Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Herle, Charles

HERLE, CHARLES (1598–1659), puritan divine, third son of Edward Herle of Prideaux in Luxulyan, Cornwall, by his first wife, Anne, daughter of John Treffry of Fowey, was born at Prideaux in 1598. A member of the same family, Thomas Herle, was warden of Manchester College from 1559 to 1575 (Wardens of Manchester College, Chetham Soc., v. 75–84). Charles Herle matriculated on 23 Oct. 1612 at Exeter College, Oxford, and graduated B.A. on 7 July 1615 and M.A. in June 1618. He was ordained in the English church, and seems to have spent some years of his life as tutor of James Stanley, lord Strange, afterwards seventh earl of Derby, to whom he admitted deep indebtedness (dedication to Contemplations and Devotions, 1631). He became rector of Creed, Cornwall, in 1625 (Rymer, Fœdera, xviii. 639). Through his connection with the Stanleys he was presented on 26 June 1626 to the rich rectory of Winwick, Lancashire, but the whole of its endowments did not fall to Herle's lot for several years. Though conciliatory in the expression of his views, he was an ardent presbyterian, and readily took the covenant on behalf of the parliament. He offered to preach every Tuesday at the new church in Tothill Fields, and he frequently preached before the Long parliament. He was one of the twelve divines appointed by parliament in June 1643 for licensing books of divinity, and was one of the two clerical representatives of Lancashire in the Assembly of Divines constituted in July of that year. From the first he took an important part in its deliberations. He was on the committee for framing a directory and rules for ordination, and to him, in conjunction with Goodwin, was assigned the duty of drawing up regulations for fasting and thanksgiving. He was also a member of the committees for composing differences among themselves, for drawing up a confession of faith, and for obtaining the settlement on the assembly of the revenues of the see of Canterbury. He was moreover one of the members who issued a circular entreating all ministers and people to forbear from joining any church society until they saw whether the right rule would be recommended to them; and in consequence of his influence he was, on the death of Twiss, nominated by the House of Commons to the office of prolocutor of the assembly (22 July 1646). Baillie complained (5 July 1644) that Nye ‘and his good friend Mr. Herle’ detained them for three weeks on the manner in which communicants should take the sacrament. Herle had the first place in the list of divines instructed to certify to the abilities and fitness of the ministers in Lancashire, he was in September 1644 one of the receivers of the money collected for the relief of those in that county, and in May 1649 he acted as a distributor of the funds at Wigan and Ashton. The rectory of St. Olave, Southwark, was sequestrated to him and another adherent of the parliament. It was ordered by the committee for the advance of money that the goods of Dr. Newell of Westminster should be his on the payment of the valuation, and when he suffered loss through the occupation of Winwick by the royalists compensation was voted to him. In 1647 he was appointed one of the commissioners sent by parliament into Scotland to inform the Scotch on English matters, and he preached at Edinburgh in March 1648.

The execution of Charles I did not meet with his approval, and he therefore retired to Winwick. With the Stanley family he remained on friendly terms, and when the Earl of Derby raised troops for Charles II, Herle remained with the soldiers for a time. Herle is even said to have sheltered Lord Derby after his disastrous defeat at Warrington Bridge. In a survey of church property taken in 1650 he is described as ‘an orthodox, godly-preaching minister,’ but with the qualification that he did not observe Thursday, 13 June, as ‘a daie of humiliacon appoynted by Acte of Parliamt,’ probably because he would not publicly pray in the pulpit for the Commonwealth (Lancashire and Cheshire Surveys, 1649–55, ed. H. Fishwick, pp. 46–7; GASTRELL, Notitia Cestrensis, pp. 262–70). Consequently the council of state gave orders for the strict examination of Herle and others who were suspected of assisting the enemy (Cal. of State Papers, 1651, p. 397). He was conveyed to London, and it was not until 2 Sept. 1653 that he was freed from restraint; but the restraint could not have been more than formal, as about July 1652 he and the ministers of the adjacent chapelries ordained John Howe in the parish church of Winwick. Howe afterwards spoke of him ‘with a very great and particular respect.’ Herle lived in retirement for several years, dying at Winwick, and being buried in the chancel of the church on 29 Sept. 1659, when the initials of ‘C. H.’ were inscribed on his tomb. ‘Mrs. Margaret Herle,’ who was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey in January 1646–7, is usually considered as his wife, and if such was the case, he married as his second wife, according to a pedigree belonging to the late Mr. J. E. Bailey, Dorothy, daughter of John Marshall (Vivian, Visit. of Cornwall, p. 220). He had a large family.

Herle published: 1. ‘Contemplations and Devotions on our Blessed Saviour's Death and Passion,’ 1631, which were ‘the fruit of those weary hours of slowe recovery’ from a severe illness. 2. ‘A Payre of Compasses for Church and State,’ 1642, 4to, preached at St. Margaret's, Westminster, before the House of Commons. 3. ‘An Answer to Misled Dr. Fearne [see Ferne, Henry] in his work “The Resolving of Conscience,”’ against those who had taken up arms, 1642, which led to two answers from Dr. Ferne and a rejoinder from Herle (Bibl. Cornub. i. 234, iii. 1228). 4. ‘Ahab's Fall by his Prophets’ Flatteries; three Sermons on Public Occasions, 1644, all in defence of resistance to a king bent on impious objects. 5. ‘David's Song of Three Parts, a Sermon at Westminster Abbey,’ 1643, in which he expresses his wonder that any English protestant should ‘fill his hands onely with orders and declarations while a Papist in the land hath a sword in his.’ 6. ‘The Independency on Scriptures of the Independency of Churches,’ 1643, 4to, minimising the differences between presbyterians and independents. It was answered by Richard Mather and William Tompson, defended by S. Rutherford and again assailed by Mather. An analysis of the arguments is in Benjamin Hanbury's ‘Memorials relating to the Independents,’ ii. 166–7. 7. ‘Abraham's Offer, God's Offering, preached before the Lord Mayor on Easter Tuesday last,’ 1644. 8. ‘David's Reserve and Rescue, preached before the House of Commons, 5 Nov. 1644,’ London, 1645. In this he argues for the unity of England and Scotland against the common foe. 9. ‘Wisdomes Tripos in three Treatises, (1) Worldly Policy, (2) Moral Prudence, (3) Christian Wisdome,’ 1655, 12mo, of which the first two treatises had previously appeared together in 1654, and the last was also issued separately. A tract by Edward Gee (1613–1660) [q. v.] ‘concerning usurped powers’ (1650), is assigned to Herle in the catalogue of the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, and one entitled ‘The Convinc'd Petitioner’ (1643) is attributed to him in the ‘Palatine Notebook,’ iv. 59–60.

Herle licensed a tract by John Saltmarsh called ‘Examinations on a Discovery of some Dangerous Positions’ inclining to popery preached by Fuller in a sermon at the Savoy (26 July 1643), whereupon the latter defended his position in a pamphlet of ‘Truth Maintained,’ prefixing a letter of remonstrance ‘to the learned and my worthy good friend, Master Charles Herle.’ Herle then dedicated his sermons on ‘Ahab's Fall’ to his friend, protesting that he thought the Savoy sermon was written by some other Fuller, still maintaining that some passages in it might admit of an evil meaning (Bailey, Fuller, pp. 284–9). The manuscript reports of some sermons by Herle and others (1642–4) are in the Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 18781–2. Fuller, in his ‘Worthies,’ speaks of his friend as ‘a good scholar.’

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 477–9; Oxf. Univ. Reg. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 327, pt. iii. p. 338; Masson's Milton, iii. 20, 22, 270, 391, 426; Neal's Puritans, 1822 ed., iii. 47, 120, 318–20, 323, iv. 223; Brook's Puritans, iii. 324–6; Calamy's John Howe, pp. 12–13; Fuller's Worthies, 1840 ed., i. 318–19; Waddington's Church Hist. 1567–1700, p. 426; Baillie's Letters (Bannatyne Club), ii. 118, 140, 201, 236, 404, 415; Hetherington's Westminster Assembly, 1878 ed., passim; Mitchell and Struthers's Minutes of Westm. Assembly, passim; Bibl. Cornub. i. 234–5, iii. 1227–8; Halley's Lancashire, i. 270–2, 285, 380–2, 467, ii. 28–9, 105–6; Beamont's Winwick, 2nd ed. pp. 40–55; Chester's Registers of Westm. Abbey, p. 141; Lancashire Civil War (Chetham Soc.), ii. 207–8, 279; Cal. of Committee for Money, i. 237, iii. 1470; Clarendon Papers, i. 414; Cat. of Baker MSS. v. 278; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vii. 477, 5th ser. viii. 328, 434; Memoir by J. E. Bailey, 1877.]

W. P. C.