Spencer, John (1601-1671) (DNB00)

SPENCER, JOHN (1601–1671), controversialist, born in Lincolnshire in 1601, matriculated from Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1618. He was converted to the Roman catholic faith while at Cambridge. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1626, received priest's orders in 1632, and was professed of the four vows, 5 Aug. (O.S.) 1641. He took the name of Vincent Hatcliff, and sometimes that of Tyrwhitt. In 1636 he was a missioner and preacher at Watten; in 1639 a missioner in the Lincolnshire district, and in 1642 professor of casuistry at Liège and superior in the camp mission among the English troops in Belgium. In 1655 he was missioner at Antwerp. He returned to the English province of the society, and in May 1657 he and John Lenthall, M.D., held a conference on matters of controversy with Dr. Peter Gunning, afterwards bishop of Ely, and Dr. John Pearson, afterwards bishop of Chester. He was declared superior of the Worcester district about 1658 and held that office until 1667. Eventually he was taken into the family of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and died on 17 Jan. 1670–1.

He was an able controversialist, and wrote:

  1. ‘The Triall of the Protestant Private Spirit. Wherein their Doctrine, making the sayd Spirit the sole ground and meanes of their Beliefe, is confuted,’ 2 vols. sine loco> 1630, 4to.
  2. ‘Scripture Mistaken the Ground of Protestants and Common Plea of all new Reformers against the ancient Catholicke Religion of England,’ Antwerp, 1655, 8vo. Dr. Henry Ferne, afterwards bishop of Chester, published an answer to this book in 1660.
  3. ‘Questions propounded for resolution of unlearned Pretenders in Matters of Religion, to the doctors of the Prelatical Pretended Reform'd Church of England,’ Paris, 1657, 8vo.
  4. ‘Scisme Unmask't; or a late Conference betwixt Mr. Peter Gunning and Mr. John Pierson, Ministers, on the one part, and two Disputants of the Roman Profession on the other; wherein is defined, both what Schisme is, and to whom it belongs,’ Paris, 1658. The two catholic disputants were Spencer and John Lenthall, M.D. (Dodd, Church Hist. iii. 312). The paper printed at the end of the conference was republished by Obadiah Walker and John Massey, under the title of ‘The Schism of the Church of England, &c., demonstrated in four Arguments formerly propos'd to Dr. Gunning and Dr. Pearson, the late bishops of Ely and Chester, by two Catholic Disputants in a celebrated conference upon that point,’ Oxford, 1688, 4to. This reprint elicited ‘The Reformation of the Church of England Justified’ (anon.), Cambridge, 1688, 4to, by William Saywell [q. v.], master of Jesus College, Cambridge. Spencer is also credited with a book against the atheists entitled ‘Either God or Nothing,’ of which no copy has been traced.

[De Backer's Bibl. des Ecrivains de la Compagnie de Jésus; Florus Anglo-Bavaricus, p. 52; Foley's Records, ii. 194, vii. 726; Jones's Popery Tracts, p. 485; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 195; Southwell's Bibl. Scriptorum Soc. Jesu, p. 504.]

T. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.255
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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358 ii 34 Spencer, John (1601-1671): after bridge. insert He was probably the John Spencer who matriculated from Christ's College in 1618.