Coppe, Abiezer (DNB00)
COPPE, ABIEZER, alias Higham (1619–1672), fanatic, son of Walter Coppe, was born at Warwick on 30 May 1619 (Wood erroneously says 20 May). From the Warwick grammar school he proceeded in 1636 to All Souls, Oxford, as servitor, and shortly afterwards became one of the ‘post-masters’ of Merton. Wood describes his student life as grossly immoral. He left the university on the outbreak of the civil war without a degree. He was first a presbyterian, but it is not asserted that he exercised any ministry in that connection. Becoming an anabaptist, he was zealous in the cause throughout Warwickshire and the neighbouring counties. He was anabaptist preacher to the garrison at Compton House, Warwickshire. John Dury [q. v.], the well-known enthusiast for the union of protestants, writes to him (23 June 1651), ‘You have been a preacher and a leading man.’ He boasted of having baptised seven thousand persons in the midlands. Then he turned ranter, and is said to have been in the habit of preaching stark naked. This may account for his fourteen weeks' imprisonment at Warwick. He joined a society of ranters of the worst type, known among themselves as ‘My one flesh.’ Lawrence Claxton [q. v.], who was a ringleader among these practical antinomians in 1650, was told that if he ‘had come a little sooner’ he might have ‘seen Mr. Copp, who then had lately appeared in a most dreadful manner.’ Wood adds that he became a Muggletonian, but of this there is no evidence. He had dealings with Richard Coppin [q. v.], the universalist, and describes himself as a leveller, but not a ‘sword-leveller.’ The publication of his ‘Fiery Flying Roll’ (1650) got him into prison at Coventry, whence he was removed to Newgate in January, a follower having collected 50l. to pay his Coventry debts. At this time he was married, and had a young family, but was at variance with his wife, of whom, however, he speaks kindly. He mentions that his house had been burned, and that his parents had discarded him. On 1 Feb. 1650 (Wood erroneously says 2 Feb.) parliament issued an order that his book, containing ‘many horrid blasphemies,’ be seized and burned by the hangman. The two ordinances against blasphemy, of 10 May and 9 Aug. 1650, were occasioned by his case. From Newgate he put forth an exculpatory protest, and at length a complete recantation, dating it 30 May, the day of his nativity, 1619, and of his ‘new birth,’ 1651. Regaining his liberty, he preached a recantation sermon at Burford, Oxfordshire, on 23 Dec. 1651. He found a friend in a noted mystic, John Pordage [q. v.], whose appearances in behalf of Coppe were made a ground by the parliamentary commissioners for confirming (1655) Pordage's ejection from his living. We lose sight of Coppe till the Restoration, when he changed his name, and practised physic as Dr. Higham, in the parish of Barnes, Surrey. He still continued occasionally to preach in conventicles. His earlier excesses had undermined his constitution, and he died in August 1672 (buried at Barnes 23 Aug.).
That Coppe's mind was disordered is clear. The licentiousness of which he is accused does not appear in his writings, but he makes a merit of his sins of the tongue. ‘It's meat and drink to an Angel [who knows none evil, no sin] to swear a full-mouthed oath’ (Fiery Flying Roll, pt. ii. p. 12, second paging). His tenets are the ordinary mystical views of the ranters, who were charged with holding that there is no God and no sin. His denial of sin in the elect was a distorted antinomianism. Coppe's style is fantastic enough, but he has some passages of almost poetical beauty. His account of his giving all he had to a chance beggar (‘Because I am a king I have done this, but you need not tell any one’) reveals the pathetic side of his madness (ib. pt. ii. pp. 4–6).
He published: 1. ‘Epistle’ (London, 13 Jan. 1648, i.e. 1649) prefixed to ‘John the Divines Divinity,’ &c., by J. F., 1649 (Wood). 2. ‘An Additional and Preambular Hint’ (really a postscript) to Coppin's ‘A Hint of the Glorious Mystery,’ &c., 1649, 4to; reprinted in Coppin's ‘Divine Teachings,’ 1649, 4to. 3. ‘Some Sweet Sips of some Spirituall Wine,’ &c., 1649, 12mo. 4. ‘A Fiery Flying Roll,’ &c., 1649, 4to (very long title, in which the author's name is given as ‘Auxilium Patris, כף, alias Coppe’). 5. ‘A Second Fiery Flying Roule,’ &c., 1649, 4to (this and the preceding were printed in London and issued together, without publisher's name, on 4 Jan. 1650, according to the British Museum copy; the ‘contents’ of pt. ii. are printed in pt. i.; some copies have the imprint ‘Coventrie, 1650’). 6. ‘A Remonstrance of the Sincere and Zealous Protestation … against the Blasphemous and Execrable Opinions … the Author hath (through mistake) been mis-suspected of,’ &c., 1651, 4to (published 3 Jan.) 7. ‘Copp's Return to the Wayes of Truth,’ &c., 1651, 4to. Posthumous (or perhaps reprint) was, 8. ‘The Character of a True Christian,’ 1680, fol. (poem in fourteen stanzas).
[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 959, 1099; Broadsheet, Order of Parliament, 1 Feb. 1649 (i.e. 1650); Claxton's ‘Lost Sheep Found,’ 1660; Crosby's Hist. of the Baptists, 1738, i. 225; Barclay's Inner Life Rel. Soc. Commonwealth, 1876, p. 422; works cited above.]