Marshall, Stephen (DNB00)
MARSHALL, STEPHEN (1594?–1655), presbyterian divine, was born at Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire, apparently about 1594. His father was a glover and very poor. As a boy Marshall went gleaning in the fields. He matriculated at the university of Cambridge on 1 April 1615 (Baker), entered as pensioner at Emmanuel College on 14 March 1616, and graduated B.A. in 1618, M. A. in 1622, proceeding B.D. in 1629. Leaving the university in 1618, he became private tutor to a gentleman in Suffolk. In 1618 he succeeded Richard Rogers (d. 21 April), the nonconformist, as lecturer at Wethersfield, Essex, where he boarded with one Wiltshire. When the neighbouring vicarage of Finchingfield, worth 200/. a year, fell vacant, the patron, Robert (afterwards Sir Robert) Kemp of Spains Hall, presented Marshall. On 10 Nov. 1629 he signed the petition to Laud drawn up by forty-nine beneficed and 'conformable' clergy in favour of Thomas Hooker [q. v.] In the report (12 June 1632) rendered to Laud, as the result of inquiry into the conduct of lecturers, by Robert Aylett [q. v.], a man evidently of conciliatory temper, it is stated that Marshall ' only preacheth on the holy days, and is in all very conformable.' In 1636 he was reported for 'irregularities and want of conformity,' but authority is wanting for the statement in Brook that he was suspended and silenced. On the contrary, Sir Nathaniel Brent [q. v.] described him to Laud in March 1637 as 'a dangerous person, but exceeding cunning. No man doubteth but that he hath an inconformable heart, but externally he observeth all ... He governeth the consciences of all the rich puritans in those parts and in many places far remote, and is grown very rich.' Brent speaks of his distributing a benefaction of 200l. from Lady Barnardiston, viz. 150l. towards the unifying scheme of John Durie (1596–1680) [q. v.], and 50l. to Anthony Thomas for preaching in Welsh. Brent's report throws light on Fuller's character of Marshall, that 'he was of so supple a soul that he brake not a joynt, yea, sprained not a sinew in all the alteration of times.' His unfriendly biographer professes to 'have great reason to believe . . . that he was once an earnest suitor to the late unhappy Duke of Buckingham for a deanry . . . the loss of which . . . made him turn schismatick.'
His great power was in the pulpit. In the first quarter of 1640 he was one of those who 'preached often out of their own parishes,' to influence the elections for the 'short parliament' on the side of the puritan leader, Robert Rich, second earl of Warwick, lord-lieutenant for Essex. On 17 Nov. 1640, shortly after the assembling of the Long parliament, he was one of the preachers before the commons at a solemn fast in St. Margaret's, Westminster. This was the first of a long succession of sermons, delivered to the same audience 'with a fervid eloquence which seemed to spurn control' (Marsden). The saying ascribed to Nye, his son-in-law (i.e. John Nye, not Philip), was probably spoken in jest, ' that if they had made his father a bishop, before he was too far engaged, it might have prevented all the war.' It is certain, however, that the 'intense emotions' excited by his. pulpit handling of ' the great quarrel' (ib.) constituted a political force.
In ecclesiastical matters Marshall was at this crisis a leading advocate for a reformed episcopacy and liturgy. He had much to do with the ministers' 'petition' and 'remonstrance,' signed by over seven hundred of the moderate puritan clergy, and presented to the commons on 23 Jan. 1641. Clarendon accuses the managers of this petition (naming Marshall in particular) of cutting off the signatures from the original document, and attaching them to 'a new one, of a very different nature.' In a sense the charge is true. Several clerical petitions for reform had been forwarded to a committee in London; their general purport was formed into a common 'petition,' while the specific grievances, extracted from all, were arranged into a 'remonstrance' comprising nearly eighty articles. The names of all the various petitioners were appended to these documents, on the authority of a meeting of over eighty ministers. Clarendon is right in saying that 'some of the ministers complained ;' their objection was only that the composite manifesto was too long for the patience of the house. While the 'remonstrance' was being debated in the commons, Marshall was taking part in the production of a famous pamphlet. His initials supplied the first letters of the portentous name 'Smectymnuus' [see Calamy, Edmund, the elder], adopted by five divines (Butler's 'Legion Smec'), three of them connected with Essex, in their 'Answer,' &c., 1641, 4to, to Joseph Hall [q. v.], then bishop of Exeter. 'Smectymnuus' was very much on the lines of 'the petition' and 'remonstrance;' it pleaded for reforms; but its postscript in another style, which to Masson suggests the hand of Milton, did much to accelerate the growing movement for the abolition of episcopacy. On 1 March the lords appointed a 'committee for innovations,' with a view to a scheme for saving the existing establishment. The chairman, Williams, bishop of Lincoln, on 12 March summoned Marshall and other divines [see Burges, Cornelius] to assist. The committee held six sittings. Though nothing came of it, there was no fundamental disagreement among its members. Ussher's scheme of church government was accepted (as in 1661) by the puritan leaders; the genuineness of the scheme has been doubted, but it was published from Ussher's autograph copy by Nicholas Bernard, D.D. [q. v.], as 'The Reduction of Episcopacie unto the form of Synodical Government received in the Ancient Church,' &c., 1656, 4to (an imperfect draft, printed in 1641, was suppressed).
On 27 May the bill for the 'utter abolishing' of the existing episcopacy was introduced into the commons. According to Sir Simonds D'Ewes [q. v.], the motion for getting it into committee was sprung upon the house, as the result of a private conference (10 June) at which Marshall was present. D'Ewes was himself hurried into the house by Marshall to take part in the debate (11 June). Marshall's support of this drastic measure (not carried till Sept. 1642) shows that he had already passed from a policy of reform to one of remodelling; but there was no indication as yet of his preference for a presbyterian model. On the contrary, he joined in the letter (12 July) which a number of English divines despatched to Scotland to feel the pulse of the general assembly on the question of independency. Early in 1642 the House of Commons sanctioned the wish of the parishioners of St. Margaret's, Westminster, to have Marshall as one of the seven morning lecturers, who preached daily in rotation at 6 a.m., with a salary of 300l. apiece. The parishioners of Finchingfield, headed by Kemp, petitioned against the arrangement: although the petition was rejected, Marshall was allowed to retain the vicarage, Letmale acting as his assistant. For seven years he had no administration of the communion at Finchingfield. By 22 July he was ready to unite with other divines in a letter to the Scottish general assembly, expressing a desire for 'the presbyterian government, which hath just and evident foundation, both in the word of God and religious reason.'
Later in the year he became one of the chaplains to the regiment of Robert Devereux, third earl of Essex [q. v.], and went 'praying from regiment to regiment at Edgehill' (Sunday, 23 Oct.) Clarendon charges him and Calibute Downing [q. v.] with absolving the 150 prisoners taken by the royalists at Brentford (13 Nov.) of their oath, when released, not to bear arms against the king; with some reason Oldmixon questions this story. While Marshall threw himself with all his vigour into the parliamentary cause, and even justified (in 1643) the abstract right of an oppressed subject to resort to arms, yet the war, as he viewed it, was in defence of the legitimate authority of parliament against a faction; he drew the usual distinction between the party and the person of the monarch.
To the Westminster Assembly of Divines he was summoned (12 July 1643) among the first nominees of the committee for that purpose. Shortly afterwards he was despatched to Scotland as one of the assembly's commissioners to the Scottish general assembly, Philip Nye [q. v.] being the other. The commissioners landed at Leith on Monday 7 Aug.; ten days later they took part in the unanimous acceptance of the solemn league and covenant' [see Henderson, Alexander, 1583?-1646]. Marshall preached in the Tron Church, Edinburgh, on 20 Aug. 'with great contentment' of his hearers, returning to London in September. On 16 Dec. Marshall was appointed chairman of a sub-committee of five who were to meet the Scottish delegates and prepare a directory for public worship. He drafted the section on 'preaching of the word,' but did not satisfy his Scottish coadjutors, though they admitted him to be 'the best preacher . . . in England.' Lightfoot joined him in successfully opposing, in the section on 'the Lord's day,' the introduction of the clause 'that there be no feasting on the sabbath.' In the discussion on the catechism he disclaimed (with George Gillespie [q. v.]) any intention 'to tie them to those words and no other.' He signed the declaration issued by the assembly on 23 Dec. 1643, dissuading from the formation of independent churches, but acknowledging ‘whatever should appear to be the rights of particular congregations, according to the word.’ The parliamentary ‘committee of accommodation’ (appointed 13 Sept. 1644) chose him on a sub-committee (20 Sept.) of six divines to devise a modus vivendi between presbyterians and independents. Negotiations were suspended when the presbyterians demanded their own legal establishment as a preliminary to the question of according indulgence to others. The failure was not due to Marshall, who thought an accommodation possible in what Baillie calls ‘a middle way of his own.’ His presbyterianism was never sufficiently severe for the Scottish delegates.
Parliament appointed Marshall as one of the divines to wait on Laud in the interval (4–10 Jan. 1645) between his sentence and execution; he appears to have been present on the scaffold. The Uxbridge conference (30 Jan.–18 Feb.) he attended, not as a commissioner, but as an assistant to the parliamentary commissioners. He preached at Uxbridge to his party in the large room of their inn. By this time he had reached the point of contending, along with Henderson, for a presbyterian polity as jure divino; a claim which shattered the last hope of a compromise with episcopacy. On 7 July he delivered to the commons the draft of church government agreed upon by the Westminster assembly; on 16 July he was fortified with the assembly's letter, as his credential to Scotland; he was back by 22 Oct. On 9 Nov. the ‘committee of accommodation’ was revived, and held sittings till 9 March 1646, without reaching any agreement, the presbyterians complaining that the independents seemed to desire liberty of conscience not only ‘for themselves, but for all men.’
The commons on 14 March issued an ordinance directing the arrangement of presbyteries throughout the country by parliamentary commissioners. Marshall brought this before the assembly (20 March) as virtually ‘superseding the synod;’ the assembly's petition against the ordinance was presented by him (23 March); after long debate it was voted (11 April) a breach of privilege. The petition (presented 29 May) from three hundred ministers of Suffolk and Essex was evidently Marshall's work. On 6 June an ordinance directed the immediate settling ‘of the presbyterial government in the county of Essex.’ The settlement was completed by ordinance of 31 Jan. 1647. Finchingfield was placed in the tenth or Hinckford classis containing twenty-two parishes; the lay elders under the parliamentary presbyterianism (differing materially from the Scottish system) largely outnumbered the ministers in the classis; with Marshall and Letmale went four elders, including the patron.
Marshall had received on 9 April 1646 the thanks of the assembly for his book against the baptists; he invited the assembly to the public funeral (22 Oct.) of Essex in the name of the executors. He accompanied the parliamentary commissioners to Newcastle-on-Tyne in January 1647, along with Joseph Caryl [q. v.] Between February and July they acted as chaplains (receiving 500l. apiece) at Holmby House, Northamptonshire; Charles never attended the sermons, and (according to the anonymous ‘Life’) said grace himself and began his dinner, while Marshall was invoking a blessing at inordinate length. In public services Marshall sometimes prayed for two hours. With Tuckney and Ward of Ipswich he was appointed (19 Oct. 1647) to prepare the ‘shorter catechism.’ He was a third time in Scotland, with Charles Herle [q. v.], in February–March 1648. On 21 June 1648 he was placed on the Westminster assembly's committee for selecting the proof texts for the divine right of presbyterianism. This is the last mention of him in the assembly's minutes. In September–November he was again with the king in the Isle of Wight, taking part in the written discussion on episcopacy against the royalist divines.
L'Estrange ranks Marshall with justifiers of the execution of Charles, but has no proofs in point. As he did not belong to the London province, his name could not be appended to either of the presbyterian manifestos against the trial and sentence. But Giles Firmin [q. v.] says he was ‘so troubled about the king's death’ that on Sunday, 28 Jan. 1649, he interceded with the heads of the army, ‘and had it not been for one whom I will not name, who was very opposite and unmovable, he would have persuaded Cromwell to save the king. This is truth.’ With Caryl, Nye, and others he was employed in April 1649 in an unsuccessful endeavour to induce the secluded members to resume their places in parliament. In 1650 he made charitable benefactions, a ‘messuage and tenement’ with ‘Boyton meadow, containing three acres,’ yielding 40s. a year for ‘wood to the poor’ of Finchingfield; and ‘Great Wingey, a nominal manor’ for a lecture at Wethersfield. In 1651 he left Finchingfield to become town preacher at Ipswich, officiating in St. Mary's at the Quay. Late in 1653 he was one of the commissioners appointed by the ‘little parliament’ to draw up ‘fundamentals of religion.’ Baxter, who met him at this business, calls him ‘a sober worthy man.’ It was Baxter's opinion that if Ussher, Marshall, and Jeremiah Burroughes [q. v.] had been fair specimens of their respective parties, the differences between episcopalian, presbyterian, and independent would have been easily composed. On 20 March 1654 Marshall was appointed one of Cromwell's ‘triers;’ most of these were independents, but there were some presbyterians of high standing, e.g. John Arrowsmith, D.D. [q. v.], Caryl, and Tuckney, and a few baptists such as Henry Jessey [q. v.] Heylyn, following Clement Walker, asserts that Marshall ‘warped to the independents;’ Fuller reports that ‘he is said on his deathbed to have given full satisfaction’ in regard to the sincerity of his presbyterianism. Some months before his death he lost the use of his hands from gout. Giles Firmin attended him at the last.
He died of consumption on 19 Nov. 1655; he was buried on 23 Nov. with great solemnity in the south aisle of Westminster Abbey; his remains were taken up on 14 Sept. 1661 (by royal warrant of 12 Sept.) and cast into a pit ‘at the back door of the prebendary's lodgings’ in St. Margaret's churchyard. He was of middle height, swarthy, and broad-shouldered, rolling his eyes in conversation, not fixing them on those whom he addressed; his gait was ‘shackling,’ and he had no polish. He could jest, and ‘he frequently read himself asleep with a playbook or romance.’ He married, about 1629, a rich widow, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Castell of East Hatley, Cambridgeshire, by Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Alleyne. She died before him; her estate was settled on herself, with power of disposal to her children, which she exercised. On his marriage Wiltshire is said to have settled an estate of 30l. or 40l. a year on him and his wife, but this Firmin denies. He is said to have died worth 10,000l. The anonymous ‘Life’ accuses him of neglecting his father in his old age. He had a son (drowned at Hamburg) and six daughters, three of whom died before him. He was an indulgent father, and allowed his daughters to dress in unpuritanical fashion. His will, with codicil (12 Nov. 1655), was proved on 11 Feb. 1656 by Susan or Susanna Marshall, his only unmarried daughter. His deceased daughters had married respectively William Venter, John Nye (son of Philip), and John Vale; of the other survivors Jane was wife of Peter Smith, and Mary of one Langham. Some of his children, says Firmin, ‘were very pious, the rest hopeful.’ Marshall's sister married Thomas Newman, ejected in 1662 from Heydon, Norfolk. Beck and Nan Marshall, actresses at the king's theatre, were daughters of Stephen Marshall, according to Pepys, who admired the acting and the handsome hand of Beck Marshall, and reports a ‘falling out’ between her and Nell Gwyn, when the ‘presbyter's praying daughter’ was worsted in the strife of tongues. Pepys is clearly wrong as to the parentage of the actresses; they are said to have been daughters of a clergyman named Marshall, who was at some time chaplain to Gilbert Gerard, lord Gerard (d. 1622) of Gerards Bromley, Staffordshire. Toulmin gives authority for the statement that one of them, ‘a woman of virtue,’ had been ‘tricked into a sham marriage by a nobleman.’
Clarendon thinks the influence exercised on parliament by Marshall, whom he couples with Burges, was greater than that of Laud at court (on this Stanley founds his odd description of Marshall as ‘primate of the presbyterian church’). Laud's was a master mind, which originated a policy and impressed it upon others. Marshall was himself impressed by the action of stronger minds; he was listened to because no man could rival his power of translating the dominant sentiment of his party into the language of irresistible appeal. His sermons, denuded of the preacher's living passion, often have the effect of uncouth rhapsodies. His funeral sermon for Pym (December 1643) made an indelible impression, and is the finest extant specimen of his pulpit eloquence as well as of his ‘feeling and discernment’ (Marsden). His ordinary preaching is described as plain and homely, seasoned with ‘odd country phrases’ and ‘very taking with a country auditory.’ Throughout life he preached on an average three times a week, but, says his biographer, ‘he had an art of spreading his butter very thin.’ Cleveland in ‘The Rebel Scot’ has the phrase ‘roar like Marshall, that Geneva bull,’ &c. His great sermons he frequently repeated; his ‘Meroz Cursed,’ printed in 1641, had been delivered ‘threescore times.’ Edmund Hickeringill [q. v.], in his ‘Curse Ye Meroz,’ 1680, refers to this ‘common theme’ as having ‘usher'd in, as well as promoted, the late bloody civil wars.’ He was a man of natural ability rather than learning, having ‘little Greek and no Hebrew;’ hence he declined all university preferment and never commenced D.D. His argumentative pieces, calm in style and cautious in treatment, are the productions of a mind that saw various sides of a question, and really strove to enter into the difficulties of others. Writers like Heylyn, Wood, Echard, and Zachary Grey have heaped invective on his memory; they add nothing of moment to what Clarendon has said in better taste. Marsden has given a wiser estimate of him. He was no demagogue; he accumulated no preferments; his private life was exemplary. The consistency of his career is in his lifelong devotion to the interests of evangelical religion as he understood it, all else with him being means to an end.
He published, besides some twenty-five separate sermons on public occasions, 1640-1650, often with striking titles: 1. 'A True and Succinct Relation of the late Battel neere Kineton,' &c., 1642, fol. 2. 'A Copy of a Letter ... for the necessary Vindication of himself and his Ministry . . . And . . . the Lawfulnesse of the Parliaments taking up Defensive Arms,' &c., 1643, 4to (in reply to an anonymous 'Letter of Spiritual Advice,' &c., 1643, 4to). 3. 'A Defence of Infant Baptism, in answer to ... Tombes,' &c., 1 646, 4to. 4. 'An Expedient to preserve Peace and Amitie among Dissenting Brethren,' &c., 1646, 4to. 5. 'An Apology for the Sequestered Clergy,' &c., 1649, 4to. His speech at Guildhall, 27 Oct. 1643, is printed with Vane's in 'Two Speeches,' &c., 1643, 4to. Some of his sermons on evangelical topics were published posthumously by Giles Firmin. His part in the written discussion of 1648 was reprinted in ' Questions between Conformists and Nonconformists,' &c., 1681, 4to, by G. F., i.e. Giles Firmin.
[The Godly Man's Legacy … the Life of … Stephen Marshal … by way of Letter to a Friend, not printed till 1680, seems to have been written soon after the Restoration; it contains much gossip, some of it unsavoury, but the writer evidently knew Marshall, and furnishes particulars which may be accepted with allowance for caricature; some corrections will be found in ‘A Brief Vindication of Mr. Stephen Marshal,’ by Firmin, appended to Questions between Conformists and Nonconformists, 1681. The life in Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, iii. 241, is meagre; there are some valuable additions in Davids's Evang. Nonconformity in Essex, 1863, pp. 184, 190, 290, 392 sq.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1636–7, pp. 260, 545; Clement Walker's Hist. of Independency, 1648–9 (reprinted 1661), i. 79 sq., ii. 157; Fuller's Church Hist. of Britain, 1655, xi. 174 sq.; Fuller's Worthies, 1672, ii. 52 sq.; Heylyn's Aerius Redivivus, 1670, p. 479; L'Estrange's Dissenters' Sayings, 1681, pt. ii.; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 76, 173, 477, 682, 963 sq., 979 sq.; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), i. 372; Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, 1696, i. 42, 62, ii. 197; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion, 1707, i. 204, 302, ii. 81; Rushworth's Historical Collections, Abridged, 1708, iv. 571, 576, v. 453, vi. 336; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, 1714, i. 15; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, i. 467, ii. 737; Oldmixon's Hist. of Engl. 1730, ii. 214; Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, 1779, ii. 387 sq.; Neal's Hist. of the Puritans (Toulmin), 1822, iii. 3, 204, 211, 218, 255 sq., 296, 305, 423 sq., iv. 89, 93, 133 sq., 502; William's Life of P. Henry, 1825, p. 6; Aiton's Life of Henderson, 1836, pp. 505 sq.; Baillie's Letters and Journals (Laing), 1841, vols. ii. and iii.; Acts of General Assembly of Church of Scotland, 1843, pp. 49, 66; Stanley Papers (Chetham Society), 1853, ii. 173 sq. (cf. Ormerod's Cheshire, 1882, i. 653); Pepys's Diary (Braybrooke), 1854, iii. 289; Notes and Queries, 18 Dec. 1858, p. 510; Cox's Literature of the Sabbath Question, 1865, i. 229; Stanley's Westminster Abbey, 1868, pp. 225, 438; Masson's Life of Milton, 1871, ii. 219 sq., 260 sq.; Marsden's Later Puritans, 1872, pp. 117 sq.; Mitchell and Struthers's Minutes of Westminster Assembly, 1874, pp. 92 sq.; Hook's Life of Laud, 1875, p. 379; Chester's Registers of St. Peter, Westminster, 1876, pp. 149, 523; Browne's Hist. Congr. Norf. and Suff., 1877, p. 151; Mitchell's Westminster Assembly, 1883, pp. 98, 214, 409 sq.; Gardiner's Great Civil War, 1886, i. 268 sq., 314; Shaw's Introd. to Minutes of Manchester Presbyterian Classis (Chetham Society), 1890, i. xxxvi sq.; information from the master of Emmanuel; Marshall's will. The parish register of Godmanchester does not begin till 1604.]