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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    II. Dr. Peter Chamberlen-Sabbatarian Court Physician

    PETER CHAMBERLEN 4Variantly spelled, ending with—lain,—laine,—Ian,—leyne, and—len, which last form he used personally. M.D. (1601-1683), brilliant court physician to three Stuart kings of England-James I, Charles I, and Charles II-and their queens, and a pioneer in scientific midwifery, was at the same time a Nonconformist, and for several years a Baptist pastor. But, most unique of all for a man in his position, for the last thirty-two years of his life he was an observer of the seventh day as the Sabbath. He was descended from a distinguished family of French Huguenots, the family leaving France in time to escape the bloody St. Bartholomew’s Massacre of 1572, and settling in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.PFF4 908.1

    Both Peter’s father and grandfather were well-known physicians in London. But Peter’s distinction was in achievement rather than ancestry. He was born at Blackfriars and educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From thence he was sent to Heidelberg, Germany, and to Padua, Italy, for medical training. From the latter university he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1619. He was rigidly examined, and his degree was approved by Oxford in 1620 and by Cambridge in 1621 5Biographical data from J. H. Aveling, M.D., The Chamberlens;]. W. Thirtle. in Transactions of Baptist Historical Society, vol. 2, pp. 9-30, and vol. 3, pp. 176-188; William Munk, The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, vol. I, pp. 194-197, and N. Moore, M.A., in vol. 16, p. 14; and J. H. A. Micklewright, Notes and Queries (vol. 191), Oct. 15, 1946. pp. 137. 138. Autobiographical data, by Chamberlen, appears in A Voice in Rhama (1634). According to the records, Peter first assisted in the medical care of James I (d. 1625), succeeding his uncle, Pierre Chamberlen, as physician.PFF4 908.2

    In 1628 Chamberlen was granted an examination, followed by a fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians, and was soon selected to give the yearly demonstrations in anatomy to the barber-surgeons. He is reputed to have improved, if not indeed to have invented, the obstetrical forceps. In many ways he was far ahead of his age. He was a decided progressive—a man of ideas and achievements. In other matters he was distinctly a victim of his age. His role was cast in the troubled times of the Interregnum and Cromwell. He achieved fame, and his medical skill and surgical knowledge were jealously retained by the house of Stuart. Because of his eminence his religious liberty seems not to have been curtailed, as was the case with most other Baptists of the time.PFF4 909.1

    Following his service to James I, when Charles I came to the throne in 1625, the young doctor was again appointed physician to the king and queen, and was held in highest esteem by the court. His reputation was such that the czar of Russia later sought to secure him as his physician. But Charles II, to whom Chamberlen also ministered, would not release him.PFF4 909.2

    Chamberlen was a reformer in medicine, pressing his cause before high and low. He took up the burden that his father had carried back in 1616—to create professional standards and to have proper supervision for midwives. He proposed they be organized into a sisterhood and have a special garb. This he presented before a meeting of the “College of Phisitions.” But after much discussion it all came to nought. The measure had to wait more than two centuries before it was wrought into law.PFF4 909.3

    Disappointed in that endeavor, Chamberlen next proposed a system of hydrotherapeutics—the use of hot and cold water—as a remedial agency to relieve pain, promote convalescence, and to cure disease. He advocated baths and bath stoves. But the College of Physicians likewise opposed and rejected this proposal in 1648—it being considered dangerous for cold climates.PFF4 909.4

    Although later Chamberlen appealed for the application of the principles of the good Samaritan to human needs, the breach between Chamberlen and his fellow physicians grew wider. So in 1649 he was disfellowshiped from membership in the College of Physicians. Yet he remained the royal physician to three kings, and was retained for years thereafter as court physician.PFF4 910.1

    Now let us turn to another side of Chamberlen. In his religious life too, Chamberlen was a reformer. He became a sincere, baptized Christian believer in 1648, and joined the church of which John More was pastor. Formerly classified among the Independents, he was now labeled an Anabaptist—and so became the object of increasing scorn and sneers.PFF4 910.2

    Always a man of ideas, Chamberlen entered actively into the arena of religious discussion, and maintained a series of spirited discussions with the religious leaders of his day-in fact, virtually until his death. He wrote at least ten unusual religious broadsides and tracts, and was ever the center of controversy.PFF4 910.3

    Among the issues under discussion was that of Sabbatarianism. Public debates were then the order of the day. So he had a debate with Cranford-Disputes Between Cranford and Chamberlen (1652). This was followed by a four-day debate between Chamberlen, Coppinger, 6Matthew Coppinger was a pedo-Baptist, a survivor of the Traske movement. Tillam, and Ives in the Stone Chapel in old St. Paul’s Cathedral. The issue was over worship on a special day of the week, that is, the Sabbath.PFF4 910.4

    In 1654, 150 signatories asked Dr. Chamberlen to lead them in worship. So at the age of fifty-three he assumed the dual role of pastor and physician. And after the Restoration, upon the accession of Charles II (1660), he was once more made physician to the king, and thus escaped persecution. Chamberlen could not escape the jibes and jeers of those who resented his religious teachings, however, for he had not only been a Puritan but was now of the smallest of the despised sects -the Seventh Day Baptists. He was a contemporary of John Bunyan, 7JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688), celebrated author of Pilgrim’s Progress, followed his father as a tinker. He was then a soldier. Bunyan joined the Nonconformists in 1653, at Bedford. He was appointed preacher by the congregation in 1655. Arrested in 1660, under the statutes against Nonconformists, he was “detained” in prison at Bedford until 1672, when Charles II suspended the statutes. During the remainder of his life he served as pastor to the New Bedford congregation. Part of Pilgrim’s Progress was written during his imprisonment. who also suffered for his faith in prison. It was the temper of the times. Like many others, Chamberlen was denounced as mad, and like Francis Bampfield and other clerics, was called a “Jew” in contempt of his Sabbathkeeping. These epithets aroused his indignation, and he was not hesitant about saying so. In 1666 he published A Sober Man’s Vindication. In this he spoke of the evils afflicting the nations, and rehearsed the five proposals he had put forth to save lives.PFF4 910.5

    Still smarting under the unjust calumny, Chamberlen wrote to Archbishop William Sancroft his interesting Letter to the Jews, dated July 2, 1680. Though objecting to being styled a “Jew” by way of contempt, Chamberlen took a real interest in that scattered people. He also wrote to them as “Sons of the East” (1682). He too was a student of the book of Daniel, and had had discussions with certain Jewish rabbis at Geneva, touching on prophecy’s prediction of the Sabbath’s change. So he wrote:PFF4 911.1

    “I have heard, that some (of the most Worthy amongst You) have made some Enquiry after a few Christians who keep the Sabbath of the Lord Your God, and Ours. Wherefore, (by the Providence of God) having been the First that endeavoured to rescue that Commandment from the Triple-crowned-little Horns Change of Times and Laws, as was foretold by your Prophet Daniel, (chap. 7:25).” 8A broadside, The Sons of the East; see also J. H. Aveling, op. cit., pp. 111, 112.PFF4 911.2

    He was convinced from Daniel’s great prophetic outline as to the Papacy’s responsibility for the change of the fourth precept of God’s law, with its Sabbath-time requirement.PFF4 911.3

    Chamberlen began the personal observance of the seventh-day Sabbath in 1651, though it was evidently several years before he presented his Sabbath faith publicly to the world. It was during the period oL 1652-1654 that Dr. Chamberlen began openly to express himself in most vigorous terms on the seventh-day Sabbath. Though he was a Sabbatarian personally, he apparently still presided over a congregation that did not observe Saturday as the Sabbath. 9Joseph Stennett, though a Sabbatarian, likewise served as pastor of the First Day “Little Wild Street Church.” This was not an uncommon practice. The records of the church speak of meetings on certain days of the month and year. This was the peak of the period of intense Sabbath agitation, with Spittalhouse, Sailer, and Tillam writing on the seventh-day side. In 1658 the series of discussions took place in “Stone-Chappel by Pauls,” London, involving Chamberlen, Tillam, and Coppinger, and against Jeremiah Ives.PFF4 911.4

    This clash split the church in 1654, and Chamberlen associated himself with the dissentient group. Following the breakup, Chamberlen entered upon a new chapter in his career—he left the pulpit for the pew. The Mill Yard Seventh Day Baptist Church, 10The Mill Yard Church is said to have been started by John Traske. As noted, Mrs. Traske went to prison for sixteen years for resting on the Sabbath and working on the “Lord’s Day” which ended only with her death. (J. W. Thirtle, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 183.) Seventh Day Baptists in those days believed they should work on Sunday as well as rest on Saturday (Ibid., p. 179). Returne Hebdon was likewise imprisoned for the same reason. which accorded the doctor a welcome, was then in the heyday of its prominence. Dr. Chamberlen, now free from pastoral cares, gave himself to the fellowship of this church. His name appears on the church book when he took part in the famous debate with Jeremiah Ives over the Sabbath.PFF4 912.1

    In the same year, 1654, Chamberlen, disappointed that the kingdom of God on earth 11The name “Peter Chamberlen,” as noted, was on the Fifth Monarchy Manifesto of 1654. ad not been realized in the Commonwealth, wrote A Scourge for a Den of Thieves. And as a diversion lie turned his fertile mind to invention—horseless carriages propelled by wind, tariff reform, et cetera. In such connections, his name is mentioned many times in state papers. His public activities, and particularly his inventions, were all for the public good. But inventors were then commonly looked upon as simply trying to fleece the public, and finally in 1675 the Mill Yard Church expelled Chamberlen from church fellowship —because of allegedly pursuing his own interests and filling his own pocket.PFF4 912.2

    Toward the close of his life Chamberlen had one great burden—to affect a reconciliation of all the different churches that held the name of Christian. This he embodied in a letter to Gilbert Sheldon, then Archbishop of Canterbury. 12Upon the restoration of the monarchy, Gilbert Sheldon (1598-1677) was made bishop of London, and in 1663 advanced to archbishop of Canterbury. A strong high churchman, he was also a patron of learning. Chamberlen urged healing for the nation—“oyl and wine” for the wounds of the world. He was against pride and contention, and urged that the pope and his cardinals, and the heads of the various papal orders, together with the chief Protestant leaders, be brought together to seek reunion. 13Dated Oct. 2, 1673.PFF4 913.1

    Before Archbishop Sheldon’s death in 1677, Chamberlen again wrote him on the prophetic angle of the papal change of the Sabbath, referring to the “mark of the beast,” pressing upon the peace of Christendom, and urging him—PFF4 913.2

    “to Unite All the Churches of Europe into a Reformation, by Advising about the Angels [coming?] to the greatly beloved Prophet Daniel Concerning the Little Triple Crowned Horn’s Change of Times & Lawes Which being Discovered What Times & Lawes those are. Good Counsell may be taken from those Angels that appeared to the Beloved Disciple John, to Blott out & Escape the Mark of the Beast: & Return to the Keeping of the Lawes of God, of the Faith of Jesus, as celebrated by the Angels.” 14Tanner Ms. No. 36, fol. 147 (at Bodleian Library, Oxford); also given in J. H. Aveling. op, eit., pp. 116, 117.PFF4 913.3

    In April of 1682 Chamberlen had written requesting permission to print a “disputation” upon part of the seventh of Daniel. He wanted-PFF4 913.4

    “to make this One Question in Print, to all Bishops and Clergy, and both Universities. Who is Meant by the Little Horn in Daniel (Chap. 7th) before whom 3 Horn Kings fell, pluckt up by the Roots. Who had Eyes like a man, and his Looks more Stout than his fellowes. And a Mouth Speaking Great things of Blasphemy. Killing and Wearing out the Saints of Ye most High, and thinking to change Times and Lawes. To which, if I obtain no Answer, then after one Moneth, to Publish my Opinion in Print.” 15Tanner Ms., No. 35, fol. 2; printed in J. H. Aveling, op cit., pp. 119, 120.PFF4 913.5

    Dr. Peter Chamberlen, physician to james I, charles I, and charles II, and their Queens, was a Sabbathkeeper for thirty-two years, as recorded on his impressive Tombstone. He was a Stalwart among the progressive Scientists of the time. (Lower) close-up of Historic Biographical statement
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    That he understood the Little Horn to be the Papacy, springing out of the horn-kingdom divisions of: Rome, is crystal clear.PFF4 915.1

    Dr. Chamberlen wrote his will in May, 1681, when eighty years of age, referring to himself as “Doctor of Physic.” This Sabbatarian court physician rested in the love and mercy of God, in His free pardon and full remission of sin, and in the inheritance of eternal life. Moreover, he held death to be a sleep-resting in darkness from sorrow and labor. On the morning of the resurrection he believed he would awaken clothed in eternal light. 16Various men about this time came to hold that immortality is a gift bestowed through Christ at the second advent-one even going to the Tower for his faith. Thus with Richard Overton and his Man Wholly Mortal, issued in 1655, which caused considerable excitement. On August 26, 1644, the House of Commons ordered the author, printer, and publisher to be “diligently sought for,” and Overton was sent to the Tower of London for his “soul sleeping” innovation. (C. E. Whiting, Studies in English Puritanism From the Restoration to the Revolution, p. 317. On Overton see Prophetic Faith, Vol. II, p. 575.) His life story is compressed into this quaint tombstone epitaph in the churchyard of Woodham Mortimer, in Essex:PFF4 915.2

    “The said Peter Chamberlen toock ye degree of Docter in Physick in severall Universities both at home and abroad and lived such above three score years being Physician in Ordinary to three Kings & Queens of England, viz. King James & Queen Anne, King Charles ye first & Queen Mary, King Charles ye second &: Queen Katherine; &: also to some forraine Princes: having travelled most partes of Europe, & speaking most of the Languages. As for his Religion he was a Christian keeping ye Commandments of God & faith of Jesus, being baptized about ye year 1648, & keeping ye 7th day for ye Saboth above 32 years. To tell his Learning and his Life to Men; Enough is said by here lyes Chamberlen.”PFF4 915.3

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