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									Sarah Jones and the Jacob-Jessey
Church: The Relation of a Gentlewoman
Stephen Wright



Sarah Jones was a member of the London semi-separatist congregation founded in 1616 by
Henry Jacob, and then led by its successive pastors John Lathrop (from 1625 to 1634) and
Henry Jessey (1637 to 1662). Though sharply hostile to the government, ministry and
liturgy of the Church of England, this congregation refused to renounce it formally, and was
thus able to maintain contact with godly parishioners, whilst gathering members from
across parish boundaries.1 At the end of April 1632, many of these members were arrested
at a house in Blackfriars’ precinct in London, and brought before the Court of High
Commission.The accused included Sarah Jones of Lambeth.
   Despite her gender, Jones responded defiantly to questioning by Edward Sackville Earl
of Dorset (the Queen’s Lord Chamberlain), George Abbot and Richard Neile (Archbishops
of Canterbury and of York),William Laud (Bishop of London), and the King’s Advocate of
the Court of High Commission, amongst the most powerful and intimidating males in
England. On 8 May, having appeared first of all the accused, she was asked by Laud:

        ‘Doe you come to the church?’ S. Jones,‘None accuseth me to the contrary.’ London:
        Where were you upon Sunday was sennight?’ S. Jones, ‘When I have done evill and
        my accuser come, I will answer.’ King’s Advocate:‘I doe accuse you, take your oath and
        you shall know your accusation.’ S. Jones: ‘I am afraid to take God’s name in vain, I
        know none other worship then God hath appointed.’ London, ‘This you are
        commanded of to do of God who saith you must obey your superiors.’ S. Jones,‘That
        which is of God is according to God’s word, and the Lord will not hold him guiltless
        that taketh his name in vain.’

Even a demand to know the parish in which she resided drew a principled evasion:‘she said
she dwelleth at Lambeth’.2 The examination of Sarah Jones occupies as much or more space
in the court record than that of any other member of the congregation, not excluding John
Lathrop himself. It is clear that Jones remained unconvinced of the errors of her ways. In
June 1634 she was arrested again: ‘Refusing to take the oath to answer articles she was
committed to the Gatehouse and afterwards discharged upon bond for her appearance’.3
   Now Henry Jessey recalled that in the year 1632, Sarah Jones drafted a manuscript of
‘Grievances’, which was ‘read openly at ye commission court’. He referred to a second text
by Jones, her ‘answers’ to the commissioners – evidently set down in writing, for in 1642
they were ‘yet extent for ye comfort & encouragement of others’ – and to a third, a


1   Accounts in B. R. White, The English Separatist Tradition (London, 1971) and M. Tolmie, The Triumph of the
    Saints (Cambridge, 1977).
2   S. R. Gardiner (ed.), Cases in the Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission, Camden Society, vol. xl (1886),
    pp. 284-5, 292; extracts in C. Burrage, Early English Dissenters, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1912) [hereafter Burrage],
    vol. ii, pp. 314-16.
3   C[alendar of] S[tate] P[apers] D[omestic], (1634-5), p. 112: 12 June 1634.




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‘Cronicle of Gods remarkable judgments in that year’ [i.e. 1632].4 It will be argued here that
a fourth work can also be attributed to her. The Relation of a Gentlewoman long under the
persecution of the bishops adds to our sketchy knowledge of the Jacob/Lathrop/Jessey church
and its members. It was printed in London in 1642 ‘at the cost of S. J. for her owne use and
her private friends’ (fig. 1).5 The author had had other works confiscated, and this was a
motive for publication: in ‘1640 our houses were searched, I know not for what, but little
they had, but some of my writings they keep from me; wherefore lest such times may be
again, I would willingly keep my poor labours from the spoil, and desire to scatter these few
lines among the scattered saints in every parish’.




4   [B. Stinton], ‘A Repository of Divers Materials Relating to the English Anti-Paedobaptists. Collected from
    Original Papers of faithful extracts’, no. 1 (Oxford, Regent’s Park College, Angus Library), printed from the
    re-transcript of George Gould, in Burrage, vol. ii, pp. 292-302, and also in T[ransactions of the] B[aptist]
    H[istorical] S[ociety], vol. i (1908-09), pp. 205-25, from which here cited, pp. 214, 215.
5   The Relation of a Gentlewoman long under the persecution of the bishops; with some observations passed in the High
    Commission Court during her bondage (1642), title page: Wing J33AB: unique paper copy in the Alexander
    Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. I am grateful to the staff there for arranging that a microfilm
    copy of the work be sent to me, and for permission to lodge that filmed copy in the British Library. I have
    since found that a second microfilm copy is in the keeping of the Bodleian Library, Oxford.




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  It is clear that this work of ‘S.J.’ was written by a woman who had appeared before High
Commission later in 1632. It was compiled in November/December that year by a wife or
widow, for as the author explains: ‘Thus having not time in regard of my duties of my
familie, I cannot enlarge my self; for my light hath not gone out by night since the 29
November 1632 to the third of December following, for I could not spend much time of
the day’, and she confirms that ‘since the 29 of November 1632, then in three dayes after I
writ most of these things’.6 The book opens with an epistle ‘To the Reader’ which explains
the significance of this date:

         Being in the Bishops court the 29 November 1632 and one of the fortie who suffered
         for refusing the oath ex officio, that day Dr Burgess7 was fined for not contributing
         toward the reparation of Pauls; there was much pleading by the prelates for the
         building of that great House, oft repeating, that God was a great God, and would have
         a great House to dwell in. Mr Rowbarie8 and Mr Simpson,9 and many other preachers
         being in the Court, my spirit being stirred to some of them, I spake and writ this
         writing, being a sufferer with the fortie; we being blamed, and counted not able
         (through ignorance) to defend the way we walked in, I strained my self to declare my
         judgement thus farre, as time would permit me.

   Now Henry Jessey, in his manuscript account of the history of his church, recalled that
‘about 42’ had been arrested at the end of April 1632, a figure not far from S.J.’s ‘fortie who
suffered’ in November. In that year, she tells us, she had been arrested more than once:
‘carried from the High Commission to prison, with constables, and halberts, with jaylors
and pursevants. 1632 being oft brought before the High Commission, sometimes to Pauls,
sometimes to Lambeth’. Now the church members arrested in April did appear at the
consistory of St Paul’s, and the author S.J. certainly shared their views. She desired of God
that ‘the great things of his law may not be a strange thing to us; but having respect to our
covenant, that are in covenant together, to walk with him in all his ways, so far as we know
or shall know’. And she believed that ‘a company of faithful people covenanting together,


6   Relation, pp. 55, 39, 33.
7   Almost certainly Cornelius Burgess (d. 1665), rector and lecturer at St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge,
    the only doctor (DD, 1627) of the right age. He was a founding assistant at the newly re-chartered Sion
    House College in 1630-1 and later became its president: E. H. Pearce, Sion College and Library (Cambridge,
    1913), pp. 36-7, 344. He had already clashed with the Bishop of Winchester, Richard Neale, in 1630 (J.
    Davies, The Caroline Captivity of the Church (Oxford, 1992), p. 148), and was cited before High Commission
    on 28 Jan. 1635/6 for a sermon at St Alphage, London Wall, accusing the Bishops of winking at the spread
    of Arminianism and popery. H. Milman (Annals of St Pauls Cathedral (London, 1868), p. 335) says fines for
    refusals to contribute were exacted by High Commission; no evidence has been found that Burgess was
    fined, but if so, he got his revenge: Parliament appointed him lecturer at St Paul’s in 1643 and he was allotted
    revenue from the sequestered deanery: P. Seaver, The Puritan Lectureships (Stanford, 1970), pp. 259-60, 270;
    A. G. Matthews, Calamy Revised (Oxford, 1988).
8   Perhaps Henry Roborough, graduate of Jesus College Cambridge. By April 1634, when lecturer and maybe
    curate of St Leonard’s Eastcheap, he was in trouble with High Commission for unknown offences; he was
    rector of the parish in 1647: J. and J. A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, 4 vols (Cambridge, 1922-7); A. G.
    Matthews, Walker Revised (Oxford, 1988), p. 45; Seaver, Puritan Lectureships, pp. 256, 366; CSPD (1633-4): 24
    April 1634, pp. 579, 582; CSPD (1634-5), pp. 50, 110, 117.
9   Not the famous antinomian, who was too young (b. 1615) but probably the venerable John Simson, graduate
    of Trinity College, rector of St Olave, Hart St, 1590-1633 and prebend of Hoxton, St Paul’s, 1606-33. He
    contributed to, collected for and was the first librarian at Sion College, a connection with Burgess above;
    buried 29 or 30 Aug. 1633 at St Olave; see Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, J. Horn (ed.), Fasti Angliae 1541-
    1857, vol. i, St Paul’s, p. 39; W. B. Bannerman (ed.), Registers of St Olave Hart St, Harleian Society, vol. lxvi
    (1916), p. 166; Pearce, Sion College, pp. 8, 13, 16-17, 35-7, 77, 97.




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agreeing in the name of the Lord, make one church, endowed with power and order’.10
This gathered church was certainly animated by powerful separatist urges:‘we separate from
all that is of antichrist, to set forth the praise of our King in his own way’. And yet the
author by no means writes off her audience. Her 1632 passage was addressed To all the
builders of Sion, who clearly included radical puritan members of the official church. ‘Also
we wish you would receive our order, that we might have more communion with you’. But
she repeatedly explains that the essence of this order consists in a congregational covenant:
no direct demand is made that readers should separate from the parish churches.11
    It is clear, therefore, that the author S.J. must be identified with one of the two female
members of the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey church, Sarah Jacob and Sarah Jones, brought with
their pastor John Lathrop before High Commission on 3 May 1632. The court dubbed
them ‘women’ in contrast to the ‘maide’ Pennina Howse. Sarah Jacob, of course, was the
widow of the former pastor Henry Jacob, and this might suggest that it was she who wrote
the Relation.12 The author tells of the ‘duties of my familie’, and her desire ‘that I, and my
household may serve and fear him, and walk in his way’ suggests a wife, or widow with
children, which could refer to either woman.13 But further evidence from the book shows
that its author was actually Sarah Jones.
    Appended to The Relation is ‘a short forme of catechisme, for the use of their children,
who wish well to Sion; written by old Edward Barber, oft called the great Hebrecia; a
silenced minister in Q. Elizabeths daies’.14 Sarah’s introduction to the catechism refers to
events which had occurred ‘in the year 1640’, and can therefore be dated to 1641/2. In it,
she tells us that ‘This catechism was taught in the family of Sir Thomas Hayes, about fifty
years ago by Edward Barber, who there exercised once in the week in the time of the elder
children, and so hath been kept among them to this time: desiring the good of our own
posteritie and others’.15 Thomas Hayes (d. 1617) was a liveryman of the Drapers Company,
knighted by James I on 26 July 1603; he was an Alderman (1603-17), Sheriff (1604-5) and
Mayor (1614-15) of the City of London.16 Of his daughters, one, named Sarah, married
Thomas Jones of Lambeth.17 This was either the man who with Gerome Stevens had in


10   Burrage, vol. ii, p. 298, Gardiner, Cases, p. 286; Relation, pp. 54-5, 58-9.
11   Relation, pp. 17-19, 43.
12   Gardiner, Cases, pp. 278-80, 284-6, 292-5, 301.
13   Relation, pp. 8, 39.
14   This Edward Barber is not to be identified with the Baptist of those names, apprenticed only in 1616. He
     might have been the Edward Barber, matric sizar from Clare College Cambridge in Easter 1582, BA 1585-
     6, MA 1589, MD 1599 (Venn, Alumni). This would be about the right period; a minister silenced c. 1590
     might have acted as a domestic chaplain and then turned to medicine – but this is mere conjecture.
15   Relation, p. 50.
16   See A. Beaven, Aldermen of London, 2 vols (London, 1908), vol. i, p. 124; ii, pp. xlii, 48: Alderman of
     Bishopsgate, 1603-13 and Cornhill 1613-17, Sheriff 1604-5, and Mayor 1614-15, knighted 26 July 1603,
     died 27 Sept 1617; another daughter, Mary, married Sir Henry Boothby (1st Baronet) of Clater Clote, Oxon.,
     G. E. Cokayne, Complete Baronetage, 5 vols (Exeter, 1900-6), vol. ii, p. 239.
17   J. Howard and J. Chester (eds.), Visitation of London 1633-5, Harleian Society, vol. xvii (1883), p. 20: in 1634
     Thomas Jones of Lambeth was the eldest son living of Sir Roger Jones of London, sometime Alderman of
     London, and Anne Jacket (sister of Cuthbert, another former Mayor); he married ‘Sarah daughter of Sir
     Thomas Heyes, knt, sometime Maior of London’ (he is evidently the ‘Thomas Jones’ who signed the return
     to the Heralds). The couple had two daughters: Martha, who married Thomas Hallowes of London, and
     Sarah, who is not given in the visitation as having married, and who cannot have been more than about 24
     in 1632. So it seems certain that the separatist Sarah Jones was the wife, not the daughter, of Thomas Jones,
     responsible then, as she recalls in The Relation, for a family and household.




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1592 purchased three manors in the Tulse Hill area, or possibly his eldest son.18 At any rate,
the marriage recorded in the pedigree was surely that between Mr Thomas Jones and Sarah
Hayes celebrated in 1606 at St Mary Aldermanbury, in the City of London.19 The ‘Mr Jones’
arrested with other members of the church on 29 April 1632 and reported by Jessey to have
suffered further months of harassment, was almost certainly Thomas Jones, husband of
Sarah.20 On 8 May 1632, Sarah Jones testified before the High Commission that ‘she
dwelleth at Lambeth’ and upon her further appearance two years later, the court listed her
as ‘Sarah Jones, wife of Thomas Jones of Water Lambeth, Surrey’.21
    It is therefore certain that the Sarah Jones of the Jacob church, imprisoned by High
Commission in 1632, is to be identified with the author S.J., whom the Commission also
gaoled in that year. This author, who appended to her Relation the catechism read for the
‘elder children’ of the household of Sir Thomas Hayes, was his daughter Sarah Hayes, who
married Thomas Jones of Lambeth almost certainly in 1606. Sarah, it might be conjectured,
was born about 1580. She was aged about sixty at the time she issued her Relation, and could
still remember the strict puritan education of a late Elizabethan childhood ‘about fifty years
ago’: her statement that the catechism had been ‘kept among them to this time, desiring the
good of our own posteritie and others’ directly identifies these children with the writer.
    Her social position may help to explain Sarah Jones’s demeanour at court in May 1632.
In her Relation, she apologizes for the vigour of her rhetoric, apparently on the basis that
such immodesty breached gender protocols. She regrets having used the works ‘I say to
you’, ‘which I desire may be passed by, yet I think I have the mind of the Lord’. She
complains angrily about the ‘officers called priests and clerks, sworn Churchwardens and
such like’ and about the harsh treatment of her friends, but then checks herself: ‘Ye deare
friends of Christ, as the weaker vessel bear with my foolishness a little’. But clearly Sarah
Jones was seen as an authority in the church. Almost half the book consists of a continuous
text, which (judging from the rhetorical tone) had been originally read as a sermon. Despite
her apologia, Jones set out doctrines for the church: ‘I do grant the congregations of the
saints to be both of good and bad; for the kingdome is like a draw net, it catcheth both good
and bad, the gracious saint and the guilded hypocrite, but when they become prophane and
can be discerned to be bad, they are to be cast out; for the companions of fooles shall be
smitten, and a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump’.22
    This passage was written in 1641/2. But Jones’s leading role in the court, and her several
writings of 1632, also reflect her status in the church; thus, Henry Jessey recalled ‘the answers
of Mrs Jones and others in that time of their sufferings’ [my emphasis], still in 1642 available
for the edification of the saints. Sarah clearly did her own thinking and encouraged a critical


18   These were the Lambeth manors of Bodley, Upgrove and Scarletts: ‘during the Commonwealth the manors
     were held by the family of Tulse’, which helps to locate the manors of Tulse Hill ‘all trace of which has
     vanished’:Victoria County History, Surrey, vol. iv: 1, p. 59 and n.
19   15 Dec. 1606:‘Mr Thomas Jones and Mrs Saray Hayes’:W. B. Bannerman (ed.), Registers of St Mary the Virgin,
     Aldermanbury, Harleian Society, vol. lxii (1931), p. 79.
20   ‘After ye space of about 2 years of sufferings and patience of these saints they were all released upon Bail
     (some remaining so to this day as Mr Jones etc, though never called on) only to Mr Lathorp and Mr Graften
     they refused to show such favour…’ (Burrage, vol. ii, pp. 296, 298). No forename is given in the text, but
     Burrage thought Sarah was perhaps related to Francis Jones, basketweaver of Ratcliffe (Burrage, vol. i, pp.
     326-7n) and the member’s name appears in the index as ‘F. Jones’. W. T. Whitley also had this thought,
     though more tentatively (TBHS, vol. i, p. 253). Francis Jones, however, was a Baptist in 1637 (High
     Commission, 11 Jan. 1636: ‘he confesses he had been rebaptised’ (CSPD (1635/6), p. 468). Sarah was not a
     Baptist: it is far more likely that the arrestee styled ‘Mr Jones’ was her husband Thomas, who, as Jessey suggests,
     was still alive in 1641 (Burrage, vol. ii, p. 298).
21   CSPD (1634-5), p. 112: 12 June 1634.
22   Relation, pp. 33, 46, 64.




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spirit in others.Ten years earlier, she had recommended (in traditional gendered language)
that her friends should speak after the sermon ‘for if you never exercise your gifts, how shall
the Church know whether you receive those truths which are taught, or try the spirits, or
be able to teach your wives at home, or know your judgements whether you instruct your
families or corrupt them. I think the neglect of speaking one to another in public, is the
cause of most of the ignorance and errors; for where all is granted, without question some
swallow down unwholesome seed’.23
   Thomas Jones was rearrested in June 1634, but there is evidence (which also suggests he
was a dyer) that he managed to evade official harassment in 1640. Sarah was not so lucky:
she was surely the ‘Mrs Jones’ arrested at a meeting of the congregation at Tower Hill on 21
April that year. Sarah also suggests in the Relation that the authorities used ruthless tactics
in their campaign against the radicals. The statement that in 1632 ‘there was about fourtie
houses burnt up on the Bridge; my self being one of the fourtie prisoners that refused the
oath ex-officio’ seems to imply that the houses of the non-conformists were deliberately
destroyed; this is also implied in the further statement that ‘I know swearers have not
imployment, but to present and hale the saints before authoritie, compelling them to
blaspheme, raise tumults, to raze down houses on their heads’. One wonders whether these
houses ‘on the bridge’ had been chosen by religious radicals in order to avoid the
ecclesiastical jurisdiction.24 Nevertheless, a sense of embattled optimism pervades Jones’s
work: ‘though ye be killed all the day long, stand your ground, where ye be pillars of truth
the witnesses shall be set on their feet. […] The government of Christ set up for an ensign,
the nations shall flow to it’.
   The 1632 passages of Sarah Jones’s Relation are broadly consistent with the statements
appearing in her introduction to Barber’s catechism, set down not long before publication
in 1642. Yet these later sections embody a marked hardening of ecclesiological positions.
There is a clear statement against Presbyterianism:‘Ye that be apt to teach get into the fold,
exercise your gifts by the laying on of the hands of the eldership: and let not the Scottish
translation lead you to a presbyterie government’.The appeal is more explicitly ‘separatist’:
founding a covenant is necessary but insufficient, for

         we are to withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly, so from every Assembly
         that walks disorderly, and is in bondage. […] Wherefore dearly beloved, whom Christ
         hath made free, abide not under Antichristian yoke […] worship not with whorish
         inventions, but agree in the name of Christ, knit yourselves together by covenant, that
         you may be comely built an holy house for the king of Saints to rule in; […]
         Wherefore come out of her my people, lest you be partaker with her sin, and so with
         her plagues.25

From 1637, Henry Jessey had become pastor of Sarah’s church, and it maintained, or
renewed, relations with a former member, the separatist Samuel Eaton (d. 1639); Murray


23   Burrage, vol. ii, p. 296; Relation, pp. 37-8.The comma which appears here after ‘granted’ should perhaps come
     instead after ‘question’.
24   CSPD (1634-5), p. 112; Burrage, vol. ii, p. 300; no evidence has been found for the destruction of the houses
     on London Bridge. But most interestingly, on 18 September 1640, warrants were issued for the search of two
     houses there. One was that of Cornelius Burgess DD, met with earlier; the other was of ‘one Jones, a dyer’,
     where ‘popish or seditious books’ might be found, CSPD (1640-1), p. 73; Privy Council Registers (facsmile),
     vol. xi, July-Sept 1640 (London, 1968), f. 369. It seems very likely that this Jones the dyer was Sarah Jones’s
     husband Thomas (see below and n. 28). Peter Jones, his younger brother, married a daughter of London dyer
     Thomas Hackett (Visitation of London 1633-4, p. 20).‘Mr Peter Jones’ of the parish of St Andrew Undershaft,
     had a house assessed in 1638 at the relatively high moderated rent of £24 (T. Dale, Inhabitants of London
     (London, 1931), p. 21).
25   Relation, pp. 54, 43, 46, 47-8, 53, 58.




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Tolmie took this to indicate a hardening attitude to the parish assemblies.26 In her Relation,
Sarah gives us no reason to believe that she had broken with Jessey, and was probably still a
member with him. If so, her views of 1642 seem both to vindicate Tolmie’s view, and even
to suggest that the church had moved still further in a separatist direction. There is a new
awareness that ‘gadding to sermons’ was a practice which might serve as a means to avoid
actually breaking from the Church of England: ‘Wherefore, beloved, I desire you to arise,
the polluted Assemblies is not your resting place, but where Christ feedeth or ruleth […]
go not from mountain to mountain gadding like Dinah, lest you be ravished’.
   The danger, paradoxically, arose from the greater freedom available for radical puritans,
now that the grip of the Laudian bishops was loosening. And in such circumstances, the
question of the validity of the baptism of the Church of England was also beginning to
cause controversy. But Sarah Jones had the answers:

         By virtue of the external covenant the children of the visible congregation are received
         into the Kingdome by Baptism; they are not received by virtue of the parents
         believing, but by virtue of their parents visible order are they received in by Baptism;
         they are not regenerated and borne again by outward washing, neither are they saved
         by their parents faith, but outwardly saved in the visible congregation of the saints, as
         Noah in the Ark; wherefore unless you do agree in the name of Christ, consenting to
         visible order, you shall never gainsay such as deny the washing or baptising of Infants;
         wherefore get into order, and manifest faith, to the joy of the saints in order.

And yet, acutely aware of her own gender-bending role in issuing these doctrinal precepts
in such authoritative language for the instruction of the male saints, she immediately
hastened to add:‘let not the weakness of the female sect weaken any hand from helping the
Lord against the mighty, but let the strong help the weak’.
   The final pages are pregnant with Jones’s sense of an approaching apocalyptic struggle,
for the mind and soul of the nation – a struggle in which her ‘Independent’ co-thinkers
would play such a pivotal role:

         O you that have union with Christ, by faith have union one with another by covenant
         in order, that the King of the Saints may say, Gather my Saints together, those that have
         made a covenant with me; such Armies, I believe, that go forth in the might of
         Jehovah, will dash the Armies of the Rebelles, by what names or titles soever called.
         […] Shall not the saints of the most high get into covenant, and put on the whole
         armour of righteousness, banding themselves together with spiritual weapons, and
         drive that Antichristian beast into some Jaels Tent? O holy Philadelphia, beloved
         brotherhood, though but an handful, forsake not the assembling of yourselves together,
         to stand up in the gap, as the righteous to deliver the Island.27

  The material and spiritual struggles of the island were far from over when, on 6
November 1644, George Thomason picked up a work entitled To Sion’s Lovers, by one S.
Jones. Thomason obviously knew, or had heard of, this person, for he wrote on the title page


26   Tolmie, Triumph of the Saints, pp. 18, 24-6, 193-4; S. Wright, ‘The British Baptists and Politics 1603-49’
     (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of London, 2002), p. 63.
27   Relation, pp. 57, 64, 65-6.




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‘written by Sarah Jones, a dyer’s wife’. This was surely the author of The Relation of a
Gentlewoman, and wife of Thomas Jones, probable owner of the dyer’s premises on London
Bridge.28 And likelihood becomes certainty when we find that only two days earlier the
bookseller had acquired a second anonymous work similarly titled, To Sion’s Virgins, by an
‘ancient member’ of the church led by Henry Jacob and then until 1634 by John Lathrop.
This certainly fixes Sarah Jones as the author of both companion volumes.
   But why did Sarah, in a work published in 1644, conspicuously omit the name of
Lathrop’s successor, and pastor for seven years, Henry Jessey?29 This puzzling omission led
to speculation that the book had originally been written (and perhaps published in a lost
edition) during the gap between Lathrop’s departure and Jessey’s arrival in 1637.30 But the
views of Sarah Jones sufficiently explain the apparent anomaly. Jones, as we have seen, was
a separatist who had expressed firm opposition to the growing number of her most radical
companions who thought that a decisive break from the apostate Church of England
necessitated a new baptism of believers. Others, including Henry Jessey, had by now rejected
sprinkling as unscriptural, and baptized infants by dipping; furthermore, during spring and
summer of 1644, believers’ baptism was extensively debated in the church. Some who
became convinced of it left the ranks, but others were permitted by Jessey to stay.31 Sarah
Jones rejected these novelties: ‘I desire to manifest in defence of the baptism and form we
have received’, i.e. by sprinkling or pouring, not dipping the head; and ‘it is a sad thing that
the citizens of zion should have their children borne forrainers not to be baptised’.32 Henry
Jessey was a dipper of infants on principle, and tolerated believers’ Baptists within the
church: Jones rejected his leadership on both counts.
   Lathrop, a spiritual leader worthy of ‘double honour’, had left for New England, and since
his successor had turned away from its long-standing practices, the church found itself
‘waiting when god shall give more liberty and pastors according to his own heart’. Jones
omitted Jessey’s name from the roll of pastors in To Sion’s Virgins, not because she was
writing before his arrival, but because by 1644 she had come to regard his stewardship of
the congregation as unprincipled. Now it may seem that, on these grounds, outright denial
of his formal legitimacy as pastor was excessive. Could it be that Jones’s complaint against


28   To Sion’s Lovers, being a golden egge, to avoid infection, or a short step into the doctrine of the laying on of hands …
     Look not to Scottish nor Dutch, New England, nor Olde, Behold the patterne, the apostles fellowship and so goe up by
     the tents of the shepherds (1644), British Library pressmark E.16(7); for Thomas Jones, supra n. 24.
29   To Sions Virgins: or a short form of catechism of the doctrine of baptism, in use in these times that are so full of questions.
     By an ancient member, of that long ago gathered congregation, whereof Mr Henry Jacob was an instrument
     of gathering it, and the pastor worthy of double honour, Mr John Lathrop, succeeding him, now pastor in
     New England, and the beloved congregation, through God’s mercies sees her teachers, waiting when god
     shall give more liberty and pastors according to his own heart, praying the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth
     labourers into his harvest.Wing T1385. Reprinted, TBHS, vol. iv (1915), pp. 162-71.
30   J. Christian, Baptist History Vindicated (Louisville, 1899), p. 143; the consensus has been against an earlier
     edition. See G. Lofton, English Baptist Reformation (Nashville, 1899), p. 82, W. T. Whitley, ‘The Rise of the
     Particular Baptists in London, 1633-1644’, TBHS, vol. i (1908-09), pp. 226-36 at 229-30;Tolmie, The Triumph
     of the Saints (p. 205, n. 35).Wing gives no author. To Sion’s Virgins was issued in one edition (1644), and can
     now be safely attributed to Sarah Jones.
31   For Jessey and infant dipping, [B. Stinton],‘An Account of some of the most eminent men among the English
     Anabaptists’ (Oxford, Angus Library, G.A.e.10, ff. 30rv), printed with trivial alterations in T. Crosby, History
     of the English Baptists, 4 vols (London, 1738-40), vol. i, p. 310; for the debate on infant baptism in the Jessey
     church, see [B. Stinton], ‘A Repository’, ‘no. 4’, printed TBHS, vol. i (1908-09) pp. 239-45. Jessey stood by
     his tolerant, open communion practices, and was later influential in founding several Baptist/Independent
     churches. For his career, see B. R. White, ‘Henry Jessey in the Great Rebellion’, in R. Buick Knox (ed.),
     Reformation, Conformity and Dissent (London, 1977), pp. 132-53.
32   To Sion’s Virgins, ‘To the Reader’, sig. A2.




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Sarah Jones and the Jacob-Jessey Church: The Relation of a Gentlewoman



Jessey was more fundamental, that she thought his office could be treated as void because
his institution had been invalid?
   Her companion volume, To Sion’s Lovers, opens with a letter to William Gouge, a member
of the Westminster Assembly, and is directed against the rules of ordination being discussed
there at about this time as a basis for a national church.33 But Jones also wanted to pursue
arguments closer to home, which were creating divisions and much passion amongst her
friends in 1644. She warned Gouge that Anabaptist and Seeker views had gained ground
because of the failure to set out ‘the doctrine of baptism and the doctrine of laying on of
hands’, along true congregational lines: this omission ‘makes some to go to a second baptism
and another form, some are seekers out of a baptism looking for Elyas as John the Baptist
to bring it from heaven, forsaking all fellowship till Christ shall send forth new apostles to
lay on hands’.34
   But Independent critiques of Presbyterian ordination were primarily based on the view
that the authority of the pastor derived immediately from the congregation rather from
than any higher or external body. And therefore the author’s decision to draw special
attention to the laying on of hands, i.e. the ceremonial element of investiture shared with
the Presbyterians, by placing it in the title, is suggestive. To Sion’s Lovers, like its companion,
contains no direct attack on Jessey, and conspicuously fails to name him. But could it be that
in 1637, when Jessey took up the pastorate, he did not receive ordination by the laying on
of hands? For some, this might be seen to undermine his formal legitimacy as pastor even
in principle.35 For such as Sarah Jones, his reckless toleration of Anabaptists might come also
to appear as a judgement upon his omission of a proper ceremony of ordination, the
indelible mark of a blighted pastorate.
   Jones implies she was still a member of the Jessey church, but given her call for the
replacement of its serving minister, it is hard to see how she can have continued for long in
communion with him. We do not know whether she joined another organization. A
woman of her name penned a tract containing broadly Quaker ideas in 1650,36 and another
appears on the membership list of the Baptist Church at Lothbury in January 1654,37 but
neither can with any confidence be identified with the consistent and principled Separatist
gentlewoman of Lambeth.


33   From 15 August to the end of September 1644, ordination was frequently a subject of discussion: see e.g. R.
     S. Paul, The Assembly of the Lord (Edinburgh, 1985), pp. 395-417.
34   The development of Seeker views in the group of Baptists immersed by Richard Blunt and Samuel
     Blacklocke in January 1642 was mentioned by Thomas Edwards in 1646 (Gangrena, vol. iii, p. 113), and also
     in J[ohn] S[pilsbury], A Treatise … of Baptisme (1643), Epistle to Reader, sig. A3; Jones here confirms it.
35   When John Armitage was instituted as the first Independent minister of Norwich in 1647, there was concern
     that his ordination by the ‘laying on of hands’ might signify the transference of ‘an immediate gift’ (J. Browne,
     History of Congregationalism … in Norfolk and Suffolk (London, 1877), p. 255); perhaps some such scruples had
     affected Jessey or some of his congregation, though this must be a matter of speculation.
36   Sarah Jones, This is Lights appearance in the truth (1650), a work of three pages, providing little to go on; but
     if this is our gentlewoman she had acquired Quaker views earlier than any other known Londoner.
37   Records of the Lothbury church: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Rawlinson D828, pp. 17-18; they are
     extensively reproduced (edited by Champlain Burrage) in TBHS, vol. ii (1910-11), pp. 132-160, at 138.




9                                                                                             eBLJ 2004, Article 2

								
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