Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oxenbridge, John
OXENBRIDGE, JOHN (1608–1674), puritan divine, born at Daventry, Northamptonshire, on 30 Jan. 1608, was eldest son of Daniel Oxenbridge, M.D. of Christ Church, Oxford, and a practitioner at Daventry, and afterwards in London. His mother was Katherine, daughter of Thomas Harby, by Katherine, daughter of Clement Throgmorton of Hasley, third son of Sir George Throgmorton of Loughton. Wood confuses him with another John Oxenbridge, a commoner of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1623, anno ætatis 18. He was, in fact, admitted a pensioner of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 8 April 1626, and matriculated in July of the same year. Migrating afterwards to Oxford, he entered Magdalen Hall, proceeded B.A. on 13 Nov. 1628, and commenced M.A. on 18 June 1631 (Wood, Fasti Oxon. i. 438, 460). He became a tutor of Magdalen Hall ; and in order to promote the better government of the society, he drew up a document which he persuaded his scholars to subscribe. He thus exhibited a contempt for the college statutes which led to his deprivation of office on 27 May 1634. Laud was chancellor of the university, and his sentence on Oxenbridge is printed in Wharton's 'Remains of Laud,' ii. 70. It recites that, both by the testimony of witnesses upon oath and by his own confession, the tutor had 'been found guilty of a strange, singular, and superstitious way of dealing with his scholars, by persuading and causing some of them to subscribe as votaries to several articles framed by himself (as he pretends) for their better government; as if the statutes of the place he lives in, and the authorities of the present governors, were not sufficient.' The vice-chancellor, Brian Duppa [q. v.], was thereupon informed that Oxenbridge should 'no longer be trusted with the tuition of any scholars, or suffered to read to them publicly or privately, or to receive any stipend or salary in that behalf.' Oxenbridge left the hall, and subsequently married his first wife, Jane, daughter of Thomas Butler, merchant, of Newcastle, by Elizabeth Clavering of Callaley, aunt to Sir John Clavering of Axwell.For some time he preached in England, showing himself to be 'very schismatical,' and then he and his wife, who 'had an infirm body, but was strong in faith,' took two voyages to the Bermudas, where he exercised the ministry. In 1641, during the Long parliament, he returned to England, and preached 'very enthusiastically in his travels to and fro.' London, Winchester, and Bristol are enumerated in the list of towns which he visited. A manuscript memoir quaintly remarks that he and his wife 'tumbled about the world in unsettled times.' In January 1643-4 he was residing at Great Yarmouth, where he was permitted by the corporation to preach every Sunday morning before the ordinary time of service, provided he made his 'exercise' by half-past eight o'clock in the morning. He thus preached for months without fee or reward; but at his departure the corporation presented him with 15l. His next call was to Beverley, to fill the perpetual curacy of the minster, in the patronage of the corporation. His name occurs in the list compiled by Oliver under the date of 1646 (Oliver, Beverley, p. 368). Two years afterwards he was nominated by the committee of plundered ministers as joint preacher with one Wilson at St. Mary's, Beverley (Poulson, Beverlac, p. 368). Wood, in a venomous article, states that while Oxenbridge was in the pulpit 'his dear wife preached in the house among her gossips and others;' and the manuscript memoir remarks that her husband, ' a grave divine and of great ministerial skill . . . loved commonly to have her opinion upon a text before he preached it ... she being a scholar beyond what is usual in her sex, and of a masculine judgment in the profound points of theology.'
From Beverley Oxenbridge went to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where a week-day lecture-ship in the gift of the Mercers' Company, London, had been founded by one Fishborne in 1625, and a new church, commenced in 1648, was finished in 1652 by the exertions of Colonel George Fenwick, the governor (Fuller, Hist. of Berwick, p. 183). In the will of his mother, dated 1651, Oxenbridge is described as of Berwick, and in April 1652 he was with another congregationalist minister in Scotland. On 25 Oct. 1652 he was appointed a fellow of Eton College, in succession to John Symonds, deceased (Addit. MS. 5848, f. 421; Harwood, Alumni Eton. p. 74). Before his removal to Eton he had formed a friendship with Andrew Marvell [q. v.], and among the manuscripts of the Society of Antiquaries there is a letter from Marvell to Cromwell, dated from Windsor, 28 July 1653, bearing his testimony to the worth of Mr. and Mrs. Oxenbridge (MSS. Soc. Antiq. Lond. 138, f. 66). Mrs. Oxenbridge died on 25 April 1658, at the age of thirty-seven, and was buried at Eton. In the college chapel a 'black marble slab near Lupton's chapel, under the arch against the wall over the second ascent to the altar,' once recorded her virtues in a Latin inscription, styled 'canting' by Wood, and written by Marvell (Le Neve, Monumenta Anglicana, 1650-79, p. 18; Marvell, Works, ii. 195).
Oxenbridge offended Wood by marrying, 'before he had been a widower a year,' a 'religious virgin named Frances, the only daughter of Hezekiah Woodward, the schismatical vicar of Bray, near Windsor; 'but the lady died in childbed in the first year of her marriage. Oxenbridge still remained at Eton, and on 25 Jan. 1658-9 preached there the funeral sermon on Francis Rous [q. v.], one of Cromwell's lords, who died provost of Eton. On the Restoration in 1660 he was ejected from his fellowship, and the monument to his first wife was defaced and eventually removed, though another, in memory of his second wife, was allowed to remain. He now returned to Berwick-upon-Tweed, and preached there until he was silenced by the Act of Uniformity in 1662. Again he 'tumbled about the world in unsettled times,' and 'in the general shipwreck that befel nonconformists we find him swimming away to Surinam' in the West Indies, 'an English colony first settled by the Lord Willoughby of Parham ' (Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702, iii. 221). Surinam was soon seized by the Dutch, but was retaken by Sir John Herman for the English. With him Oxenbridge went to Barbados in 1667, and thence proceeded to New England in 1669. He married his third wife, Susanna, widow of one Abbit, after November 1666, and probably at Barbados. On 20 Jan. 1669-70 he and his wife were admitted members of the first church or meeting-house at Boston, Massachusetts. Shortly afterwards he was unanimously invited to become its pastor, and he was accordingly 'ordained' to it on 4 May 1670 (Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Soc. 1804, p. 193). In 1672 he was appointed one of the licensers of the press. He died suddenly on 28 Dec. 1674, being seized with apoplexy towards the close of a sermon which he was preaching at Boston. His will, dated 12 Jan. 1673-4, is printed in the 'Sussex Archæological Collections,' 1860, p. 215.
By his first wife he had issue Daniel Oxenbridge, M.D. ; Bathshua, who became the wife of Richard Scott of Jamaica, a gentleman of great estate; and two other daughters, Elizabeth and Mary. His daughter Theodora, by his second wife, married, on 21 Nov. 1677, the Rev. Peter Thatcher, afterwards pastor of Milton, Massachusetts, and died in 1697.
Wood says: 'This person was a strange hodg-podg of opinions, not easily to be described; was of a roving and rambling head, spent much, and died, I think, but in a mean condition.' Far different is the character of him given by Emerson, the pastor of the church at Boston in 1812, who states that Oxenbridge' is reckoned by the historians of Boston among the most elegant writers, as well as most eloquent preachers, of his time. Like his great and good predecessor, he was sincerely attached to the congregational interest; and the piety which he cherished at heart exhibited itself in his habitual conversation.'
His works are: 1. 'A double Watchword; or the Duty of Watching, and Watching to Duty; both echoed from Revel. 16. 5 and Jer. 50. 4, 5.' London, 1661, 8vo. 2. 'A Seasonable Proposition of Propagating the Gospel by Christian Colonies in the Continent of Guaiana: being some gleanings of a larger Discourse drawn, but not published. By John Oxenbridge, a silly worme, too inconsiderable for so great a Work, and therefore needs and desires acceptance and assistance from Above' [London (?), 1670 (?)], 4to. 3. 'A Sermon at the Anniversary Election of Governor, &c., in New England,' 1672, on Hosea viii. 4. Judge Warren had a copy of this sermon in 1860, the only one probably in existence. 4. 'A Sermon on the seasonable Seeking of God,' printed at Boston.
[The Oxenbridges of Brede Place, Sussex, and Boston, Massachusetts, by William Durrant Cooper, London, 1860, 8vo, reprinted from the Sussex Archæological Collections, xii. 206; Addit. MSS. 5877 f. 114, 24490 p. 426; Anderson's Hist. of the Colonial Church, ii. 245-8; Baker's Northamptonshire, i. 333; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Kennett's Register and Chronicle,p. 541; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, iv. 487;Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Soc. iii. 257, 300, iv. 217, vi. p. v, viii. 277; Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial, 1802, i. 299; Poulson's Beverlac, pp. 368, 485; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iii. 468, 593, 1026, Fasti, i. 438, 460.]