Henry Burton and Isaac Ambrose, Puritan divines; also the Puritans William Prynne and John Bastwick, and Richard Neile, Archbishop of York

      Henry Burton (1578-1648) was one of the Puritan divines whose fate was intimately bound up with that of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. On April 23rd, 1625, shortly after Charles I's accession to the throne, Burton wrote to the king complaining that both Laud and Richard Neile (1562-1640), Archbishop of York, harboured Catholic sympathies. This threw him out of favour with all concerned, and was the first step in a chain of events which led to Burton's imprisonment, together with William Prynne (1600-1669) and John Bastwick (1593-1654).

     All three men were condemned in 1636 to have their ears chopped off and be imprisoned for life, together with sundry fines and other penalties. Prynne's ears were only partially lopped, but he suffered the additional indignity of being branded on the cheeks with the letters "S.L." ("seditious libeller"), which Prynne later redefined as standing for "stigmata Laudis", and when sentence was pronounced on Burton Laud gave the court his thanks.

     The viciousness continued when a twist of fate played Laud into the hands of those whom he had persecuted. As the king steadily lost ground in the war against the Puritan revolutionaries, so Laud's position weakened and in 1641 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. By what the DNB calls "a refinement of malice" William Prynne was given "the duty of searching Laud's room in the Tower, and even his pockets, for papers to be used against him" in trial. He was finally executed for treason on January 10th, 1645, at the age of 71. As a gesture of clemency, he was merely beheaded, instead of the usual mutilations and tortures reserved for those convicted of treason in those days.

     Prynne published several works relating to Laud, including a "mutilated" edition of Laud's diary and an (incomplete) account of his trial, and Burton published The Grand Imposor Unmasked, or a detection of the notorious hypocrisie and desperate impiety of the late Archbishop (so styled) of Canterbury, cunningly couched in that written copy which he read on the scaffold... (n.d.).

       My collection of works relating to these figures is pretty thin. I do not have a copy of the above work by Burton, and I have nothing at all by Prynne, but I have one of Burton's early works, Babel no Bethel (1629), a book which earned him the temporary suspension of his benefice and a spell in prison, as well as a posthumously-published (1651) edition of seven of Laud's sermons (all originally delivered in the 1620s).


Babel no Bethel. That is, The Church of Rome no true visible Church of Christ. In answer to Hugh Cholmley's Challenge, and Reb: Butterfields Maschil, two masculine Champions for the Synagogue of Rome. By H [enry] B [urton] Rector of St. Mathews Friday-street.
(Printed for M.S. 1629, 4to, pp. 24+131.) Rebound in vellum, with some dampstaining on some pages (as seen in the scan), but basically a very good copy.

   Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664) hailed from Lancashire, and studied at Brasenose College, Oxford. He enjoyed the favour of King Charles up until the outbreak of the Civil War, but his Puritanism got him into trouble with the king's commissioners, and he was several times arrested and imprisoned.? He aligned himself with the Presbyterians and apparently managed to get on the wrong side of Parliament, as well as the king; he was imprisoned in London for a couple of months in 1849. In 1654 he became minister of Garstang, but was ejected for nonconformity in 1662.
      That may sound like a fairly heavy dose of tribulations but Ambrose "was not naturally a partisan" and "He avoided the political controversies of the time" ( DNB ). Furthermore, his gentle disposition and earnest character won him the supposrt of powerful patrons, who ensured his sufferings were minimised. By the standards of the day, Ambrose's yoke was a very lightweight one, of the variety reserved for those who kept a low profile.? ?The real persecution was reserved for those who stuck their necks out!
      Ambrose spent his last years in peaceful meditation, and apparently died of apoplexy the very day after finishing his final work, A Discourse Concerning Angels . I am pleased to have copies of his works (even thought they are not first editions) because, of all the Puritan divines (for the most part a pretty graceless and bluntly-spoken bunch), he stands out for the elegance and purity of his prose style, which ranked in popularity with Bunyan for many years. Shown here are the title pages to three of his sermons.


Ultima: The Last Things, in Reference to the First and Middle Things: or, Certain Meditations on Life, Death, Judgment, Hell, Right Purgatory and Heaven. Delivered By Isaac Ambrose, Minister of Christ at Preston in Amounderness in Lancashire (London, Printed for Tho. Sawbridge, and Tho. Cockerill, 1688, fol., pp. nos. 271-364). This treatise was (I believe) first published in 1640, as the second of two (the first one being Prima , but it is often cited as dating from 1650, since this is when it first appeared in its final form, as one of three treatises ( Prima, Media & Ultima ). ?


Redeeming the Time: A Sermon Preached at Preston in Lancashire, January the Fourth, 1567. At the Funeral of the Honourable Lady, the Lady Margaret Houghton. Revised and somewhat Enlarged; and, at the Importunity of some Friends, now Published. By Isaac Ambrose, Preacher of the Gospel at Garstange in the same County (London, Printed for Thomas Sawbridge, and Thomas Cockerill, 1689, fol., pp. nos. 365-378). This was first published together with a 1658 edition of the? Prima, Media & Ultima treatises. This revised and enlarged version first came out in 1674.



The Doctrine & Directions, but more especially the Practice and Behaviour of a Man in the act of the New Birth. A Treatise by way of Appendix to the former. By Isaac Ambrose, Minister of Christ at Preston, in Amounderness in Lancashire. (London, Printed for Thomas Sawbridge, at the Three Flower-de-luces in Little-Britain, and Thomas Cockerill at the Three Legs in the Poultret, 1688, fol., pp. 29-55). By "the former" is meant the treatise Prima , to which this was originally appended.

These sermons are disbound (evidently salvaged from a complete volume), incomplete (i.e., the Prima and Media treatises are lacking) and in indifferent condition, but I would love to match them up to form a complete set and have them properly bound.