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Had Cheynel been equal to his adversary in greatness and learning, it had not been easy to have found either a more proper opposite; for they were both, to the last degree, zealous, active, and pertinacious, and would have afforded mankind a spectacle of resolution and boldness not often to be seen. But the amusement of beholding the struggle would hardly have been without danger, as they were too fiery not to have communicated their heat, though it should have produced a conflagration of their country.
About the year 1641, when the whole nation was engaged in the controversy about the rights of the church, and necessity of episcopacy, he declared himself a presbyterian, and an enemy to bishops, liturgies, ceremonies, and was considered as one of the most learned and acute of his party; for, having spent much of his life in a college, it cannot be doubted that he had a considerable knowledge of books, which the vehemence of his temper enabled him often to display, when a more timorous man would have been silent, though in learning not his inferiour.
When the war broke out, Mr. Cheynel, in consequence of his principles, declared himself for the parliament; and as he appears to have held it as a first principle, that all great and noble spirits abhor neutrality, there is no doubt but that he exerted himself to gain proselytes, and to promote the interest of that party which he had thought it his duty to espouse.
These endeavours were so much regarded by the parliament, that, having taken the covenant, he was nominated one of the assembly of divines, who were
to meet at Westminster for the settlement of the new discipline.
This distinction drew necessarily upon him the hatred of the cavaliers ; and his living being not far distant from the king's head-quarters, he received a visit from some of the troops, who, as he affirms, plundered his house, and drove him from it. His living, which was, I suppose, considered as forfeited by his absence (though he was not suffered to continue upon it), was given to a clergyman, of whom he says, that he would become a stage better than a pulpit ; a censure which I can neither confute nor admit, because I have not discovered who was his successor. He then retired into Sussex, to exercise his ministry among his friends, in a place where, as he observes, there had been little of the power of religion either known or practised. As no reason can be given why the inhabitants of Sussex should have less knowledge or virtue than those of other places, it may be suspected that he means nothing more than a place where the presbyterian discipline or principles had never been received. We now observe, that the Methodists, where they scatter their opinions, represent themselves as preaching the Gospel to unconverted nations; and enthusiasts of all kinds have been inclined to disguise their particular tenets with pompous appellations, and to imagine themselves the great instruments of salvation : yet it must be confessed that all places are not equally enlightened; that in the most civilized nations there are many corners which may be called barbarous, where neither politeness, nor religion, nor the common arts of life, have yet been cultivated, and it is likewise
certain, that the inhabitants of Sussex have been sometimes mentioned as remarkable for brutality.
From Sussex he went often to London, where, in 1643, he preached three times before the parliament; and, returning in November to Colchester, to keep the monthly fast there, as was his custom, he obtained a convoy of sixteen soldiers, whose bravery or good fortune was such, that they faced and put to flight more than two hundred of the king's forces.
In this journey he found Mr. Chillingworth in the hands of the parliament's troops, of whose sickness and death he gave the account, which has been sufficiently made known to the learned world by Mr. Maizeaux, in his Life of Chillingworth.
With regard to this relation it may be observed that it is written with an air of fearless veracity, and with the spirit of a man who thinks his cause just, and his behaviour without reproach: nor does there appear any reason for doubting that Cheynel spoke and acted as he relates ; for he does not publish an apology, but a challenge and writes not so much to obviate calumnies, as to gain from others that applause which he seems to have bestowed very liberally upon himself for his behaviour on that occasion.
Since, therefore, this relation is credible, a great part of it being supported by evidence which cannot be refused, Mr. Maizeaux seems very justly, in his Life of Mr. Chillingworth, to oppose the common report, that his life was shortened by the inhumanity of those to whom he was a prisoner; for Cheynel appears to have preserved, amidst all his detestation of the opinions which he imputed to him, a great kindness to his person, and veneration for his capacity: nor does he appear to have been cruel to him, otherwise than by that incessant importunity of disputation, to which he was doubtless incited by a sincere belief of the danger of his soul, if he should die without renouncing some of his opinions.
The same kindness which made him desirous to convert him before his death, would incline him to preserve him from dying before he was converted; and accordingly we find, that, when the castle was yielded, he took care to procure him a commodious lodging : when he was to have been unseasonably removed, he attempted to shorten his journey, which he knew would be dangerous: when the physician was disgusted by Chillingworth's distrust, he prevailed upon him, as the symptoms grew more dangerous, to renew his visits; and when death left no other act of kindness to be practised, procured him the rites of burial, which some would have denied him.
Having done thus far justice to the humanity of Cheynel, it is proper to inquire how far he deserves blame. He appears to have extended none of that kindness to the opinions of Chillingworth, which he showed to his person; for he interprets every word in the worst sense, and seems industrious to discover in every line heresies, which might have escaped for ever any other apprehension : he appears always suspicious of some latent malignity, and ready to persecute what he only suspects, with the same violence as if it had been openly avowed : in all his procedure he shows himself sincere, but without candour.
About this time Cheynel, in pursuance of his
natural ardour, attended the army under the command of the earl of Essex, and added the praise of valour to that of learning; for he distinguished himself so much by his personal bravery, and obtained so much skill in the science of war, that his commands were obeyed by the colonels with as much respect as those of the general. He seems, indeed, to have been born a soldier, for he had an intrepidity which was never to be shaken by any danger, and a spirit of enterprise not to be discouraged by difficulty ; which were supported by an unusual degree of bodily strength. His services of all kinds were thought of so much importance by the parliament, that they bestowed upon him the living of Petworth, in Sussex. This living was of the value of 700l. per annum, from which they had ejected a man remarkable for his loyalty, and therefore, in their opinion, not worthy of such revenues. And it may be inquired, whether, in accepting this preferment, Cheynel did not violate the protestation which he makes in the passage already recited, and whether he did not suffer his resolution to be over-borne by the temptations of wealth.
In 1646, when Oxford was taken by the forces of the parliament, and the reformation of the University was resolved, Mr. Cheynel was sent, with six others, to prepare the way for a visitation; being authorized by the parliament to preach in any of the churches, without regard to the right of the members of the university, that their doctrine might prepare their hearers for the changes which were intended.
When they arrived at Oxford, they began to