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Philip Nye.jpg

Philip Nye (c. 1595–1672) was a leading English Independent theologian and a member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines [1] He was the key adviser to Oliver Cromwell on matters of religion and regulation of the Church.[2]


Philip Nye was born into a middle class family in Sussex in England, in 1596. He entered Oxford as a commoner of Brazen-noze College, July 21, 1615.[3] Afterwards he went to Magdalen Hall, Oxford where he studied under a Puritanical tutor.[4] He graduated from Magdalen Hall, Oxford with an Arts degree in 1619 and with M.A. in 1622. Afterwards he entered holy orders and became curate of St. Michael's Church in Cornhill, near London.[5] He fell afoul of the episcopal court and fled to Holland, spending the years 1633 to 1640 in exile.[6][7]

He later had the parish of Acton. He was employed by Parliament, on a mission to the imprisoned Charles I.

He was one of the Five Dissenting Brethren in the Westminster Assembly, and a leader of the group alongside Thomas Goodwin.[8] With support from Lord Kimbolton[9] he had influential connections with the Parliamentary Army,[10] and also had the living of Kimbolton, then in Huntingdonshire. According to Ivan Roots, the eventual ecclesiastical settlement under the Protectorate followed closely proposals from 1652, outlined by Nye with John Owen and others.[11]

Nye co-wrote and promoted the Solemn League and Covenant. Nye along with Stephen Marshall "were sent with the commissioners who went from the English Parliament into Scotland, in order to obtain and establish an agreement with the Scottish nation, and to desire their assistance."[12]

He was a member of the parliamentary subcommittee that created the 1644 Directory for Public Worship and largely wrote it himself.

In 1647, he was one of the preachers who went from the Parliament to King Charles I on the isle of Wight, in order to save his soul and build a political settlement. [13]

Samuel Butler wrote the poem Upon Philip Nye's Thanksgiving Beard[14][15] about him and mentioned him in Hudibras.[16]

When the monarchy was restored, Nye was initially excluded from the general pardon. That should have meant being hung, drawn and quartered. However he was included afterwards in the Bill of Indemnity on the condition that he did not accept any ecclesiastical, civil, military or public office.[17] Instead he worked for an independent church as a Doctor of theology, until his death in 1672.[18]

On toleration

With Goodwin, he was a co-author of the Apologeticall Narration, pleading for toleration of Calvinist congregations outside a proposed Presbyterian national church.[19] The presented the text to parliament on 3 January 1644. They argued that the congregational churches were closer to the practice of the early Christians and also that they were more suited to the changeability of contemporary times. This tactic meant they could avoid having their views debated at the Westminster Assembly, where they would have been readily outnumbered, and perhaps outvoted.[20] In the Whitehall Debates of 1648, however, he supported Henry Ireton's view that toleration should be limited by the state. He was one of those agitating successfully against the Racovian Catechism.[21][22]


Nye was famous for supporting religious freedom and independence. In this view he opposed "a presbytery with a civil state", but otherwise liked Presbyterianism for its staunch scriptural views. [23]

He, along with Thomas Goodwin, advocated allowing Jews to return to England and forcefully plead for their readmission. In this plea they were acting with Cromwell's direct encouragement. However wild anti-Semitic rumours and general public antipathy made readmission politically impossible.[24][25]

He was strong an opponent of astrology and superstition in general.[26]



  1. ^ de Witt, John Richard (1969). Jus Divinum: The Westminster Assembly and the Divine Right of Church Government, page 27 (Th.D. thesis). Kampen, the Netherlands: J. H. Kok. OCLC 31994.
  2. ^ G. E. Aylmer, Rebellion or Revolution? (1986), p. 179.
  3. ^ James Reid,Memoirs of the lives and writings of those eminent divines who convened in ... ,page 89
  4. ^ Thomas Park, Works of the British Poets, vol 5 pg 629
  5. ^ T. Osborne, et al (1762) A New and General Biographical Dictionary: Containing an Historical and Critical Account of the Lives and Writings of the Most Eminent Persons in Every Nation, Particularly the British and Irish, from the Earliest Accounts of Time to the Present Period : Wherein Their Remarkable Actions Or Sufferings, Their Virtues, Parts, and Learning are Accurately Displayed : with a Catalogue of Their Literary Productions, Volume 8
  6. ^ Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  7. ^ Cambridge Historical Journal, Volume 5, Issue 1 1935 , pp. 41-59
  8. ^ The Westminster Confession of Faith
  9. ^ The future Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester.
  10. ^ [1], PDF, p. 6.
  11. ^ The Great Rebellion (1995 edition), p. 176.
  12. ^, Philip Nye (1595-1672),
  13. ^, Philip Nye (1595-1672),
  14. ^
  15. ^ Samuel Butler, The Genuine Poetical Remains, page 175
  16. ^ Acton | British History Online
  17. ^ T.C. Hansard, 1808, The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803: From which Last-mentioned Epoch it is Continued Downwards in the Work Entitled "Hansard's Parliamentary Debates." V. 1-36; 1066/1625-1801/03, Volume 4, page 91
  18. ^ Cambridge Historical Journal, Volume 5, Issue 1 1935 , pp. 41-59
  19. ^ Claire Cross, The Church of England 1646–1660 p. 101, in The Interregnum (1972), edited by G. E. Aylmer.
  20. ^ C.V. Wedgewood (1958), The King's War 1641 – 1647, Collins, p. 285
  21. ^ Nye2
  22. ^ Nye3
  23. ^, Philip Nye (1595-1672),
  24. ^ Andrew Crome, The Restoration of the Jews: Early Modern Hermeneutics, Eschatology, and National Identity in the Works of Thomas Brightman, Page 198
  25. ^ Bryan W. Ball, A Great Expectation: Eschatological Thought in English Protestantism to 1660, page 149
  26. ^ Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution (1993), p. 24; Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, p. 436.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Nov