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Newcomen, Matthew (DNB00)


NEWCOMEN, MATTHEW (1610?–1669), ejected minister, and one of the authors of ‘Smectymnuus,’ born at Colchester about 1610, was second son of Stephen Newcomen by his first wife, and second cousin of Elias Newcomen [q. v.] The father was the third son of John Newcomen, and Alice, daughter of John Gascoigne of Leasingcroft, Yorkshire. He was grandson of Brian, and great-grandson of Martyn le Newcomen (d. 1536), all of Saltfleetby, Lincolnshire. He was presented to the vicarage of St. Peter's, Colchester, on 18 July 1600, and was enrolled a burgess of the town (Morant MSS., Colchester Museum). His will was proved on 31 May 1631.

Matthew was educated under William Kempe, at the Royal Grammar School of Colchester, and on 8 Nov. 1626 was elected the second scholar on the foundation of ‘Robert Lewis and Mary his wife,’ at St. John's College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1629, and M.A. in 1633. Calamy says ‘he was much esteemed as a wit, and for his curious parts, which being afterwards sanctified by Divine grace fitted him for eminent service in the church.’ On the death of John Rogers [q. v.] on 18 Oct. 1636, Newcomen was recommended by his friend John Knowles (1600?–1685) [q. v.], then lecturer at Colchester, to the lectureship, which was supported by voluntary contributions at Dedham, seven miles off.

Newcomen soon became the leader of the church reform party in Essex. He married the sister of Calamy's wife, and assisted Calamy to write ‘Smectymnuus’ [see under Calamy, Edward, the elder], published in London in 1641. The authors at once became marked men, and on 24 Nov., when Newcomen preached at the weekly lecture at Stowmarket, where Thomas Young [q. v.], another Smectymnuan, was vicar, there were ‘abundance of ministers,’ and a quart of wine was ‘sent for’ at the lecture dinner (churchwarden's accounts in Hollingsworth's Hist. of Stowmarket, pp. 146, 189).

Newcomen, who drew up a catechism with John Arrowsmith (1602–1659) [q. v.] and Anthony Tuckney, was chosen one of the Westminster divines, and preached the opening sermon before the assembly and both houses of parliament on the afternoon of Saturday, 7 July 1643. He wishes that ‘their traducers might be witnesses of their learned, grave, and pious debates.’ He was on the third committee, which met in the Jerusalem Chamber, and was to deal with Articles 8, 9, and 10. He was also on committees to ‘consider a way of expediting the examination of ministers,’ to inquire of scandalous books, to petition parliament, and to communicate with the Scottish assembly.

Newcomen did not sign the petition for the presbyterian form of church government presented by the Essex and Suffolk clergy on 29 May 1646, but he drew up and signed, with one hundred and twenty-nine others, the ‘Testimony of the Ministers in Essex,’ London, 1648.

When the ‘Agreement’ was sent down for the signatures of the clergy, Essex men were again in arms, and headed by Rogers of Wethersfield, Collins of Braintree, Newcomen and his friend, George Smith, vicar of Dedham, they drew up ‘The Essex Watchmen's Watchword,’ London, 1649, protesting against evils lurking under its proposals, and especially against ‘one parenthesis [proposing toleration], which like the fly in the box of ointment may make it abhorrent in the nostrils of every one who is judicious and pious.’

Newcomen was appointed an assistant to the commission of ‘Triers of Scandalous Ministers,’ &c., for Essex in 1654. In 1655 he was town lecturer at Ipswich (Browne, Hist. of Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk, pp. 152, 157). He refused the office of chaplain to Charles II at the Restoration, although Calamy, Young, Manton, Spurstow, and others accepted. He was a member of the Savoy conference in 1660, ‘the most constant,’ Baxter wrote, ‘in assisting us.’ On 10 Oct. 1661 he was created D.D. But ‘for such a man to declare unfeigned assent and consent, as required by the Act of Uniformity, was impossible’ (Davids, Hist. of Evangel. Nonconf. in Essex). He preached his last sermon as lecturer at Dedham, on 20 Aug. 1662, on Rev. iii. 3. He urged those ‘unable to enjoy public helps for sanctifying the Lord's day at home, to travel to other congregations, or to redouble their fervour in secret and family devotion.’ A few weeks later he preached ‘Ultimum Vale, or the Last Farewell of a Minister of the Gospel to a beloved People,’ London, 1663.

On 30 July 1662 the English community at Leyden was authorised by the magistrate to call Newcomen from Dedham. In December following he accepted the call, and became pastor of the English church there. Professor Hornbeck, and many others of the university, appreciated his abilities. In 1668 his congregation voted him a yearly salary of one thousand florins, with an additional five hundred on 1 Feb. 1669 (Leyden Stadtarchiv).

The name of ‘Newcomen, minister,’ was included among fourteen persons warned home by a royal proclamation issued 26 March 1666, signed by Charles II on 9 April (State Papers, Dom. 1665–6, pp. 318, 342), but it was struck out owing to personal influence. Sir John Webster, under date 5 March 1667, wrote to the king from abroad, begging license to remain for himself, and also for ‘Mr. Nathaniel [an obvious error for Matthew] Newcomen, a poore preacher at Leyden, that hath a sicke wife and five poore and sicklye children. He came out of England with license, and liveth peaceably, not meddling with anie affaires in England, hath done nothing towards printing or dispersing bookes, and has constantly prayed for the King and Council. He humbly craveth to be exempt from the summons, and is readye to purge himself by word or oath before any Comissary yr. Majie. may appoint.’ Webster says he writes at ‘the entreaty of several persons of respect, and by Mr. Richard Maden, preacher at Amsterdam’ (ib. 1666–7, p. 549).

Newcomen died at Leyden about 1 Sept. 1669 of the plague. On 16 Sept. his funeral sermon was preached at Dedham by John Fairfax (1623–1700) [q. v.], ejected minister of Barking, Suffolk. Great numbers were present, and in the returns made to Sheldon that year the service is spoken of as ‘an outrageous conventicle.’ The sermon was published under the title of ‘The Dead Saint yet speaking,’ London, 1679. Newcomen's widow was granted on 13 March 1670 permission to sell his books, and on 8 April she, meaning to return to England, was voted five hundred florins ‘in consideration of the good services of her deceased husband, and of her receiving as guests the preachers who came to Leyden since his death about seven months ago’ (Leyden Stadtarchiv). Newcomen's house at Dedham, ‘which cost him 600l.,’ was purchased from his representatives in 1703 by a successor in the lectureship, William Burkitt [q. v.] the commentator, and, together with a sum collected by him, settled upon the lecturers (Letter from Burkitt, quoted in The Church in Dedham in the Seventeenth Century by the Rev. G. Taylor, D.C.L., lecturer, 1868).

Newcomen married in 1640 Hannah, daughter of Robert Snelling, M.P. for Ipswich 1614–25, sister of Edmund Calamy's first wife, and widow of Gilbert Reyney or Rany, rector of St. Mary's Stoke, Ipswich. Newcomen was her third husband, the first being one Prettiman (Hunter MSS.) Four sons and seven daughters were born to Newcomen at Dedham, but six died in early childhood, and were buried there. There were living in 1667 Stephen, baptised on 17 Sept. 1645; Hannah, baptised on 9 March 1647; Martha, 30 March 1651; Alice, 25 July 1652; and Sarah, 26 Aug. 1655. Stephen was inscribed a member of Leyden University on 28 May 1663, æt. 17, ‘student in philosophy.’ It is probable that he was the father of Stephen Newcomen, vicar of Braintree 1709–38, donor to that living of a considerable sum of money as well as curious communion plate, and vicar of Boreham, Essex, from 1738 until his death, 15 July 1750, aged 72.

Matthew Newcomen is said to have written a work called ‘Irenicum,’ which must not be confounded with Stillingfleet's ‘Irenicum, a Weapon Salve for the Church's Wounds,’ 1662. He also published seven sermons separately, and is stated by Hunter (Chorus Vatum) to have written verses on the death of Richard Vines [q. v.]

Matthew's elder brother, Thomas Newcomen (1603?–1665), born at Colchester about 1603, was educated at the Royal Grammar School there, and on 6 Nov. 1622 elected the first Lewis scholar at St. John's College, Cambridge (‘Admissions,’ in Essex Arch. Trans. vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 7, New Ser.) He graduated B.A. in 1624, and M.A. 1628–9. After holding the living of St. Runwald's, Colchester, for a short time, he was presented on 10 Nov. 1628 to Holy Trinity. Unlike his puritan brother Matthew, he became a strong royalist, and in the parliamentarian town of Colchester was an object of marked hate. He was arrested at one o'clock on the morning of 22 Aug. 1642, as he was starting to join the royal army at Nottingham in the company of Sir John Lucas. An infuriated mob tore the clothes off his back, beat him with cudgels and halberds, and carried him to the Moot Hall. On the Friday following he was committed to the Fleet, where he remained until 24 Sept. Complaints of Newcomen were laid before the committee for scandalous ministers in Essex on 2 April 1644, on the ground that he left his cure unprovided for, ‘when in town preached but seldom,’ and refused to administer the sacrament except at the rails (State Papers, Dom. 1641–3, p. 520). He was no doubt sequestered, but was apparently allowed to return to his living. He was instituted to the rectory of Clothall, Hertfordshire, on 12 June 1653 (Cussans, Hertfordshire). At the Restoration he petitioned the king, as a ‘great sufferer for his loyalty, and a true sonne of the church,’ for a mandamus to take his D.D. (State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, 163). This was issued in October 1660. He was also given a prebend at Lincoln in 1660 (Le Neve, Fasti, ii. 103). He died before 31 May 1665, when his successor at Clothall was appointed (Cussans). His eldest son, Stephen, born 26 May 1647, was admitted to Merchant Taylors' School 1655.

[For both Matthew Newcomen and his brother see Davids's Evangelical Nonconformity in Essex, pp. 203, 227–8, 380–3; Newcourt's Eccles. Rep. i. 620, ii. 182, 265; and the registers of St. John's Coll. Cambridge, per the bursar, R. F. Scott, esq.

For Matthew alone see Calamy and Palmer's Nonconf. Memorial, ii. 195–8, Continuation, ii. 294, Abridgement, p. 212; Neal's Hist. of Puritans, iv. 389, 390 n.; Baxter's Reliquiæ pp. 229, 232, 281, 303–7; Mitchell's Westminster Assembly, pp. xviii, 138, 296, and his Minutes of the Session, pp. 304, 409, 419, 420, 423; Kennett's Register, pp. 162, 188, 295, 398, 431, 546, 900; Stevens's Hist. of the Scottish Church in Rotterdam, p. 315; Drysdale's History of the Presbyterians in England; Trans. Essex Archæol. Soc. New Ser. vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 11; Baker's MSS. Harl. 7046, ff. 272 d, 292 d; Hunter's Chorus Vatum, Addit. MS. 24489, fol. 283, and 24492, fol. 19; Davey's Athenæ Suffolcienses, Addit. MS. 19165, fol. 520; information from the registers of Dedham per the Rev. C. A. Jones; and from the Leyden Stadtarchiv, per C. M. Dory. For Thomas Newcomen see Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, pt. ii. p. 318; Mercurius Rusticus, pp. 1–6; Laud's Hist. of the Troubles and Tryals, pp. 260–1; Sanderson's Complete Hist. of the Life and Raigne of King Charles, 1658, p. 563; Addit. MS. 15669, fol. 259; Baker MS. Harl. 7046, fol. 272 d.; Cole MSS. xxviii. ff. 70, 71, Addit. MS. 5829.]

C. F. S.