After learning a brief history of the times surrounding the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (or the “1689”), I thought it would be interesting to see what could be learned, if anything, about the female relations of the signers of that document. While not an exhaustive study, hopefully these vignettes will give us a glimpse into the lives of the early Particular Baptist women. This time we will look at:
Anne Cheney Knollys
Anne Cheney was born in 1608. She married Hanserd Knollys, a man ten years her senior, in 1631 at around 23 years of age. In 1636 Hanserd left the Anglican church due to conscience’s sake. After a warrant was put out for his arrest, the family fled to America about 1638. After a tumultuous voyage they arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, nearly destitute and grieving the loss of their child who died during the trip. Rather than finding a respite from their troubles, they were not considered welcome due to reports of Hanserd’s “antinomianism”. Some men, however, invited the Knollys to travel north to what is now Dover, New Hampshire, where Hanserd was made pastor of the church in that town.
America does not seem to have been a peaceful place for Anne and Hanserd. While in New Hampshire, conflict arose between Hanserd and another minister, Thomas Larkham, who had arrived in New Hampshire in 1640. Larkham had wealth and influence, and had very lax standards for membership. This produced much division within the congregation, and Larkham at one point had Knollys removed from the pulpit. Many congregants then removed Larkham and restored Knollys as pastor. Larkham had armed men march up from nearby Portsmouth, conducted a trial which found Knollys guilty, fined him, and ordered him to leave. During his time reports circulated that Knollys was also censured for having a”filthy dalliance” with some young females living in his house. Records indicate that this was a false report as other ministers spoke of Knollys with respect. There is also a record that Hanserd had filed suit with a claim of slander. It was never prosecuted, as the Knollys did not stay in the colonies.
The Knollys family (Hanserd, a pregnant Anne, and a 3 year-old child) left New Hampshire in 1641 and traveled back to England at the request of Hanserd’s father. While poor, they had provisions provided for them through Christian friends. It was at this time that Knollys joined with the Jacob/Lathrop/Jessey church and solidified his views on baptism. He remained a member there for six months more, though, so that Anne could be fully convicted of credobaptism before moving on.* He pastored as a a Particular Baptist, yet his church was unable to support him fully, so he was a teacher as well. In 1660, after Hanserd was imprisoned in Newgate Prison for 18 weeks, he fled to Holland and then Germany, and Anne went as well with two of their children. They returned to England shortly afterward, residing there until Anne died in 1671.
What Anne’s thoughts were concerning her life I do not know. She is mentioned fondly by her husband, who described her as:
a holy, discreet woman, and a meet help for me in the ways of her household, and also in the way of holiness; who was my companion in all my Sufferings, Travels, and Hardships that we endured for the Gospel.
This is what is written on her gravestone:
Here lyeth the body of Mrs. Anne Knollys,
daughter of John Cheney, esq., and wife
of Hanserd Knollys (Minister of the Gospel),
by whom he had issue of 7 sons and 3 daughters;
who died April 30, 1671, and in the 63rd
year of her age.
My only wife, that in her life
Lived forty years with me,
Lyes now in rest, for ever blest
My dear is gone – left me alone
For Christ to do and dye,
Who dyed for me, and dyed to be
My Saviour-God Most High.
*Bustin, Dennis. Paradox and Perseverance, Paternoster Press, 2006. p.303.
Brook, Benjamin. The Lives of the Puritans, Vol. 3
Brown, John Newton. Memoir of Hanserd Knollys, 1837.
Bustin, Dennis. Paradox and Perseverance. Paternoster, 2006.
Howson, Barry H. Erroneous and Schismatical Opinions, Brill, 2001.
Pastoor, Charles and Johnson, Galen K. The A to Z of the Puritans. Scarecrow Press, 2007.
Renihan, James M. Edification And Beauty. Paternoster, 2008.
Resource I Wish I Had Access To:
Knollys’ autobiography entitled: Life and Death of that Old Disciple of Jesus Christ, and Eminent Minister of the Gospel, Hanserd Knollys, who died in the 93rd year of his age written with his own hand to the year 1672, and continued in general, in an epistle by Mr. William Kiffin.