Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nichols, Josias

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NICHOLS, JOSIAS (1555?–1639), puritan divine, born probably about 1555, was educated at Oxford, where he graduated B.A. 18 March 1573–4. In 1580 he was presented by Nicholas St. Leger and his wife to the rectory of Eastwell, Kent. He was strictly puritan in his treatment of the Book of Common Prayer and ceremonies (Lansdowne MS. 42, f. 84; Strype, Whitgift, i. 271); and on the imposition of Whitgift's three articles in 1583 he declined to sign, and was described as a ringleader of the puritan ministers in Kent. Whitgift suspended him and his friends in February 1583–4. In May 1584 some gentlemen of Kent interceded in their behalf. Nichols was restored, evidently by Whitgift's favour, as Dr. William Covel [q. v.] told him distinctly that the archbishop had shown him more honour ‘than many others of your quality and deserts’ (Covel, Modest Examination, chap. iii.). His views, however, remained as strongly puritan as before; he signed the book of discipline, and took part in the attempted erection of the ‘government’ in 1587, when he was a member of a synod which met apparently in London (Strype, Annals, iii. ii. 477). This movement failed. But the prospect of James's succession renewed the hopes of the party, and Nichols published his ‘Plea of the Innocent,’ in the hope of reopening the controversy. It was answered on the part of the church, and at Whitgift's instigation, by Covel in his ‘Modest and Reasonable Examination of some things in use in the Church of England’ (1604). On the part of the separatists, whom it equally castigated, it was answered by Sprint in his ‘Considerations touching the Points in Difference between the godly Ministers … and the seduced Brethren of the Separation’ (1608). As a consequence of his literary efforts, Nichols was deprived of the rectory of Eastwell in 1603. He appears to have spent the rest of his life in the neighbourhood. In September 1614 ‘Mr. Josias Nichols of Loose’ protested at a meeting at Maidstone against the proposed benevolence to pay the king's debts as not having been sanctioned by parliament (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. iv. 17). Nichols was buried at Eastwell on 16 May 1639.

His works are: 1. ‘The Order of Household Instruction, by which every Master of a Family may easily … make his Household to understand the … Principal Points of Christian Religion,’ London, 1596. 2. ‘The Plea of the Innocent, wherein is averred that the Ministers and People falsely termed Puritan are injuriously slandered for Enemies of the State,’ &c., London, 1602 (epistle dedicatory to the archbishop, two editions of the same year). 3. ‘Abraham's Faith: that is, the old Religion wherein is taught that the Religion now publikely taught, and defended by Order in the Church of England, is the only true Catholik and unchangeable Faith of God's Elect, and the pretended Religion of the See of Rome a subtle, bastard, etc., Superstition,’ London, 1603 (epistle dedicatory to the archbishop and the lord chief-justice of England).

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. (1500–1714); Oxford University Register; Neal's Puritans, i. 323–7; Brook's Puritans; Hanbury's Memorials; Lansdowne MS. 42; Roger Morrice MSS. A 328–30 (Dr. Williams's Library); Strype's Whitgift and Annals; Hasted's Kent, iii. 203; Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. iv. 17; Covel's Modest and Reasonable Examination; Henry Ainsworth's Counterpoyson.]

W. A. S.