Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Angel, John (d.1655)

ANGEL, or ANGELL, JOHN (d. 1655), was ‘a Gloucestershire man,’ born towards the end of the sixteenth century. He was admitted of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, in 1610. He proceeded to his degrees of B.A. and M.A. He was ordained in holy orders; at a bound became a frequent and popular preacher, and many laudatory puns were made on his name. He does not appear to have been presented to any living, but to have gone about as an evangelist. In 1629, or earlier, one Higginson having declined an appointment as town-preacher at Leicester because of his growing nonconformity, Angel, who then conformed to the establishment, was put in his stead by ‘the mayor of Alderney,’ and he is found in 1630 conducting that puritan institution, the lecture, which high churchmen disliked, but which golden-mouthed Jeremy Taylor vindicated in his great book of the ‘Liberty of Prophesying.’ In 1634 he was suspended by the dean of Arches for preaching without license; for an ordinary minister, whether beneficed or unbeneficed, was at the time only permitted to read ‘plainly and aptly (without glossing or adding) the Homilies,’ and was not allowed to preach without a license from the bishop of the diocese certifying that he was a ‘sufficient and convenient preacher’ (49 Canon). With relation to Angel's suspension Laud writes in his ‘Diary:’ ‘In Leicester the dean of the Arches suspended one Mr. Angell, who had continued a lecturer in that great town for these divers years without any license at all to preach, yet took liberty enough. I doubt his violence hath cracked his brain, and do therefore use him more tenderly, because I see the hand of God hath overtaken him.’ Clark tells us that Angel was subject to great spiritual darkness, wherein Richard Vines relieved and comforted him, and it is to his religious fervour, which produced this mental distress, that Laud refers.

In 1650, at Leicester, Angel differed with the Independents (or congregationalists), having refused to sign their famous ‘Engagement.’ The Mercers' Company of London stepped in to relieve him. He was appointed by them lecturer at Grantham, in Lincolnshire, and he remained there until his death in 1655. Even Anthony à Wood is constrained to quote fully the tributes that contemporaries paid him. He wrote, or rather published, little. His ‘Right Government of the Thoughts, or a Discourse of all Vain, Unprofitable, Idle, and Wicked Thoughts’ (1659), and his ‘Right Ordering of the Conversation’ (1659), and ‘Preparation for the Communion’ (1659), and ‘Funeral Sermon for John, Lord Darcey’ (1659), are of the rarer books of later puritans. He is penetrative and wise in counsel, energetic and powerful in appeal.

[Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iii. 397; Laud's Works, v. 325–6; Brook's Lives, iii. 236; Clark's Lives, i. 50.]

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