Knowles, John (1600?-1685) (DNB00)

KNOWLES, JOHN (1600?–1685), nonconformist divine, was born in Lincolnshire about 1600. He was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, his chamber-fellow being Richard Vines [q. v.] In 1625 he was elected fellow of Catharine Hall, and acquired great repute as a tutor. On the advice of the master, Richard Sibbes, he joined in electing to a fellowship Laud's nominee, John Ellis (1606?–1681) [q. v.], an act of compliance which he afterwards regretted. In 1635 the corporation of Colchester elected him to a lectureship in that town. Here he exercised considerable public influence. He was intimate with the noted puritan, John Rogers, vicar of Dedham, Essex; preached his funeral sermon in 1636, and obtained the appointment of Matthew Newcomen [q. v.] as his successor. A vacancy in the mastership of Colchester grammar school was filled in 1637 by the appointment of William Dugard [q. v.], on Knowles's recommendation, in opposition to a candidate favoured by Laud. ‘The getting in of a schoolmaster,’ says Calamy, ‘proved the outing of a lecturer.’ Knowles had laid himself open to interference by opposing the ceremonies. Laud reprimanded him and threatened further proceedings. Ultimately his license was revoked; Knowles resigned his lectureship before the end of 1637, and left Colchester. In 1639 he embarked for New England.

For about ten years he was ‘teacher,’ i.e. lecturer, as colleague with George Philips, at Watertown, Massachusetts, ‘in a cold wilderness.’ After this he went (7 Oct. 1642) on a mission to Virginia. The governor prohibited him from public preaching, as he would not use a surplice or the prayer-book. The governor's chaplain, Thomas Harrison, D.D. (1619–1682) [q. v.], seems to have acted a double part, openly favouring, but privately opposing, the puritan preachers. Knowles preached in private houses with much acceptance until he and others were expelled. He returned to Watertown, and was still in New England on 31 Dec. 1650, on which day he signed a letter addressed to Oliver Cromwell. Soon afterwards he returned to England, and was appointed lecturer in the cathedral at Bristol. On 18 Oct. 1653 an augmentation was ordered to be paid to ‘John Knowles of Bristol cathedral.’ He was several times interrupted by quakers. On 17 Dec. 1654 Elizabeth Marshall, a quakeress, was sent to prison for delivering ‘a message’ to Knowles at the close of the service. On 20 June 1657 his sermon in All Hallows Church was disturbed by Nathaniel Milner, and on 6 Oct. 1659 Thomas Jones was committed for assailing Knowles's door with a chopping-knife.

The Restoration deprived him of his post at Bristol, and he repaired to London. In 1661 he was lecturer at All Hallows the Great on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The Uniformity Act, 1662, made his preaching illegal, but he continued to exercise his ministry as opportunity served. In August 1664 he was reported as having 1,000l. in his hands for the benefit of ‘godly men.’ During the great plague of 1665 he was assiduous in giving his services to the sufferers. On the indulgence of 1672 he became colleague to Thomas Kentish in the charge of a presbyterian congregation meeting in the parish of St. Catherine-in-the-Tower, afterwards in Eastcheap (ultimately at the King's Weighhouse). He had many narrow escapes from arrest after the cancelling of the Act of Indulgence in 1673. He died on 10 April 1685.

[Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702, iii. 3, 216 sq.; Calamy's Account, 1713, pp. 605 sq.; Wilson's Dissenting Churches of London, 1808, i. 154 sq.; Davids's Evang. Nonconformity in Essex, 1863, pp. 547 sq.; Pike's Ancient Meeting-Houses, 1870, pp. 336 sq.; Calendar of State Papers (Domestic), 1653, 1664.]

A. G.