Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Woodbridge, Benjamin

425347Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62 — Woodbridge, Benjamin1900Bertha Porter

WOODBRIDGE, BENJAMIN (1622–1684), divine, born in 1622, was the son of John Woodbridge (1582–1637), rector of Stanton-Fitzwarren, Wiltshire, and his wife Sarah (1593–1663), daughter of Robert Parker (1564?–1614) [q. v.] He matriculated from Magdalen Hall, Oxford, on 9 Nov. 1638, but went in 1639 to New England, whither his elder brother, John (noticed below), had preceded him in 1634 in company with his uncle, Thomas Parker (1595–1677 ) [q. v.] Benjamin was the first graduate of Harvard College, commencing B.A. in 1642. Returning to England, he re-entered Magdalen Hall, and proceeded M.A. on 10 Nov. 1648. At that time he had already been doing duty as a minister in Salisbury, and on 18 May had been appointed rector of Newbury in Berkshire, where he had great success as a preacher and 'was much resorted to by those of the presbyterian persuasion.' 'By his excellent instruction and wise conduct he reduced the whole town to sobriety of sentiment in matters of religion and a happy unity in worship.' In 1652 he attempted to refute two ministers of Salisbury, Thomas Warren and William Eyre, in a sermon on 'Justification by Faith,' which was published and commended by Baxter (The Right Method for a Settled Peace of Conscience and Spiritual Comfort, London, 1663). Eyre responded in 'Vindiciæ Justificationis Gratuitae' (London, 1654), when Baxter upheld his own and Woodbridge's views in his 'Admonition to Mr. William Eyre of Salisbury' (London, 1654); and Woodbridge himself issued a reply, entitled 'The Method of Grace in the Justification of Sinners' (London, 1656).

Woodbridge was one of the assistants for the ejection of scandalous ministers in 1654. In 1657 the trustees for the maintenance of ministers granted an augmentation of 20l. for an assistant for him at Newbury. At the Restoration he was made one of the king's chaplains and had the canonry of Windsor offered him, but 'bogling long with himself whether he should take that dignity or not' (Wood), it was given to another. He was one of the commissioners at the Savoy conference in 1661, but was silenced by the act of uniformity in 1662. Subsequently he preached in private in Newbury, but was frequently disturbed and imprisoned. Eventually he consented to conform and take holy orders from Earle, bishop of Salisbury, at Oxford in October 1665. But, afterwards reproaching himself for his inconsistency, be returned to his quiet preaching in Newbury until the indulgence of March 167S enabled him to act with fuller publicity. On the breaking out of the 'popish plot' in 1678 he was encouraged to greater efforts, and preached a place of worship every Sunday at Highclere in Hampshire. In 1683 he retired to Englefleld in Berkshire, where he died 1 Nov. 1684, and was buried in Newbury on the 4th. Woodbridge published in 1648, under the pseudonym 'Filodexter Transilvanus,' 'Church Members set in Joynt, or a Discovery of the Unwarrantable and Disorderly Practice of Private Christians, in usurping the Peculiar Office and Work of Christ's own Pastours, namely Publick Preaching.' The book was written in reply to a treatise entitled 'Preaching without Ordination,' published the previous year under the pseudonym of 'Lieut. E. Chillenden.' Woodbridge's book was republished in 1656 and in 1657. He also published in London 1601 a work by James Noyes (who had married his mother's sister), entitled 'Moses and Aaron; or the Rights of the Church and State' Woodbridge wrote some verses, inscribed on the tomb of John Cotton of Boston, Mass. (d. 1652), which possibly gave Franklin a hint for his celebrated epitaph upon himself.

John Woodbridge (1613-1696), brother of Benjamin, was born at Stanton, near Highworth, in 1613. He was partially educated at Oxford, but, objecting to the oath of conformity, left the university and studied privately till 1634, when he went to America. Woodbridge took up lands at Newbury in New England, acted as first town clerk till 19 Nov. 1638, and in 1637, 1640 and 1641 as deputy to the general court. He was ordained at Andover on 24 Oct. 1645, and chosen teacher of a congregation at Newbury. In 1647 he returned to England, and was made chaplain to the commissioners treating with the king in the Isle of Wight. He settled in New England in 1663, and succeeded his uncle Thomas Parker as minister at Newbury in 1677. Disagreeing with his congregation on some points of church discipline, he gave up his post and became a magistrate of the township. He died on 17 March 1696. He married in 1630, Mercy (1621-1691), daughter of Governor Thomas Dudley, by whom he had twelve children. Dudley Woodbridge, judge-advocate of Barbados and director-general of the Royal Assiento Company, who died on 11 Feb. 1720-1, and whose portrait was painted by Kneller, was probably his son (Noble, Biogr. Hist. iii. 260).

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Wood's Athenae, ed. Bliss, iv. 156-61; Fasti, ed. Bliss, ii. 108; Pnlmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, i. 200-1; Money's Hist. of Newbury, pp. 441, 504; Cal. State Papers. Dom. 1633-4 pp.4l, 201, 1657-8 p. 28. 1664-5 p. 16; Kettell's Specimens of American Poetry, vol. i. pp. xxix-xxx; Sibley's Graduates of Harvard University, i. 18, 20-1, 27; Farmer's Register of First Settlers; Mather's Magnalia, 1702. p. 219; New England's Historical and Genealogical Register, 342; Hoare's Modern Wiltshire, vi. 408 ; Lords Journals, x. 78; P. C. C. 51 Cann; Book of Institutions (Record Office), Series A. vol. i., Wiltshire, fol. i; Winthrop's Hiit of New England, pp. 300-10; Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit, i. 130-30; Mitchell's Woodbridge Record, passim; Coffin's Hist. of Newbury.]

B. P.