Bentham, Joseph (DNB00)

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BENTHAM, JOSEPH (1594–1671), divine, must, from his age at death (seventy-seven in 1671), have been born in 1593-4. He is designated 'Joseph Bentham, master of arts and preacher of God's word at Weekeley' in Northamptonshire, in his first book, entitled 'The Societie of the Saints, or a Treatise of Good-fellowes and their Good-fellowship: delivered in the Lecture at Kettering in Northamptonshire, in Fourteene Sermons, with some additions,' 1638. This wise and witty treatise is dedicated to various Montagues, children of Edward, Lord Montague of Boughton, who had been and still was 'a bountiful patron' to him. He had been induced to publish this book by Bolton and Estwick. A still more characteristic book is 'Χοροθεόλογον, or Two Breife but UsefuU Treatises: the one touching the Office and Quality of the Ministry of the Gospell; the other of the Nature and Accidents of Mixt Dancing. In this later the Questions which concern the Lawfulnesse or Expediency of Mixed Dancing are professedly handled and resolved,' 1657. In this he describes himself as 'sometime rector of the church of Broughton in Northamptonshire, now pastour of Neather Winchingham [Neather Wickenden in second title] in the county of Bucks.' From the local registers it is found that, in agreement with this title-page, 'Josephus Bentham Cl. Comp. pro Primit. 14 Jan. 1631,' at Broughton. In the interval between his two publications he had met with many troubles as a royalist. According to Bridges's 'Northamptonshire' (ii. 86), 'This gentleman [Bentham] was sequestered by order of the parliament committee on 13 July 1643. for his loyalty, conformity, and exemplary life; by which vices, as the committee told him, he did more harm to God's cause than twenty other men, and should therefore fare the worse for it. His wife and five children were with himself turned out of doors, with this additional circumstance of inhumanity, that he was not permitted to take a single peck of corn out of his barn to make bread for his family; nor did his wife ever recover her fifths, though she several times petitioned the committee for them. He was succeeded by John Bazeley, who seized the corn upon the ground, though he did not preach till October, and Mr. Bentham had paid the taxes to that harvest,' His dedication of his 'Two Breife but Usefull Treatises' to Thomas Tyringham of Neather Wickenden, county of Buckinghamshire, informs us that it was to him he was indebted for a 'quiet haven' in which after his 'boisterous and tempestuous storms' he had 'cast anchor' since 24 Dec. 1646; and where 'by the people's kindness,' and Tyringham's especially, he had 'comfortably and contentedly continued to the present in an hyred house,' and 'without craving and often giving' thanks, yet without being burdensome.'

The Restoration restored Bentham to his old parish of Broughton, he having been reinstalled on 29 Sept. 1660. He died on 16 April 1671, and on a stone within the altar-rails this inscription is still to be read: 'Hic jacet Josephus Bentham, Boltoni tam artibus quam moribus successor, bonis operibus dives; febre attritus āorum sat placide in D. obdormivit 16 Apr. Āo. Dni. 1671, Æt. 77.' He left in his will 40l. 'to be annually distributed for ever [interest only of course] amongst the poor on the happy day of his majesty's restoration;' also to Weekely 'x' to be given yearly in the church porch to such poor as should come to church on the 29th of May.'

[Bridget's Northamptonshire; Bentham's Works; local researches in his livings; letter from Mr. John Wallis, Kettering.]

A. B. G.