Barrow, Henry (DNB00)

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BARROW or BARROWE, HENRY (d. 1593), church reformer, was the third son of Thomas Barrow, Esq., of Shipdam, Norfolk, by his wife Mary, daughter and one of the co-heiresses of Henry Bures, Esq., of Acton in Suffolk (Visitation of Norfolke (1563) in Harleian MS. 5189, f. 31). He matriculated at Cambridge on 22 Nov. 1566, as a fellow-commoner of Clare Hall. He proceeded B.A. in 1569–70 (Athen. Cantab. ii. 151). He became a member of Gray's Inn in 1576 (Gray's Inn Reg., Harleian MS. 1912, f. 10). At this time he lived, according to many authorities, a careless life about the court. John Cotton (of New England) states, on the authority of John Dod the Decalogist, that ‘Mr. Barrow, whilst he lived in court, was wont to be a great gamester and dicer, and after getting much by play would boast, vivo de die in spem noctis, not being ashamed to boast of his night's lodgings in the bosoms of his courtizens’ (Ath. Cant. ii. 151). But in the midst of this profligacy a fundamental change took place. He was walking in London one Sunday with one of his evil companions, when on passing a church he heard the preacher speaking very loudly. On the whim of the moment he went in and listened, in spite of his companion's sneer. After hearing the sermon Barrow was so profoundly altered that, in Bacon's words, ‘he made a leap from a vain and libertine youth to a preciseness in the highest degree, the strangeness of which alteration made him very much spoken of’ (Spedding, Life of Bacon, i. 166; see Young, Chronicles, 434). Forsaking the law, Barrow gave himself up to a study of the Bible, and of theology as it rested on that basis. He came to know John Greenwood, who had been deeply impressed by the remarkable books of Robert Browne, the founder of the ‘Brownists,’ and they similarly affected Barrow.

Whilst pursuing his theological and ecclesiastical studies, Greenwood was arrested on Sunday, 19 Nov. 1586, and Barrow went to visit him at the Clink. He was admitted by Shepherd, the keeper of the prison, but only to find that he too was arrested. There was no warrant or pretence of legality other than that it was done in obedience to the expressed wish of the primate, Whitgift, that he should be apprehended whenever and wherever hands could be laid on him. He was thrust into a boat and taken the same afternoon to Lambeth. Here he was arraigned before the archbishop, the archdeacon, and Dr. Cosins. He protested against the illegality of his arrest without a warrant, but the protest was disregarded. The Lambeth dignitaries tried to entrap him into a crimination of himself under oath. Failing that, they sought to hush up matters by exacting bonds that he would henceforth ‘frequent the parish churches.’ He would enter into no such bonds nor admit the jurisdiction of such a court, and was remanded to the Gatehouse. Eight days after (27 Nov.), Barrow was again taken to Lambeth before ‘a goodlie synode of bishops, deanes, civilians, &c., beside such an appearance of wel-fedde priestes as might wel have beseemed the Vaticane’ (Examination, 7), when a long sheet of accusations of opinions judged erroneous was presented against him. He at once acknowledged that ‘much of the matter of this bil is true, but the forme is false,’ yet refused to take any oath, requiring rather that witnesses against him should be sworn. This perfectly legal requirement was denied him, and Whitgift, losing his temper, broke out: ‘Where is his keeper? You shal not prattle here. Away with him! Clap him up close, close! Let no man come at him; I wil make him tel an other tale yet. I have not done with him’ (ibid. 8). He was transferred to the Fleet prison along with Greenwood. Two other examinations followed. The last, in which Lord Burghley took a prominent part, is printed by Professor Arber from Harl. MS. 6848, in his ‘Introductory Sketch to the Marprelate Controversy,’ 1879, pp. 40–8.

Barrow and two fellow-prisoners wrote in prison a full and authentic account of their treatment at the hands of the legal and ecclesiastical authorities. The work is entitled: ‘The Examination of Henry Barrowe, John Grenewood, and John Penrie, before the High Commissioners and Lordes of the Counsel, penned by the Prisoners themselves before their Deaths’ (1593). Barrow, with Greenwood and Penry, his fellow-prisoners, wrote this and other books, in the closest possible confinement, had them taken away in slips and fragments and shipped to the Low Countries by Robert Bull and Robert Stokes to be printed at Dort by one Hause, under the supervision of Arthur Byllet. Among the compositions written by Barrowe and his friends under such difficulties were: 1. ‘A Collection of certaine Sclanderous Articles gyuen out by the Bishops against such faithfull Christians as they now vniustly deteyne in their Prisons, togeather with the answeare of the said Prisoners therunto: also the Some of certaine Conferences had in the Fleete, according to the Bishops bloudie Mandate, with two Prisoners there’ (1590). This work includes ‘A Briefe Answeare to such Articles as the Bishopps have giuen out in our name, upon which Articles their Priests were sent and injoyned to confer with vs in the seuerall prisons wherin we are by them detained.’ 2. ‘A Collection of certaine Letters and Conferences: lately passed betwixt certaine Preachers and two Prisoners in the Fleet’ (1590). 3. ‘A Brief Discourse of the False Church’ (1590). 4. ‘Apologie or Defence of such true Christians as are commonly but uniustly called called Brownists.’ 5. ‘A Petition directed to her most excellent Majestie, wherein is delivered, I. A meane how to compound the evill dissention in the Church of England; II. A proofe that they who write for Reformation do not offend against the stat. of 23 Eliz., and therefore till matters bee compounded deserve more favour.’ 5. ‘Mr. H. Barrowe's Platform. Which may serve as a Preparative to purge away Prelatisme with some other parts of Poperie. Made ready to be sent from Miles Mickle-bound to Much-beloved England.’ This work, written in 1593, was published in 1611, ‘after the untimely death of the penman of the aforesaid platform and his fellow prisoner.’ 6. ‘A plaine refutation of M. Giffard's booke, intituled A short treatise against the Donatistes of England. … Here also is prefixed a summe of the causes of our separation … which M. Giffard hath twice sought to confute, and hath now twice received answer by H. B. Here is furder inserted a brief refutation of M. Giff. supposed consimilitude betwixt the Donatistes and us. By J. Greenwood. …’ This work, which was published in London in 1605, has a dedicatory epistle signed by both Greenwood and Barrow. Copies of this and the former book are in the British Museum. Dr. Dexter, in his ‘Congregationalism,’ argues that Barrow and not John Penry was the author of the chief tracts, published under the pseudonym of Martin Marprelate, but the argument rests on a very doubtful basis, and is adequately refuted in Professor Arber's ‘Marprelate Controversy,’ pp. 187–96.

Barrow and Greenwood were ultimately ‘arraigned’ under a statute of the 23rd year of Elizabeth's reign, which made it felony, punishable by death, without benefit of clergy or right of sanctuary, to ‘write, print, set forth, or circulate, or to cause to be written, set forth, or circulated, any manner of book, ryme, ballade, letter or writing at all with a malicious intent, or ‘any false, seditious, and sclanderous matter to the defamation of the queen's majestie or to the stirring up of insurrection or rebellion.’ From first to last both prisoners protested against any charge of ‘malicious intent.’ At great length, on 21 March 1592–3, they were indicted at the Old Bailey. They were brought in guilty and sentenced to death. On 30 March (1592–3) they were taken to Tyburn in a cart and a rope put round their necks. They spoke modestly but bravely. But the journey to the scaffold was meant to terrify them into conformity. They were returned to Newgate. Seven days later, however, they were again huddled out of prison to Tyburn and there hanged on 6 April 1593 (Harleian MS. 6848).

Modern ‘congregationalists’ or ‘independents’ have put in an exclusive claim to Barrow as one of the main founders of congregationalism. Dr. Dexter, in his great work on ‘Congregationalism of the last Two Hundred Years,’ has argued for this with acuteness and fervour. In our judgment, whilst separate ‘meeting-houses’ of ‘believers’ grew out of Barrow's teachings and example, he himself had no idea corresponding with present-day congregationalism. It is even doubtful if cæteris paribus he objected to a national church, if only the ‘supreme authority’ of Jesus Christ and of Holy Scripture was unconditionally admitted. Barrow was not a mere ‘sectary.’ He protested against being called by that name.

[Harleian MSS., 5189 and 6848; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabrigienses, ii. 151–3; Baker MS. xiv. 305, xv. 1, 395; Egerton Papers (Camden Society), 166–179; Lansdowne MS. 65 art. 65, 982 art. 107; Dexter's Congregationalism; Brook's Puritans; Neal's Puritans; Marsden's Early Puritans; Hopkin's Puritans; Broughton's Works (folio), 731; Heylin's Hist. Presby., 2nd edition, 282, 322, 340, 342; Paul's Life of Whitgift, pp. 43–5, 49–52; Rogers's Cath. Doctrine, ed. Perowne, pp. 90, 93, 141, 167, 176, 187, 231, 238, 273, 280, 310, 311, 332, 344; Stow's Annals, 1272; Strype's Annals, ii. 534, iv. 93, 134, 136, 172, 177; Strype's Whitgift, pp. 414–17; Strype's Aylmer, 73, 162; Sutcliffe's Eccles. Disc., 165–6; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Thorndike's Works, i. 446, ii. 399, iv. 549; Bishop Andrewes's Minor Works, ix.; Bancroft's Pretended Holy Discipline, 4, 5, 36, 234, 236, 249, 418 seq., 425 seq., 430, 431; Brook's Cartwright, 306, 307, 449; Camden's Elizabeth; Hanbury's Memorials; Herbert's Ames.]

A. B. G.