Sedgwick, William (DNB00)

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SEDGWICK, WILLIAM (1610?–1669?), puritan and mystic, son of William Sedgwick of London, was born in Bedfordshire about 1615. He matriculated at Pembroke College, Oxford, on 2 Dec. 1625, aged 15, and graduated B.A. 21 June 1628, M.A. 4 May 1631. His tutor was George Hughes [q. v.] On 5 Feb. 1634 he was instituted to the rectory of Farnham, Essex; next year he was incorporated M.A. at Cambridge. He held the living of Farnham till 1644, when he was succeeded by Giles Archer (instituted 27 April); but in 1642, leaving Farnham in charge of a curate, he removed to London. On 5 Oct. 1641 a petition was preferred against William Fuller (1580?-1659) [q. v.], dean of Ely and vicar of St. Giles-without-Cripplegate, by the parishioners of Cripplegate, complaining that he had hindered the appointment of Sedgwick as Thursday lecturer at St. Giles's. In 1642 Sedgwick became chaplain to the regiment of foot raised by Sir William Constable [q. v.] In 1644 he became the chief preacher in Ely, and by his evangelistic labours gained the title of 'apostle of the Isle of Ely.' His relations to ecclesiastical parties were not unlike those of William Dell [q. v,] and John Saltmarsh [q. v.] Wood says he was sometimes 'a presbyterian, sometimes an independent, and at other times an Anabaptist.' It would be more correct to class him with the 'seekers.' Calamy says his 'heart was better than his head.' He was very ready to listen to any claims to prophetical power. A woman in the neighbourhood of Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, proclaimed the near advent of the day of judgment. Sedgwick adopted her date, and announced it at the house of Sir Francis Russell of Chippenham, Cambridgeshire (father-in-law of Henry Cromwell). Nothing happened on the day fixed, but during the night following 'there arose on a sudden a terrible tempest of thunder and lightning.' From this abortive prophecy Sedgwick got the name of 'Doomsday Sedgwick.' At the end of 1647 he waited on Charles I at Carisbrooke Castle with his 'Leaves of the Tree of Life.' Charles read part of the book and gave it back, saying he thought 'the author stands in some need of sleep.' In 1652 he was attracted by John Reeve (1608-1658) [q. v.], the 'prophet' of the Muggletonians, and, without becoming a disciple, contributed to his 'quarterly necessity' till Reeve died. In June 1657 he explained his position in a correspondence with Reeve (Sacred Remains, 1706, pp. 1 sq.)

His preaching at Ely being terminated by the Restoration, he retired to Lewisham, Kent. In 1663, having conformed, he became rector of Mattishall Burgh, Norfolk, and he died in London about 1669 (Wood).

His writings, quiet in tone, are not wanting in spiritual feeling, nor devoid of pathos. Besides two sermons before parliament (1642 and 1643) he published: 1. 'The Leaves of the Tree of Life,' 1648, 4to. 2, 'Some Flashes of Lightenings of the Sonne of Man,' 1648, 4to; reprinted 1830, 12mo. 3. 'The Spirituall Madman ... a Prophesie concerning the King, the Parliament,' 1648, 4to. 4. 'Justice upon the Armie Remonstrance,' &c., 1649, 4to. 5. 'A Second View of the Army Remonstrance,'1649, 4to. 6. 'Mr. W. S.'s Letter to ... Thomas Lord Fairfax in prosecution of his Answer to the Remonstrance of the Army,' 1649, 4to; part of this, with title 'Excerpta quaedam ex W. S. remonstrantia ad Generalem Exercitus,' is in 'Sylloge Variorum Tractatuum,' 1649, 4to. 7. 'Animadversions on a Letter ... to His Highness ... by ... Gentlemen. . .in Wales,' 1656, 4to. 8. 'Animadversions upon a book intituled Inquisition for the Blood of our Soveraign,' 1661, 8vo.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon, (Bliss), iii. 894; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), i. 438, 460; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1892, iv. 1332; Calamy's Account, 1713, pp. 114, 117; Davids's Evang. Nonconf. in Essex, 1863, pp. 285, 566 sq.]

A. G.