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HILDERSAM or HILDERSHAM, ARTHUR (1563–1632), puritan divine, son of Thomas Hildersam, by his second wife, Anne Pole, was born at Stetchworth, Cambridgeshire, on 6 Oct. 1563. He was of royal descent through his mother, a daughter of Sir Geoffrey Pole, brother to Cardinal Pole. His parents, who were zealous Roman catholics, designed him for the priesthood; but in preparation for the university he was sent to the grammar school of Saffron Walden, Essex, where Desborough, the master, grounded him in protestant principles. In 1576 he was entered at Christ's College, Cambridge. Two years later his father removed him to London, intending to send him to Rome; on his declining to go, or to recede from his protestant convictions, he was disinherited. At this crisis he met in London John Ireton, fellow of his college, who took him to Henry Hastings, third earl of Huntingdon [q. v.], his mother's second cousin. Huntingdon provided for his return to Cambridge, where after graduating M.A. he was elected fellow Oct. 1583. Barwell, the master of Christ's, refused to confirm the election, and the fellowship was given to Andrew Willet. Brook prints a very spirited protest addressed by Hildersam to Burghley, the chancellor. At Burghley's suggestion he was made divinity reader at Trinity Hall. He left the university in 1587, being appointed by Huntingdon (14 Sept.) lecturer at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, the impropriate tithes being settled on him for life. Though without orders or license, he preached at Ashby, setting forth the grievances of the puritans. Hence he was convened before the high commission, and made (10 Jan. 1589) a public confession of his faults. It is to be presumed that shortly after this he took orders, for he remained in his post at Ashby. In June 1590 he was suspended from the ministry by the high commission; in January 1592 he was permitted again to preach, but not at any place south of the Trent, which excluded him from Ashby. This condition was subsequently removed, it is said, by the favour of Elizabeth, who recognised him at court as ‘cousin Hildersam.’ On the death of Thomas Wyddowes, vicar of Ashby, Huntingdon presented (5 July 1593) Hildersam to the living, and he was instituted on 4 Oct. According to Neal, he was one of the five hundred beneficed clergy who declared their approbation of Cartwright's ‘Book of Discipline.’ His assize sermon in Leicester (midsummer 1596) was so unpalatable to the judge, Sir Edmund Anderson [q. v.], that he rose to leave the church, but Hildersam bade him stay. Anderson directed the grand jury to indict the preacher, but this they would not do. An attachment for his apprehension was issued by the high commission in 1598, apparently without result.

On the accession of James I, Hildersam was one of the most active managers of the so-called ‘millenary’ petition for church reforms, presented at Hampton Court in January 1604. William Chaderton [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln, silenced him for nonconformity on 24 April 1605. But William Overton, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, licensed Hildersam for his diocese. In conjunction with William Bradshaw (1571–1618) [q. v.] and others, he conducted two weekly lectures at Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and Repton, Derbyshire. William Barlow (d. 1613) [q. v.] restored him to Ashby in January 1609, whereupon a weekly lecture was re-established at Ashby. Neile, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, suppressed (November 1611) the lectures at Burton and Repton, and, under a wrong impression, complained of Hildersam to the king as a teacher of the ‘soul-sleeping’ heresy. He had endeavoured to turn Edward Wightman [q. v.] from this opinion. He was suspended by the high commission on 22 April 1613. In 1615, for refusing the ‘ex officio’ oath, he was imprisoned for three months in the Fleet and King's Bench. Next year, at the instance of Hacket, who had succeeded him as vicar of Ashby, he was prosecuted in the high commission court as a schismatic, chiefly on the allegation that he had declined to receive the communion kneeling. He was sentenced (28 Nov. 1616) to be imprisoned, degraded, and fined 2,000l. He compounded for the fine, and escaped imprisonment by remaining concealed. An invitation to the pastorate of the English church at Leyden was conveyed to him by John Hartly, one of its elders; but he declined it because of his wife's aversion to crossing the sea. He hid himself at Hampstead, in the house of Catherine Redich, widow of Alexander Redich, who had been the patron of his friend Bradshaw. Here, in the latter part of 1624, he lay seriously ill of fever. On 20 June 1625 Dr. Ridley, vicar-general of Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, gave him a license to preach in the dioceses of London, Lincoln, and Coventry and Lichfield. He resumed (3 Aug.) his work at Ashby. Five years later he was again suspended (25 March 1630) for not using the surplice, but restored on 2 Aug. 1631. His last sermon was preached at Ashby on 27 Dec. 1631. He was attacked by a scorbutic fever, and died at Ashby on Sunday, 4 March 1632. He was buried in the chancel of his church on 6 March, without a funeral sermon, this being one of the provisions of his will. There is a monument to him on the south side of the chancel. He married (5 Jan. 1591) Anne (d. about 1640), daughter of Barfoot of Lambourne Hall, Essex, and had several children; his only son, Samuel, is separately noticed.

Hildersam probably owed his frequent suspensions to the prominence of his personal position, for while his convictions were strong, his spirit was not contentious. He was no separatist, but a church reformer. Lilly, the astrologer, who was at school at Ashby, speaks of him as ‘a strong enemy to the Brownists,’ and adds that ‘most of the people in the town were directed by his judgment.’ Willet, his old rival, calls him ‘schismaticorum, qui vulgo Brownistæ, malleum,’ in allusion to a disputation which he conducted (before 1606) with John Smyth, afterwards of Amsterdam. Fuller gives him a high character, observing that, ‘though himself a non-conformist, he loved all honest men.’ Echard commends ‘his singular learning and piety.’ Among those whom he encouraged to enter the ministry were Julines Herring [q. v.] and Simeon Ashe [q. v.]

He published: 1. ‘A Treatise on the Ministry of the Church of England … whether it is to be separated from or to be joyned unto,’ &c. [1595], 4to (two letters, one by ‘A. H.,’ the other a running commentary on it, by ‘F: Io.,’ i.e. Francis Johnson [q. v.]). 2. ‘The Doctrine of Communicating worthily in the Lord's Supper, delivered by way of Question and Answer,’ &c., 1617, 12mo (included in W. Bradshaw's ‘A Preparation to the Receiving of the Sacrament,’ &c.); 7th edit, 1623, 12mo. 3. ‘Lectures upon the Fourth of John,’ &c., 1629, fol. (edited by ‘J. C.,’ i.e. John Carter of Bramford, Suffolk); reprinted 1632, fol., and 1647, fol. Posthumous were: 4. ‘The Doctrine of Fasting, and Praier, and Humiliation,’ &c., 1633, fol. (sermons at Ashby in 1625 and 1629, edited by his son Samuel). 5. ‘CLII Lectures upon Psalme LI,’ &c., 1635, fol. (lectures at Ashby, edited by his son Samuel); reprinted 1642, fol.; a translation into Hungarian, with additions by M. Nogradi, was published at Kolozsvár, 1672.

[Clarke's Lives of Thirty-two English Divines, 1677, pp. 142 sq. (portrait; the account was drawn up by Simeon Ashe from materials furnished by Samuel Hildersam from his father's papers); Middleton's Biographia Evangelica, 1784, iii. 25 sq.; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, ii. 196, 376 sq.; Goadby's Memoirs of Hildersam, 1819 (on the basis of Clarke, with quotations from Hildersam's works; Goadby had lent his manuscript to Brook); Fuller's Church Hist., 1655, xi. 142 sq.; W. Lilly's Life and Times, 1774, p. 6; Neal's Hist. of the Puritans, 1822, i. 387, 394, ii. 197; Nichols's Leicestershire, ii. 626; Cole's manuscript Athenæ Cantabr.]

A. G.