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MASTER JOHN SHAWE, THE FIRST PURITAN VICAR
THE PERIOD OF OUR NATIONAL HISTORY, INCLUDED IN THE EVENTFUL REIGNS OF JAMES I. AND CHARLES I., MAY, FOR OUR NARRATIVE, BE BEST ILLUSTRATED BY A RECITAL OF THE REMARKABLE CAREER OF ROTHERHAM'S FAMOUS PURITAN VICAR, MASTER JOHN SHAWE.
for the benefit of his young and only son and heir,
born of a second wife when the father was close upon sixty, as he wished his child to learn in after years some knowledge of his parents, and of the lineage whence he was descended. Master Shawe entertained a worthy pride of his family and their estate. He was himself born 23rd June, 1608, in the sixth year of King James, at the family seat of Sicke-house, in the chapelry of Bradfield and the parish of Ecclesfield. Sicke House was a very ancient homestead, and by its name signifies a house near to a streamlet that dries up in summer time. The chapelry of Bradfield consists of a wide, bleak, and mountainous tract of country lying between the Rivelin and the Don, often the theme of Elliott's muse
“Don, Rivelin, Loxley, wandering in their pride,
From heights that mix their azure with the skies."
EARLY YEARS. From a child, young John had a great mind to and earnest desire of learning. The parents having no child but him, and some competent estate to leave him, were very loath to let their darling boy depart from them, and desired he would take up some calling which he might follow in that country. They, however, observing more and more their son's eager desire after knowledge and learning, gave way. As their son states, “My good God so overruled their hearts as to incline them (at my desire, and seeing me to have no genius to anything but learning) to send me to Cambridge.” So at the age of betwixt 14 and 15 years he was admitted pensioner into Christ's College, (Corpus Christi). There he fortunately came under the tuition of Mr. Wm. Chappell, who is described as a very acute learned man, and a most “painful ” and vigilant tutor. This Mr. Wm. Chappell is known in Church history as the after Bishop Chappell, for he ultimately attained to the bishopric of Cork and Ross, Ireland. But he deserves to be still better known and honoured by reason of his being the College tutor of John Milton from 1625 to 1632. As he acted in the same capacity to young Shawe from 1623 to 1630, Milton and Shawe would be fellow students for some five or six years. It was during this period that Milton, among other productions, composed -about Christmas Day, 1629—his well-known beautiful ode, “On the morning of Christ's nativity.” Both students acquired their thorough classical and Biblical learning under this teacher, of whom old Fuller records, No one tutor in our memory bred more or better pupils.” The learned King once had a disputation with this Cambridge tutor.
THE LAST Two MARTYRS. It was not always safe to have a disputation with that Royal personage, as vain of his knowledge as a peacock of its fantastic tail. It was in his reign, and under his personal Writ, that the last two martyrs suffered at the stake in this country. Who were they ? Bartholomew Legate and Edward Wightman, both anti-Trinitarians. Bartholomew Legate was for a time thrown into prison on the charge of heresy, and King James had many personal interviews with him, in which he employed all the stores of his learning and all his logical skill in the endeavour to convert the prisoner from his assumed damnatory errors. On one particular occasion, the King expected to surprise Legate into a confession of Christ's Deity, by adroitly asking him, “Do you not daily pray to Jesus Christ ?” Bartholomew Legate replied, much to his Majesty's surprise and chagrin, “ I have, indeed, prayed to Christ in the days of my ignorance, but I have not done so for the last seven years.” This reply so ruffled the King's temper that he spurned Legate from him with his foot, exclaiming, " Away! base fellow, it shall never be said that one stayeth in my presence who hath never prayed to the Saviour for seven years together.” The result was that, on the 8th March, 1611-12, Bartholomew Legate, about mid-day, was burnt to death at the stake in Smithfield, while Edward Wightman, condemned of the same so-called heresy, but which some of us call the truth, was near the same time similarly burnt at Lichfield. Remember, these burnings at the stake under the King's Writ, took place almost contemporary with the publishing of King James' translation of the Bible, in the dedicatory epistle of which to his Majesty, we read these so dearly“ precious" words:—“Your very name is precious among your loyal and religious people. Their eye doth behold you with comfort, and they bless you in their hearts as that sanctified person, who, under God, is the immediate author of their true happiness.”