Denne, Henry (DNB00)

DENNE, HENRY (d. 1600?), puritan divine, was educated at Cambridge and in 1630 was ordained by the Bishop of St. David's (Reg. Dio. St. David's), and soon afterwards was presented to the living of Pyrton in Hertfordshire, which he held for more than ten years, ‘and, being a more frequent and lively preacher than most of the clergy in his neighbourhood, was greatly beloved and respected by his parishioners’ (Crosby, Hist. Baptists, i. 221). In 1641 he was one of the ministers selected by the committee of the House of Commons for preferment, and had to give a bond in 200l. to appear before them at twenty-four hours' notice whenever required, and the same year was selected to preach at Baldock at the visitation then being held there, in which sermon ‘he freely exposed the sin of persecution and took occasion to lash the vices of the clergy with so much freedom as gave great offence and occasioned many false reports; from this time he was taken great notice of as a man of extraordinary parts and a proper person to help forward the designed reformation’ (ib.) This sermon was subsequently published as ‘The Doctrine and Conversation of John Baptist’ (1642). Soon after the outbreak of the rebellion Denne became convinced of the unscriptural nature of the baptism of infants, and publicly professing himself a baptist was received into that community by immersion in 1643, when he joined the congregation at the meeting-house in Bell Alley, and frequently preached both there and in the country. His change of opinion brought considerable persecution upon him, and in 1644 he was apprehended in Cambridgeshire, by order of the ‘committee’ for that county, for preaching against infant baptism. After he had lain in Cambridge gaol for some time, his case, through the intercession of some friends, was referred to a committee of the house, and he was sent to London, where he was confined in Lord Petre's house in Aldersgate Street until, his case having been investigated, the committee ordered his release. Among his fellow-prisoners was Dr. Daniel Featley, the opponent of the baptists, whose book, ‘The Dippers Dipt,’ &c., was brought to Denne's notice. As soon as he was released he challenged Featley to a disputation, at which he had so much the best of the argument that Featley, under the excuse of the danger of publicly disputing without a license, declined to proceed with it. Denne then wrote ‘The Foundation of Children's Baptism discovered and rased; an answer to Dr. Featley,’ &c. (1645), which shows great learning and ingenuity, and was for a considerable time a standard authority among the baptists. Shortly after his release Denne obtained the living of Elsly (Eltisley) in Cambridgeshire, and, though strongly opposed to both presbyterians and prelatists, managed to retain it for several years. The committee of the county endeavoured to prevent his preaching at St. Ives, but on being interrupted he left the building, and going into a neighbouring churchyard preached from under a tree to an enormous congregation, ‘to the great mortification of his opponents.’ In June 1646 he was apprehended by the magistrates at Spalding for baptising in the river, but was speedily released. He was, however, so much persecuted by the neighbouring ministers that he resigned his living and became a soldier in the parliamentary army, where he gained a ‘great reputation’ for zeal and courage. At the conclusion of the civil war he again became a preacher, and took every opportunity of defending his principles. In 1658 he held a public dispute, lasting two days, concerning infant baptism with Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Gunning in St. Clement Danes Church. Denne's death is supposed to have taken place soon after the Restoration. Although a party man, his views were so moderate that by some he was reproached for being an antinomian, and by others as an Arminian. He was full of zeal and decision, and although his writings, which are chiefly controversial, show that he lacked discretion and charity, his preaching is said to have been persuasive and affectionate. Besides the works already mentioned, he wrote: 1. ‘The Man of Sin discovered, whom the Lord will destroy with the brightness of His Coming,’ 1645. 2. ‘The Drag-Net of the Kingdom of Heaven; or Christ's drawing all Men,’ 1646. 3. ‘The Levellers' Design discovered,’ 1649. 4. ‘A Contention for Truth; in two several Disputations at St. Clement's Church, between Dr. Gunning and Henry Denne, concerning Infant Baptism,’ 1658. 5. ‘The Quaker no Papist, in answer to The Quaker Disarmed,’ 1659. 6. ‘An Epistle recommended to all Prisons in this City and Nation. To such as chuse Restraint rather than the Violation of their Consciences, wherein is maintained: (1) The Lawfulness of an Oath; (2) The Antiquity of an Oath; (3) The Universality of it. With the most material Objections answered,’ 1660. 7. ‘Grace, Mercy, and Truth,’ not printed till 1796.

[Crosby's Hist. of the Baptists, i. 297; Wilson's Hist. of Dissenting Churches, ii. 440; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, iii. 376–80; Neal's Hist of the Puritans, i. 727, 2nd edit.; Edwards's Gangræna, pt. i. p. 124; Howard's Looking-Glass for Baptists; Smith's Bibliotheca Antiquakeriana; Taylor's Hist. of the English General Baptists.]

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