a Conformist in his gowne & scharf, one Dr Ford a comely grave man, who stood pretty near my Lord upon his left hand:

who seem〈d〉\e/d not at all to like these things: but Jefferys turning his wall eyes heither & thither & seeing all the persons upon the bench allmost (except himself) in teares, he calls out to Mr Baxter saying to this effect.

L: C: J: Come you what do you say for your self; you old knave, come speak up: what doth he say: I am not afraid of you for all the sniveling Calves that are got about you

pg 347

MR BAX: Your Lordship need not for Ile not hurt you: But these things will surely be understood one day what tools one sort of protestants are made to persecute & vex the other: & lifting up his eyes to heaven said: I am not concern'd to answer such stuff: but am ready to produce my writeing, for the confutation of all this, & my life & conversation is known to many in this nation &c:

Dear friend its now late at night & I must break of but will quickly give you the rest of the tryall if I can remember it: for Mr Bax: had displeas'd them as much in paraphraising upon some other places in the new testament but it may be this tryall may come out & then you'l have it more in form & 〈XXX〉 manner, except the dear Sons of the Church should think it not for the honour of 〈XXX〉 their great Hero & Patron of their faction, but I wish heartily it might see the light, & that someone would animadvert upon it, for my own part I expect to be swallw'd up by persons of the same Letters,violent Agar23 Spirit here:24 for one of them treats their books | & name iii: 211as Civilly as George25 did Mr Bax person & I haveing promised some of his pious writeings, particularly his call to the unconverted26 & Mr Vincent of Prayer:27 I was sent for & rail'd at; that I had poyson'd some in his family with this Kederminster doctrine to: the Lord help us to hold out in his ways: & not be tempted to run to far from them: for these things, are a great temptation to me to think whatever large pretences some men make to the Church: yet I cannot be a true Mother that is for the destruction & divideing of the Child, tho' I think if I have err'd it has been on Mr. Bax: hand all this, while haveing an Excessive Charity for them but I long to see you, & confer more particularly of these things, & beg your advice who am Your Unfeighned friend & Servant



Mr Bax: is now in prison in Southwark where he lies for the fine which is six hundred marks: we have fine 〈Jurys in Engl〉 Jurys & Judges in England you see, this Welsh Viper I am told propounded a corporall punishment for this excellent paraphrase (viz:) wipping through the City: but I hear some of his brethren abhor'd the motion & stamp'd at it: so amongst them & out of their great Clemency they have sett the above said fine:

pg 348I went to see Mr Bax: yesterday with a message from a reverend Divine for his advice about printing an excellent book against popery where I found an eminent Dr of the Church of England setting upon a couch with him, I see there are some good men conformists that are not ashamd of our chain.28

Ps Postscript

Pray take care to conceal this for you know the troublesomeness of the times.


Letters,| Mr Silvester

iii: 211vYours I received by the hands of Mr Goff: together with the importunity of Mr Smith of Windsor hath caus'd me to send you a ruff coppy of what I formerly writ to a friend, of Mr Baxters tryall (I thought to have pick'd out a few passages & sent you) but I know not your way & method of procedure, and therefore have sent the ruff coppy as it was, submitting it wholly to your discretion to insert or suppress. I am very sorry I cannot find a second letter that I had, neither can I recollect at this distance of time, but I hope you will be furnished with that which will abundantly supply this defect, & I wish this great work you are about were out, which I hope will tend to the glory of God & good of Believers, & keep alive the memorie of this just man: which will be pretious in all the Churches of Christ to the end of the World,

  •      Your Faithfull friend the Vnknown
  •      J: C:
  • Kingston
  • June 2d 1694:


Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 For related documents see Documents 78, 79, 81, 82, 85, and CCRB, 1148, 1149, 1150–2.
Editor’s Note
2 Printed by Powicke 1927, appendix 8, 286–7.
Editor’s Note
4 See the General Introduction, RB, i: 7–8, and the Textual Introduction, RB, i: 139, 140–1.
Editor’s Note
5 See Document 85. The account of the trial in State Trials, xi: 493–502, derives from Calamy.
Editor’s Note
6 The Christian Reformer or New Evangelical Miscellany, xi (1825), 1–10; Orme, i: 364–70.
Editor’s Note
7 Thomas Babington Macaulay, History of England, ed. C. H. Firth, 6 vols (1913–15), i: 484–8; Autobiography, 257–66.
Editor’s Note
8 The Autobiography of Richard Baxter, abridged J. M. Lloyd Thomas (London: Dent, 1925), 258, shelfmark [21.B.6] (2). On the archival history of the Baxter Treatises see the Textual Introduction, RB, i: 142–7.
Editor’s Note
9 puttid: CCRB tentatively suggests 'putrid', but OED includes a citation from Baxter's Answer to Mr. Dodwell and Dr Sherlocke (1682), iv. 28, for putid, 'morally or intellectually corrupt or worthless; base, foul, loathsome'; there is another example in the Apology for the Nonconformists Ministry (1681), 81.
Editor’s Note
10 Moreneas: apparently (and unexpectedly) a version of morenas. Morena was a borrowing from Spanish, known to OED in the seventeenth century from a solitary example in Pepys, meaning a woman with dark hair or complexion. Here, the sense seems to be 'subordinates' or 'servants'.
Editor’s Note
11 a link boy: a boy employed to carry a torch (or link) to light people along the street (first recorded in OED from 1660).
Editor’s Note
12 rake Kennel: a dialect word for a rascal or blackguard (Eric Partridge, The Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang, rev. edn, 2 vols (London: Routledge, 1961)); not recorded in OED.
Editor’s Note
13 or at lest his Owne countrey man: Jeffreys was a native of Denbighshire.
Critical Apparatus
iXXX〉: eighteen words are here deleted
Editor’s Note
14 this game will not pay for the candle: apparently an earlier version of the phrase 'the game is not worth the candle', known to OED from 1699.
Editor’s Note
15 Polexfalain: Sir Henry Pollexfen.
Editor’s Note
16 Dr Hammon: Henry Hammond.
Editor’s Note
17 fin: this unexpected word is, reasonably, read by Lloyd Thomas, as fiend (Autobiography, 259), but it seems likely that it is used in the sense known to OED from the seventeenth century of 'a sharp lateral projection on the share or the coulter of a plough' (Chester was a native of, and ministered in, rural Leicestershire (CR)).
Editor’s Note
18 Rouge: i.e., Rogue.
Editor’s Note
19 stockcole: not known to OED; Lloyd Thomas in Autobiography, 260, tentatively suggests it is a version of stockowl, 'the great eagle-owl'.
Editor’s Note
20 Dr Bates: William Bates.
Editor’s Note
21 Arch Bishop Ushers reduction of Episcopacy: Document 21, Text 4.
Editor’s Note
22 Dr Oates being whip'd a little before: on 8–9 May 1685 Titus Oates had been convicted before Jeffreys of perjury in his testimony in relation to the Popish Plot. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but first he was pilloried and on 20 May he was whipped from Aldgate to Newgate, and on 22 May from Newgate to Tyburn. (He was released in December 1688.)
Editor’s Note
23 Agar: known to OED only 200 years later referring to a gelatinous substance obtained from seaweed; this case is perhaps an unrecorded form of agaric, a fungus used medicinally as a laxative or purgative.
Editor’s Note
24 here: from 1690 Chester was resident in Guildford (CR).
Editor’s Note
25 George: i.e., George, Lord Jeffreys.
Editor’s Note
26 his call to the unconverted: published in 1658.
Editor’s Note
27 Mr Vincent of Prayer: Nathaniel Vincent, The Spirit of Prayer (1677).
Editor’s Note
28 that are not ashamd of our chain: 2 Tim. 1:16.
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