Sprigg, Joshua (DNB00)
SPRIGG, JOSHUA (1618–1684), divine, baptised 19 April 1618, was the son of William Sprigg of Banbury, sometime servant to William, lord Say, and afterwards steward of New College, Oxford. William Sprigg [q. v.] was his younger brother. He matriculated at New Inn Hall, Oxford, on 4 July 1634, but did not graduate, and went to Scotland, where he became M.A. of Edinburgh in 1639. A little before the civil war began he returned to England, became a preacher at St. Mary Aldermary, London, took the covenant, and was made rector of St. Pancras, Soper Lane (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714, p. 1401). According to Wood he became a retainer to Sir Thomas Fairfax, general of the parliamentary army, but his name does not appear in the list of the chaplains of the New Model, and it is difficult to say with certainty whether he actually accompanied Fairfax in the campaigns which he describes. On 22 June 1649 the commissioners for the visitation of the university of Oxford appointed Sprigg to be a fellow of All Souls' College, and on 13 March in the following year made him also senior bursar (Burrows, Register of the Visitors of Oxford, pp. 173, 242, 287, 477). On 18 Jan. 1649–50 he was incorporated as M.A. (Wood, Fasti). ‘While he continued in All Souls' College,’ adds Wood, ‘he was of civil conversation, but far gone in enthusiasm; and blamed much by some of the fellows then there for his zeal of having the history of our Saviour's ascension, curiously carved from stone over that college gate, to be defaced, after it had remained there from the foundation of that house’ (Athenæ, iv. 136). In January 1649 Sprigg printed an address to the members of the high court of justice deprecating the execution of the king, and he is said to have preached a sermon against it at Whitehall on 21 Jan. 1649 (ib. iv. 137; Certain Weighty Considerations, &c., 1648, 4to).
In his religious views Sprigg was an independent of the most advanced type. Baxter defines him as the chief of the ‘more open disciples of Sir Henry Vane,’ and ‘too well known by a book of his sermons’ (Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, i. 175). In 1652 six presbyterian booksellers of London printed an address to parliament, including these sermons in a list of books of whose blasphemous tenets they complained (The Beacon Quenched, 1652, 4to, p. 13; The Beacon Flaming, 1652, p. 20).
Holding extreme views himself, Sprigg was naturally an advocate of toleration, and, in the debates of the army council on the agreement of the people (December 1648), pleaded for refusing the magistrate any power to coerce men in matters of religion. ‘Christ,’ he said, ‘would provide for the maintaining his own truth in the world’ (Clarke Papers, ii. 84, 99). On 23 Dec. 1656, when parliament was discussing what punishment should be inflicted on James Nayler [q. v.], Sprigg headed a deputation which petitioned for his release (Burton, Parliamentary Diary, i. 216).
After the Restoration Sprigg retired to an estate he had purchased at Crayford in Kent. On the death of James, lord Say, in 1673, he married his widow Frances, daughter of Edward Cecil, viscount Wimbledon. ‘She,’ says Wood, ‘being a holy sister, kept, or caused to be kept, conventicles in her house,’ so ‘upon trouble ensuing,’ they removed from Crayford to Highgate. Sprigg died at Highgate in June 1684, and was buried at Crayford. His wife died a fortnight later (Wood, Athenæ, iv. 137).
By his will, dated 6 June 1684, Sprigg left 500l. to the corporation of Banbury to build a workhouse and set the poor to work (Beesley, History of Banbury, p. 468).
Sprigg's most important work is ‘Anglia Rediviva: England's Recovery, being the History of the Motions, Actions, and Successes of the Army under his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax’ (1647, fol.; 2nd edit. 1854, 8vo, Oxford). On the title-page Sprigg describes his work as ‘compiled for the public good.’ It is throughout based on the pamphlets and newspapers of the period, and contains very little information which can be regarded as embodying the author's own recollections; at the same time it is a very judicious and accurate compilation. Clement Walker [q. v.] asserts that Sprigg was not its real author, referring to ‘Sprigg alias Nathaniel Fiennes in his legend or romance of this army called Anglia Rediviva’ (History of Independency, i. 32); but his assumption is not supported by any evidence. It is probably based on the fact that ‘Anglia Rediviva’ justifies the conduct of Fiennes in surrendering Bristol in 1643 (p. 129, ed. 1854).
- ‘Certain Weighty Considerations humbly tendered to the Consideration of the Members of the High Court of Justice for the Trial of the King,’ 1648, 4to.
- ‘Solace for Saints in the Saddest Times,’ 8vo., n.d.
- ‘News of a New World from the Word and Works of God compared together,’ 1676, 8vo.
Wood states that Sprigg also published other tracts, which he could not find, and mentions the titles of four sermons: ‘God, a Christian's All,’ 1640; ‘A Testimony to Approaching Glory;’ ‘A Further Testimony;’ and ‘The Dying and Living Christian.’
[Wood's Athenæ Oxon, ed. Bliss, iv. 136; Beesley's History of Banbury.]