Fowler, Christopher (DNB00)

FOWLER, CHRISTOPHER (1610?–1678), ejected minister, son of John Fowler, was born at Marlborough, Wiltshire, about 1610. He entered Magdalen College, Oxford, as a servitor in 1627, and graduated B.A. on 9 Feb. 1632. Removing to St. Edmund Hall, he graduated M.A. on 29 Oct. 1634. To John Prideaux, regius professor of divinity, he owed his strong attachment to the Calvinistic theology. He took holy orders, and was a puritan preacher in and about Oxford till he obtained a settlement at West Woodhay, Berkshire, before 1641. On the surrender of Reading (26 April 1643), Thomas Bunbury, vicar of St. Mary's, joined the king at Oxford; his living was sequestered and given to Fowler. He took the covenant (1643), and distinguished himself by his zeal for the presbyterian cause. Thinking himself unsafe in the neighbourhood of the royalist troops at the manor-house of Donnington, Berkshire, garrisoned for the king at the time of the second battle of Newbury (27 Oct. 1644), Fowler went up to London. Here his fanatical preaching attracted a crowd of hearers. Wood suggests that he was at this time preacher at St. Margaret's, Lothbury; it seems, however, that he obtained an appointment at Albourn, Sussex (Funeral Sermon); the engagement at St. Margaret's belongs to a later date; his name first occurs in the registers in 1652. In 1649 Fowler refused to take the ‘engagement’ to be faithful to the Commonwealth without king or House of Lords. Notwithstanding this disqualification, he was subsequently made fellow of Eton College.

Fowler was an assistant to the commissioners for Berkshire, appointed under the ordinance of 28 Aug. 1654, for ejecting scandalous ministers. In this capacity he was mixed up with the proceedings against a noted mystic and astrologer, John Pordage [q. v.], formerly of St. Lawrence's, Reading, whom the commissioners ejected (by order 8 Dec. 1654, to take effect 2 Feb. 1655) from the rectory of Bradfield, Berkshire. Fowler wrote an account and defence of this business, in which he and John Tickel, presbyterian minister at Abingdon, Berkshire, had taken a leading part. Somewhat later he entered the lists against the quakers. In conjunction with Simon Ford [q. v.], vicar of St. Lawrence's, Reading, he published (1656) an answer to the ‘quaking doctrines’ of Thomas Speed of Bristol, and he engaged in a controversy (1659) with Edward Burrough [q. v.]

On the restoration of the monarchy Fowler lost his fellowship at Eton, but retained the Reading vicarage till he was ejected by the Uniformity Act of 1662. He then moved to London, had his abode successively at Kennington and Southwark, and exercised his ministry in private. He had a turn for the explication of prophecy, wherein he displayed ‘a singular gift in chronology.’ According to Wood, he was ‘esteemed a little better than crazed or distracted for some time before his death.’ It is possible that his powers failed, but of his general ability a high estimate is given by William Cooper [q. v.], no mean judge. A warrant was out for his apprehension as a conventicle preacher at the time of his death. He died in Southwark on [15?] January 1678, and was buried within the precincts of St. John the Baptist, Dowgate Hill. Cooper preached his funeral sermon.

He published: 1. ‘Dæmonium Meridianum,’ &c., 1655, 4to (an account of the proceedings against Pordage, who had already published his own account, 1654, 4to; with appendix in reply to Pordage's ‘Innocency Appearing,’ 1655, fol.). 2. ‘Dæmonium Meridianum. The Second Part,’ &c., 1656, 4to (in reply to Pordage's ‘Truth Appearing,’ 1655, 4to, and a tract entitled ‘The Case of Reading,’ 1656, 4to; appendices on infant baptism in answer to John Pendarves, and on the Reading case addressed to the municipal authorities). 3. ‘A Sober Answer to an angry Epistle … by Thomas Speed,’ &c., 1656, 4to (by Fowler and Ford; Speed replied to these and another adversary in ‘The Guilty-Covered Clergyman,’ &c., 1657, 4to). 4. ‘A True Charge in Ten Particulars against the people called Quakers’ [1659] (does not seem to have been separately printed; it is handled in ‘A Discovery,’ &c., 1659, 4to, by Edward Burrough, and is reprinted in Burrough's ‘Works,’ 1672, fol. 5. ‘Sermon on John xix. 42,’ 1666, 4to (this is mentioned by Wood, but not seen by him; the date seems to show that Fowler was one of those nonconformists who resumed their ministry after the great fire in defiance of the law, and it may give some colour to the conjecture that he founded the presbyterian congregation which met in a wooden structure at Unicorn Yard, Tooley Street). Also a sermon in the ‘Morning Exercise at Cripplegate,’ 1674–6, 4to, and another in the ‘Morning Exercise against Popery preached in Southwark,’ 1675, 4to.

[Funeral Sermon by Cooper, 1677 (i.e. 1678); Wood's Athenæ Oxon. 1691 i. 870, 1692 ii. 449 sq., 728; Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 97 sq.; Palmer's Nonconf. Memorial, 1802, i. 294 sq. (misprints the date of death, 1676, an error which has been followed by later writers); Chalmers's Gen. Biog. Dict. 1814, xv. 14 sq.; Wilson's Diss. Churches, 1814, iv. 228; Smith's Biblioth. Anti-Quak., 1873, p. 189 sq.; Fowler's Dæmonium.]

A. G.