Coppin, John (DNB00)

COPPIN or COPPING, JOHN (d. 1583), Brownist, was an inhabitant of Bury St. Edmunds. He enthusiastically accepted the teachings of Robert Browne [q. v.]; preached Browne's doctrines in his native town; contrived to distribute books written by Browne and his friends; and refused to conform to the established ecclesiastical usages. For this conduct, the commissary of the Bishop of Norwich committed him to prison in 1576. He remained in confinement for seven years, but under no very close surveillance, and his family was permitted to live with him. ‘Many godly and learned preachers’ visited him, and tried to convert him from his unorthodox views. In August 1578 his wife was delivered of a child, but Coppin refused to have it baptised by ‘an unpreaching minister.’ Meanwhile he sought to bring his fellow-prisoners to his way of thinking; called a clergyman for reading the Book of Common Prayer ‘a dumb dog;’ asserted that all who observed saints' days were idolaters; and frequently argued that ‘the queen was sworn to keep God's law, and she is perjured.’ Coppin found a disciple in Elias Thacker, another prisoner, and their violent language produced such disorder in the prison that the magistrates applied to the Bishop of Norwich and to the judges of assize to remove them elsewhere, but this request was refused. The attention of the government was, however, directed to the scandal, and an indictment was drawn up against Coppin, Thacker, and one Thomas Gibson, a bookbinder of Bury, for disobeying the ecclesiastical laws of the realm, and for conspiring ‘to disperse Browne's books and Harrison's books.’ They were brought before Sir Christopher Wray, lord chief justice, at the summer assizes on 4 June 1583. Gibson was acquitted of the charge of supplying the prisoners with the books, and released. The judge extracted from the other defendants the admission that they acknowledged ‘her majesty chief ruler civilly … and no further.’ Both expressed unqualified admiration of Browne's book; were convicted, and condemned to be hanged. Thacker was executed before the court rose; Coppin on the following day, 5 June. Many books by Browne and Harrison—forty in all—were burnt in front of the stake. Stow, in his chronicle, represents their offence as solely consisting in circulating seditious books; Strype points out, however, that the judges distinctly asserted that the punishment of death was awarded them for denying the queen's supremacy. The proceedings appear to have been hastily and irregularly conducted. Dr. Dexter (1880), following Governor Bradford in his ‘Dialogue’ (1648), numbers Coppin and Thacker among the six early martyrs to congregationalism. Bradford assigns to them the last words (addressed to the judge): ‘My lord, your face we fear not, and for your threats we care not, and to come to your read service we dare not.’

[Strype's Annals, ii. ii. 186–7, iii. i. 28, 269, ii. 172; Fuller's Church Hist. ed. Brewer, v. 70; Stow's Annals, p. 1174; Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers of Plymouth (1841), p. 427; Dexter's Congregationalism, 206–10; Brook's Puritans, i. 262–4 (where Coppin is called minister near Bury St. Edmunds); Neal's Hist. of Puritans, i. 342.]

S. L. L.