Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Knewstubs, John

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KNEWSTUBS or KNEWSTUB, JOHN (1544–1624), divine, born at Kirkby Stephen in Westmoreland in 1544, entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, whence he graduated B.A. 1564, and on 21 March 1567 was elected a fellow of the society. In. 1568 he proceeded M.A., and in 1576 took his degree as B.D. He appears by this time to have become eminent as a controversialist, and was especially prominent as a writer against the teaching of Henry Nicholas, the founder of the sect known as the Family of Love. In 1576 he preached against their doctrines at Paul's Cross. The 'Evangelium Regni' of Nicholas, composed originally in German, had been translated into Latin, and in 1579 Knewstub translated a large portion of the Latin version into English, with comments in which he unsparingly denounced the tenets advanced. In the epistle dedicatory to 'his very good Lord and Maister, Ambrose, Earle of Warwick,' he says that 'the errours of the sect bee so many, so foule and so filthy, as woulde force the very penne in passing stay and stop her nose.' The contents of the volume show that Knewstub was by this time well known at court, and on 13 Aug. 1579 he was presented by Sir William Spring to the rectory of Cockfield in Suffolk, in succession to Dr. Longworth, master of St. John's, and continued to hold the living for a period of forty-five years. Knewstub, however, was not less opposed to the teaching of Romanism, and under his influence Cockfield soon became a centre of puritan doctrine (cf. his Aunsweare).

About 1582, according to Fuller, an assembly of clergymen from Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire met in Cockfield Church 'to confer about the Common Prayer Book as to what might be tolerated and what totally rejected, and also about 'apparel, holidays, fastings, injunctions, &c.' From Cockfield, according to Neal, they somewhat later repaired to Cambridge, and there again enunciated and disseminated their views. St. John's College was at that time noted for its leaning to puritanism, and Knewstub's teaching so far recommended him to the favour of his college that on the death in 1595 of the master, the celebrated theologian, William Whitaker, he was one of the most popular candidates for the office, but Richard Clayton [q. v.] was elected. His reputation continued to rise, and at the conference in Hampton Court in 1604 he appeared as one of the four ministers deputed to oppose conformity. On behalf of 'some honest ministers in Suffolk' he took especial exception to the use of the sign of the cross in baptism and also to the surplice, 'a kind of garment used by the priests of Isis.' Barlow, the historian of the conference, describes him as speaking throughout the proceedings ' most affectionately,' but excuses himself from reporting all his interrogatories on the subject of baptism on the ground that 'he spoke so confusedly that his meaning is not to be collected therein' (Sum of the Conference, p. 65).

Knewstub died at Cockfield, where he was buried 31 May 1624. His epitaph, which has disappeared from his place of interment, has been preserved by Peck (Desiderata Curiosa, p. 216). He does not appear to have been married; but a Richard Knewstub, whose name occurs in the Cockfield parish registers was probably a relative.

He founded in connection with his own college two exhibitions; one to be held by a scholar born and brought up at Kirkby Stephen, or, failing that place, at Appleby; and one from Cockfield, or failing that place, from Sudbury. He published: 1. 'A Sermon preached at Paules Crosse the Fryday before Easter, commonly called good Fryday, in the yeere of our Lorde, 1576. By Johm Knewstub,' b.l. 2. 'The Lectures of John Knewstub, upon the twentieth Chapter of Exodus, and certeine other places of Scripture. Seene and allowed according to the Queenes Majesties Injunctions. Imprinted by Lucas Harrison, Anno 1577; ' 2nd edit, (see 'To the Reader'), b.l. 1578. The Lectures are dedicated to 'Anne, Countesse of Warwick,' as 'some remembrance of my thankfulnesse and duties towards any of that honourable house of Warwick, to the which I am (in the Lord) so many wayes indebted.' 3. 'A Confutation of monstrous and horrible Heresies, taught by H. N. and embraced of a number who call themselves the Familie of Love, By I. Knewstub. Imprinted in London at the. three Cranes in the Vinetree, by Thomas Dawson, for Richard Sergier, 1579,' b.l. 4. 'An Aunsweare unto certayne assertions tending to maintaine the Church of Rome to be the true and Catholique Church. By John Knewstub. Printed in London at the three Cranes in the Vintree, by Thomas Dawson for Richard Sergier, 1579,' b.l.

[Baker's Hist. of St. John's College, ed. Mayor; Barlow's Sum of the Conference (Pheare, vol. ii.); Neal's Hist. of the Puritans (ed. 1732), vol. ii.; Churchill Babington's Materials for a History of Cockfield.]

J. B. M.