Chauncy, Charles (DNB00)

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CHAUNCY, CHARLES (1592–1672), nonconformist divine, fifth and youngest son of George Chauncy of Yardley Bury and New Place in Gilston, Hertfordshire, by his second wife, Agnes, daughter of Edward Welch of Great Wymondley in the same county, and widow of Edward Humberstone, was baptised at Yardley and widow of Edward Humberstone, was baptised at Yardley on 6 Nov. 1592. He received his preliminary education at Westminster, whence he was sent in 1609 to Cambridge and entered at Trinity College, of which society he subsequently became a fellow. He proceeded B.A. in 1613, M.A. in 1617, and was incorporated on that degree at Oxford in 1619. He became B.D. in 1624. Distinguished alike for oriental and classical scholarship, Chauncy, it is said, was nominated Hebrew professor by the heads of houses; but Dr. Williams, the vice-chancellor, wishing to place a friend of his own in that office, made Chauncy professor of Greek, 'or more probably Greek lecturer in his own college.' On 27 Feb. 1627 Chauncy was presented by his college to the vicarage of Ware, Hertfordshire, which he held until 16 Oct. 1633. He was also vicar of Marston St. Lawrence, Northamptonshire, from 28 Aug. 1633 until 28 Aug. 1637. In each of these preferments his disregard of Laud's oppressive regulations brought him before the high commission court, once in 1630 and again in 1634. On the last occasion he was suspended from the ministry and imprisoned. After some months' confinement he petitioned the court on 4 Feb. 1635-6 to be allowed to submit. A week later he read his submission 'with bended knee,' and, after being admonished by Laud in his usual style, was released on the payment of costs. The text of his offences, sentence, and submission is set forth in 'Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1636-6,' pp. 123-4, 494-6. For making what he afterwards termed his 'scandalous submission' Chauncy never forgave himself. He had resolved to retire to America, but before going he wrote a solemn 'Retractation,' which was published at London in 1641. Arriving at Plymouth in New England in December 1637, he acted for some time as assistant to John Reyner, the minister of that place. In 1641 he was invited to take charge of the church at Scituate, a neighbouring town, where he continued for more than twelve years. He suffered frequently from poverty. When the puritans were masters of England, Chauncy was invited home by his old parishioners at Ware, and was about to embark at Boston, when he was persuaded on 2 Nov. 1654 by the overseers of Harvard College, New Cambridge, to become president of that society. He was accordingly inaugurated as successor to Henry Dunster, the first president, on the ensuing 29 Nov. Despite the poor stipend, irregularly paid, Chauncy continued in this post, ‘a learned, laborious, and useful governor,’ until his death, which occurred on 19 Feb. 1672. He was buried at New Cambridge. Chauncy married at Ware on 17 March 1630 Catherine, daughter of Robert Eyre, barrister-at-law, of Salisbury, Wiltshire. By her, who died on 24 Jan. 1668, aged 66, he had six sons, all bred to the ministry and graduates of Harvard, and two daughters. He was an admirable preacher, and in addition to a single sermon printed in 1655, he published twenty-six sermons on ‘The Plain Doctrine of the Justification of a Sinner in the Sight of God,’ London, 1659, 4to. He also wrote ‘The Doctrine of the Sacrament, with the right use thereof, catechetically handled by way of question and answer,’ 1642, and ‘Anti-synodalia Scripta Americana, or a proposal of the judgment of the Dissenting Messengers of the Churches of New England assembled, 10 March 1662;’ both these works are extremely rare. He contributed a poem to the ‘Lacrymæ Cantabrigienses,’ 1619, on the death of Anne, queen of James I; to the ‘Gratulatio Academiæ Cantabrigiensis,’ 1623, on the return of Charles from Spain; to the ‘Epithalamium,’ 1624, on the marriage of Charles and Henrietta Maria; and to the 'Cantabrigiensium Dolor & Solamen,’ 1625, on the death of James I and accession of Charles. He also delivered a Latin oration on 27 Feb. 1622, on the departure of the ambassadors from the king of Spain and the archduchess of Austria, after their entertainment at Trinity College, which was published the following year in ‘True Copies of all the Latine Crations made and pronounced at Cambridge.’ A brief ‘Επίκρισις’ from his pen was printed at the beginning of Leigh’s ‘Critica Sacra.’ Among his earlier friends Chauncy numbered Archbishop Ussher.

[Clutterbuck’s Hertfordshire, ii. 401, iii. 307-8; Savage's Genealog. Dict. i. 366-9; Fowler’s Memorials of the Chaunceys, pp. 1-37; Mather's Ecclesiastical Hist. bk. iii. pp. 133-41; Wood’s Fasti (Bliss), i. 391; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 904; Baker’s Northamptonshire, i. 643; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1629-31, 1634-5, 1635-6, 1637; Rushworth's Hist. Coll. (1659-1701), pt. ii. vol. i. pp. 34, 316; Gardiner’s Hist. of England. 1603-42, viii. 116; Prynne's Canterburies Doome, pp. 96, 362, 494; Neal's Hist. of the Puritans, ii. 201, 262, 315-16; Brook’s Puritans, iii. 451-5; Parr’s Life of Ussher, p. 340; Chalmers’s Biog. Diet. ix. 216-18: Welch’s Alumni Westmon. (1852), p. 79; Allen’s American Biog. Dict. pp. 213-15; Wi1son’s Dissenting Churches, i. 289.]

G. G.