Asty, John (DNB00)

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ASTY, JOHN (1672?–1730), dissenting clergyman, was son of Robert Asty of Norwich and grandson to the 'ejected' of Stratford, whose christian name was John, not Robert (Harmer, Ancient and Present State of Congregational Churches of Norfolk and Suffolk, p. 45). He was born at Norwich 'about 1672.' Of his early education, and of his education altogether, little or nothing has been transmitted ; but in his funeral sermon by Guyse (1730) he is shown to have made 'thankful acknowledgments for his privilege in descending from godly parents' and for 'the advantages received from a religious education.' He spent several years during the earlier part of his ministry in the historic family of the Fleetwoods of Stoke Newington, then outside London. It does not appear that he undertook any pastoral charge proper until 1713. In that year he was 'ordained' as 'pastor' to a congregation at Ropemaker's Alley, Moorfields. Here he laboured most devotedly and self-denyingly until the date of his death. He was involved in a somewhat passionate controversy with a fellow dissenting minister named Martin Tomkins, also 'settled' in Stoke Newington. Tomkins was among the earliest of the originally 'evangelical' protestant dissenters who came to hold Arian-Socinian conceptions of the 'divinity' of Jesus Christ. This touched nearly Asty's beliefs, and he fearlessly and faithfully asserted the Biblical-Athanasian doctrine. Even Tomkins admitted ultimately that his opponent contended not against him as an individual, but for what he believed to be truth necessary to salvation. Later Asty signed the declaration 'on the doctrine of the blessed Trinity,' as promulgated in the first article of the Church of England and in the answer to the fifth and sixth questions of the Assembly's catechism, agreed upon at the Salters' Hall synod, 7 April 1719. He was a great admirer of the practical writings of the illustrious Dr. John Owen, and in his earnest sermons was never weary in setting forth 'the unsearchable riches of Christ.' 'And yet,' witnesses Guyse, 'in my freest converse with him I have with pleasure observed a remarkable tenderness in his spirit as to judging the state of those who differed from him, even in points which he took to be of very great importance' (as before, p. 81). He died on 20 Jan. 1729-30. He is one of the many venerable men laid to rest in Bunhill Fields, not far from John Bunyan's grave. He published only a single sermon, on the death of Mrs. Elizabeth Fleetwood and preached at Stoke Newington on 23 June 1728 from Job ix. 12. He also prefixed to the collective folio volume of the ' Sermons and Tracts of Dr. John Owen' (1721) a well-weighed and loving account of this second greatest of the later puritans. It may be added that among the 1662 farewell sermons is one by John Asty, the 'ejected' clergyman of Stratford, and that Robert Asty of Norwich published a singularly bright and consolatory book called 'Treatise of Rejoicing in the Lord Jesus in all Cases and Conditions ' (1683).

[Calamy and Palmer's Nonconf. Mem.iii. 288; W. Wilson's Dissenting Churches, ii. 537-45; Dr. John Guyse's Funeral Sermon; Harmer, ut supra; for full details on the Asty family, see Browne's History of Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk, Appendix, p. 614.]

A. B. G.