Corbet, John (1620-1680) (DNB00)

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CORBET, JOHN (1620–1680), puritan author, son of Roger Corbet, a shoemaker of Gloucester, was born in that city in 1620, and, having received his early education at the grammar school there, became a commoner of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, in 1636, where he proceeded B.A. 5 Jan. 1639 (Wood, Fasti Oxon. i. 507). Having taken orders, he was the next year appointed incumbent of St. Mary-de-Crypt, Gloucester, one of the city lecturers, and usher in the free school attached to his church. When Gloucester was garrisoned for the parliament, he was appointed chaplain to Colonel Edward Massey, the governor, and preached violently against the royal cause, saying that ‘nothing had so much deceived the world as the name of a king, which was the ground of all mischief to the church of Christ.’ His official connection and friendship with Massey gave him the opportunity of learning full particulars of military events, and his account of the civil war and of the siege of Gloucester up to June 1643, which is written without invective and in a simple style, is of the greatest value. At the close of the war he became a preacher at Bridgwater, Somerset (Wood), and afterwards removed to Chichester. He was next presented to the rectory of Bramshot, Hampshire, and while holding that living supplicated for the degree of B.D. on 14 May 1658; but whether he performed the necessary exercises or was admitted to the degree does not appear. In 1662 he was ejected from Bramshot for nonconformity, and retired to London, where he lived without preaching until the death of his first wife, of whom nothing is known (Baxter, Works, xviii. 185; Wood). He then lived, probably as chaplain, in the house of Sir John Micklethwaite, president of the College of Physicians, and after a while, desiring to be near Richard Baxter [q. v.], entered the household of Alderman Webb at Totteridge in Hertfordshire. About this time he married his second wife, a daughter of Dr. William Twiss, and took up his abode with Baxter, who says that they never once ‘differed in any point of doctrine, worship, or government, ecclesiastical or civil, or ever had one displeasing word.’ On the publication of the king's license in March 1671, he was invited by some of his old congregation to return to Chichester. During his residence there he took part in a disputation between the bishop, Gunning, and the nonconformists, and it is said that the bishop treated him with unfairness and discourtesy. Although he suffered terribly from stone, he continued to preach until November 1680. He then went up to London, hoping to obtain relief, but died on 26 Dec. before an operation could be performed. He was buried in St. Andrew's, Holborn, and his funeral sermon was preached by Baxter, who declared that ‘he was a man so blameless in all his conversation,’ that he never heard any one ‘accuse or blame him except for nonconformity.’

Corbet's works are: 1. ‘A historicall relation of the Military Government of Gloucester from the beginning of the Civill Warre betweene the King and the Parliament, to the recall of Colonell Massie,’ 1645, 4to, republished as ‘A true and impartiall Historie of the Military Government …’ 1647, 4to, also in the ‘Somers Tracts,’ v. 296–375, and in Washbourn's ‘Bibliotheca Gloucestrensis,’ 1–152. 2. ‘A Vindication of the Magistrates of the city of Gloucester from the calumnies of Robert Bacon …’ 1646, 4to; and together with this, 3. ‘Ten Questions discussed’ [against] ‘close Antinomianism.’ 4. ‘The Interest of England in the matter of Religion,’ in 2 parts, 1661, 8vo. This was answered by Sir Roger L'Estrange in his ‘Interest Mistaken, or the Holy Cheat,’ 1661, and by the author of the ‘Presbyterian unmasked,’ 1676, 1681. ‘A nameless writer,’ Baxter says, ‘ published a bloody invective against his pacificatory book, “The Interest of England,” as if it had been written to raise a war’ (Works, xviii. 188). 5. ‘A Discourse of the Religion of England …’ 1667, 4to, answered in the same year by ‘A Discourse of Toleration,’ anon., but by Dr. Perinchief, prebendary of Westminster (Wood), and by ‘Dolus an Virtus?’ 6. ‘A Second Discourse of the Religion of England,’ 1668, 4to, also answered. 7. ‘The Kingdom of God among Men,’ 1679, 8vo, with which are: 8. ‘A Point of Church Unity discussed;’ and 9. ‘An Account of Himself about Conformity.’ 10. ‘Self-employment in Secret,’ 1681, 12mo, posthumous, 1700, and many subsequent editions. 11. ‘The Nonconformist's Plea for Lay Communion with the Church of England,’ with ‘A Defence of my Endeavours for … the Ministry,’ in answer to Bishop Gunning, 1683, 4to. 12. ‘A humble Endeavour of … explication … of the Operations of God,’ 1683, 4to. 13. ‘Remains,’ 1684, 4to. Corbet also took part in compiling the first volume of Rushworth's ‘Historical Collections.’

[Wood's Fasti, i. 507; Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 1264; Baxter's Works (Orme), xviii. 162–92; Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, ii. 259; Washbourn's Bibl. Gloucestr. i. introd.]

W. H.