Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Woodward, Hezekiah

1060171Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62 — Woodward, Hezekiah1900Bertha Porter

WOODWARD, HEZEKIAH or EZEKIAS (1590–1675), nonconformist divine, was possibly the son of Ezekias Woodward of Warwickshire, who matriculated from University College, Oxford, on 25 Oct. 1583. Ezekias the younger, who was of Worcestershire, attended a grammar school in his native county, matriculated from Balliol College, Oxford, on 16 June 1610, and graduated B.A. on 15 Feb. 1612. He gives a pathetic picture of his early years in the preface to ‘Of the Child's Portion’ and the uselessness of his education. This and an impediment in his speech made him despair of finding a career other than ‘to digge or to begge;’ he determined to labour with his own hands, and for that purpose twice went to a ‘strange land.’ From a passage in his dedication of ‘Light to Grammar’ it would appear that he visited the court of the elector palatine at Heidelberg. He returned about 1619 and opened a school at Aldermanbury. His educational methods displayed much originality and insight. With Thomas Herne [q. v.] and Hartlib he endeavoured to introduce into English schools the system of John Amos Comenius, the great Moravian bishop and educationist, viz. the teaching of the mother tongue before Latin, instruction in the facts of nature, and the ‘enfranchising of the understanding by the senses’ in every way. Charles Hoole [q. v.] in his translation (1658) of Comenius's ‘Orbis Pictus’ refers to Woodward as an eminent schoolmaster, and his educational writings are evidently the result of long experience.

Woodward was, according to Wood, ‘always puritanically affected,’ and in 1641 he began to employ himself in controversial writing and preaching on the presbyterian side. He probably preached in St. Mary's, Aldermanbury, of which Edmund Calamy the elder [q. v.] had then the cure. He seems, however, to have been soon drawn into some sympathy with the independents. In 1644 he published ‘Inquiries into the Causes of our Miseries’ anonymously, and without a license. Only two of three completed sections were issued; the second was seized while in the press. Three further sections were designed but were not written. Later in the year the warden of the Stationers' Company complained in the House of Lords ‘of the frequent printing of scandalous books by divers, as Hezekiah Woodward and John Milton.’ Woodward was committed to the custody of the gentleman-usher, and, after submitting to an examination by two judges, was released on giving his bond to appear when summoned. Woodward was a great admirer of John Goodwin [q. v.], and a sympathiser with the ‘Apologetical Narration,’ but quite unable to make up his mind as to the points at issue between presbyterians and independents. He firmly believed in a final agreement: ‘so that I have not understanding enough,’ he confesses, ‘to tell my selfe what way I am, unlesse for both, as they may both lead each to other, and meete in one.’ Later on, according to Wood, ‘when he saw the independents and other factious people to be dominant, he became one of them, and not unknown to Oliver,’ whose chaplain, ‘or at least favourite,’ he became. About 1649 he was presented by Cromwell to the vicarage of Bray, near Maidenhead. Here he remained some years, preaching and writing vigorously. He collected around him a select band of followers, with whom he frequently held meetings for prayer in the vicarage-house. He allowed his house to fall into ruin, and diminished the income of the living by refusing to accept legal tithes, urging that ministers ought to depend solely on voluntary support. In 1660 he left Bray to escape ejection, and retired to Uxbridge, where he continued to preach to his adherents until his death on 29 March 1675. He was buried in Eton Chapel yard near to the grave of his wife Frances, who died on 30 Aug. 1681. His daughter Frances became the second wife of John Oxenbridge [q. v.]

Woodward was the ‘Friend’ who wrote a lengthy ‘Judgment upon Mr. Edwards his Booke, he calleth an Anti-Apologie,’ in response to Samuel Hartlib's ‘Short Letter,’ which was printed in 1644. The ‘Judgement’ is, according to Masson, a ‘real though somewhat hazy and perplexed reasoning for toleration.’ Of forms of prayer he disapproved, and strongly objected to children being taught the Lord's prayer. His ardour for the observance of the Lord's day, and his horror of ‘the cursed liberty for sports,’ probably prompted Hearne to describe him as ‘that most abominable and prophane Fanatick, Hezekiah Woodward.’

Besides the ‘Inquiries’ already mentioned, Woodward's publications include:

  1. ‘A Child's Patrimony,’ London, 1640.
  2. ‘Of the Child's Portion’ (continuation of the above), London, 1640, 1649. The long preface to this second part was published separately in 1640 under the title of ‘Vestibulum, or a Manuduction towards a Faire Edifice.’
  3. ‘A Light to Grammar and all other Arts and Sciences,’ London, 1641.
  4. ‘A Gate to Science, opened by a Naturall Key,’ London, 1641.
  5. ‘The Compendious History of Foolish, Wicked, Wise and Good Kings,’ London, 1641, 1716. In 1643 the work appeared under the title of ‘The King's Chronicle,’ in two parts, part i. dealing with the wicked, and part ii. with the good kings.
  6. ‘The Church's Thank-Offering to God, her King, and the Parliament, for Rich and Ancient Mercies,’ London, 1642 (anon.).
  7. ‘Three Kingdoms made One by ent'ring Covenant with one God,’ London, 1643.
  8. ‘The Solemn League and Covenant of Three Kingdoms cleared to the Conscience of Every Man,’ London, 1643.
  9. ‘The Cause, Use, and Cure of Feare,’ London, 1643.
  10. ‘As You Were,’ London, 1644 (anon.).
  11. ‘A Good Souldier maintaining his Militia,’ London, 1644.
  12. ‘A Dialogue arguing that Archbishops, Bishops, Curates, Neuters, are to be cut off by the Law of God,’ London, 1644; the book was reissued in the same year under the title of ‘The Sentence from Scripture and Reason against Archbishops, Bishops with their Curates.’
  13. ‘Soft Answers unto Hard Censures,’ London, 1645, in which the treatment received by the ‘Inquiries’ and by the ‘Judgement on the Anti-Apologie’ is described.
  14. ‘The Lord's Day the Saints' Day, Christmas an Idol-Day,’ London, 1648.
  15. ‘A Just Account upon the Account of Truth and Peace,’ London, 1656; directed chiefly against the practice of free admission to the Lord's Supper, and the vindication of the practice by John Humfrey [q. v.], London, 1656.
  16. ‘An Appeal to the Churches of Christ for their Righteous Judgment in the Matters of Christ,’ London, 1656. The seven points or sections were published separately in the same year.
  17. ‘A Conference of some Christians in Churchfellowship, about the Way of Christ with His People,’ London, 1656.
  18. ‘A Church-Covenant Lawfull and Needfull,’ London, 1656.
  19. ‘An Inoffensive Answer to remove Offences,’ London, 1657.

[Woodward's Works; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, iii. 1034–5, Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 342; Masson's Milton, iii. 230–1, 293–6; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. p. 39; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. x. 506; Cat. of Library at Sion College; Hearne's Collections (Doble), ii. 239; Lords' Journals, vii. 118; information from Miss Hubback and from Alfred de Burgh, esq., of Trinity College Library, Dublin.]

B. P.