Johnson, Francis (1563-1618) (DNB00)
JOHNSON, FRANCIS (1563–1618), Presbyterian separatist, elder son of John Johnson, mayor of Richmond, North Riding of Yorkshire, was born at Richmond and was baptised there on 27 March 1562. George Johnson (1561-1605) [q. v.] was his brother. He matriculated at Christ's College, Cambridge, graduated B.A. 1581, M.A. 1585, and was elected fellow before Lady day 1584. As a preacher of puritan doctrine he was exceed popular in the university. His theory of ecclesiastical polity was the independent presbyterianism advocated by Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603) [q. v.], and later by William Bradshaw (1571-1618) [q. v.] On 6 Jan. 1589 he expounded this view in a sermon at St. Mary's, Cambridge, claiming that church government by elders is jure divino. In company with Cuthbert Bainbrigg, also a fellow of Christ's, accused of factious preaching, he was convened (23 Jan.) before Neville, the vice-chancellor. Refusing to answer on oath to the articles of accusation, Johnson and Bainbrigg were committed to prison. Johnson gave in written answers which clearly set forth his views, but again on 13 March and 18 April declined the oath. Bail was offered by Sir Henry Knevett and Sir William Bowes, but was rejected by the authorities. At Lady day 1589 he appears for the last time on the list of fellows. On 22 May Johnson and Bainbrigg addressed a letter to Burghley, the chancellor, whom they had previously approached, praying for relief. Burghley was anxious for their release, but the vice-chancellor laid the case before the court of high commission, which directed the vice-chancellor and heads to proceed at discretion. A form of recantation was given to Johnson on 19 Oct., and he was required to read it in the pulpit of St. Mary's. He made a retractation 'in mincing terms, and did not fully revoke his opinions;' accordingly on 30 Oct. he was expelled the university. He claimed a right of appeal, and, refusing to take his departure, was on 18 Dec. again imprisoned, first in the Tolbooth, then in the bailiff's house. On 22 Dec. he wrote a strong appeal to Burghley, backed by two petitions (23 Dec.) signed by sixty-eight fellows. Obtaining no relief, Johnson left Oxford, and proceeded to Middelburg in Zealand, where he became preacher to the English merchants in the Gasthuis Kerk, with a stipend of 200l.
Up to this point he had been an advocate of reforms within the national church, his position being that of a nonconforming churchman strongly opposed to the policy of separation. But his opinions changed on perusing in 1591 'A Plaine Refutation' of the claims of the establishment, penned by Henry Barrow [q. v.] and John Greenwood (d. 1593) [q. v.] in answer to George Gifford (d. 1620) [q. v.], and sent privately in 1591 to Middelburg to be printed. The whole edition, excepting two copies, was burned at the instance of Johnson, who before reading it had obtained the magistrate's authority for suppressing it. In 1592, after perusing the work, he came to London to confer with Barrow and Greenwood, who were then imprisoned in the Fleet. Greenwood was shortly afterwards transferred to the house of Roger Rippon, and formed, in conjunction with Johnson, a separatist church, independent of other churches, but presbyterian in its internal order, At a meeting in the house of Fox, in Nicholas Lane, Lombard Street, Johnson was chosen pastor. Discipline was practised, and the sacraments administered. This conventicle being discovered, Johnson was committed for a time to the compter in Wood Street. To avoid detection the place of assembly was constantly changed. On 5 Dec. 1592 Johnson and Greenwood were arrested in the house of Edward Boyes, a haberdasher on Ludgate Hill; Johnson was imprisoned and was twice examined. He was a third time arrested at Islington (on Sunday, 4 March 1593) with his father and brother George, and with John Penry [q. v.] Penry was executed on 29 May. Johnson was detained in the Clink prison, Southwark. Attempts made by puritan churchmen through Henry Jacob the elder [q. v.] failed to win him back to the national church. In 1597 two foreign merchants, Abraham and Stephen Van Hardwick, and a London merchant, Charles Leigh, who projected a settlement in the island of Raines, off Newfoundland, successfully petitioned for leave to transport four sectaries thither. The selected four included Johnson and his brother George. Johnson left Gravesend in the Hopewell on 8 April, but the expedition was frustrated by bad weather; ultimately he and his friends made their way to Amsterdam.
Here Johnson resumed the pastorate of the exiled separatists, with Henry Ainsworth [q. v.] as doctor. In 1598 he was concerned in a Latin version (for transmission to continental and Scottish universities) of a confession of faith, drawn up by Ainsworth (1596), and repudiating the name of Brownist. Dissensions arose in the community. Johnson while in the Clink had married in 1594 Thomasine, widow of Boyes, who brought him 300l. This lady's taste in dress was regarded, except by her husband, as insufficiently puritanical. A section of the church was scandalised; and Johnson's brother, who had all along been against the match, headed the opposition [see under Johnson, George, 1564-1665]. Ainsworth tried to prevent a breach, but ultimately the lady's enemies were excommunicated as slanderers. Between 1604 and 1606 John Smyth, who had been a member of the London separatist church, came to Amsterdam, bringing a contingent from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Smyth soon developed individual views both of church government and public worship, and after 1607 seceded with his adherents. The Amsterdam church was, however, still strong: it had its own meeting-house and three hundred communicants.
More serious differences arose in 1609 out of the opposing views of Johnson and Ainsworth as to the function of the eldership. Johnson made the eldership the seat of authority; Ainsworth vested all authority in the congregation itself, of which the elders were an executive. After much discussion Johnson proposed that the Congregationalists should remove to Leyden, joining Robinson's church there. But this scheme of compromise fell through. Ainsworth and his party obtained a place for worship two doors off the meeting-house, and removed to it between 15 and 25 Dec. 1610. Hereupon the 'Ainsworthian Brownists,' as they were popularly termed, were excommunicated by the 'Franciscan Brownists.' Ainsworth at once began it lawsuit for the recovery of the meeting-house, which apparently went in his favour, for Johnson and the Presbyterians retired to Emden in East Friesland. When this removal took place, or how long the Emden settlement lasted, is unknown. In. the year before his death Johnson describes himself as 'pastour of the auncient English Church now adjourning at Amsterdam', and 'pastour of the English exiled church sojourning (for the present) at Amsterdam.' These descriptions can hardly mean (as has been suggested) that he had returned to Amsterdam as minister of the church of English merchants, which was in existence before the separatist immigration. He died at Amsterdam, and was buried there on 10 Jan. 1618.
The bibliography of his writings, most of which are without place of publication, but were printed were printed abroad for sale in London, will be found in Dexter. He published 1. 'Confessio Fidei Anglorum Quorundam in Belgio,' &c., 1598, 16mo (anon.; see above); 1607, 16mo, with additions by Ainsworth. 2. 'Answer to Maister H. Jacob his Defence of the Churches and Ministery of England,' &c., 1600, 4to (appended is 'An Answer to ... his Treatise concerning the Priestes of the Church of England,' &c., 1600, 4to). 3. 'An Apologie or Defence of svch Trve Christians as are . . . called Brovvnists,' &c., 1604, 4to (translated into Dutch, 1612). 4. 'An Inquirie and Answer of Thomas White, his Discouery of Brownism,' &c., 1605, 4to. 5. 'Certavne Reasons . . . prouing that it is not lawfull to . . . haue any Spiritual communion with the present Ministerie of the Church of England,' &c., 1608, 4to (answered by Bradshaw, in 'The Vnreasonablenesse of the Separation, ' &c., Dort, 1614, 4to). 6. 'A Brief Treatise containing . . . reasons against Two Errors of the Anabaptists,' &c., , reprinted 1645, 8vo. 7. 'A Short Treatise concerning the Exposition of ... "Tell the Church," ' &c.. 1611, 4to. 8. 'A Christian Plea, conteyning three Treatises . . . touching the Anabaptists . . . Remonstrants. . .the Reformed Churches,' &c., 1617, 4to. He contributed a 'running commentary' to 'A Treatise on the Ministry,' &c, 1595, 4to, by Arthur Hildersam [q. v.]