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Edmund Calamy

Edmund Calamy (February 1600 – 29 October 1666) was an English Presbyterian church leader and divine. Known as "the elder", he was the first of four generations of nonconformist ministers bearing the same name.

Early life

The Calamy family claimed to be of Huguenot descent. Edmund Calamy was born in the parish of St Thomas the Apostle, London, and educated at Merchant Taylors' School and then Pembroke College, Cambridge,[1] where his opposition to Arminianism excluded him from a fellowship. Nicholas Felton, Bishop of Ely, nevertheless made him his chaplain, and gave him the living of St Mary, Swaffham Prior in East Cambridgeshire, which he held till 1626.[2]

He then moved to Bury St Edmunds, where he lectured for ten years; the later Congregationalist Jeremiah Burroughs was another preacher in the town.[3] He retired when his bishop Matthew Wren insisted on the observance of certain ceremonial articles: Calamy refused to read out the Book of Sports in his church.[4] In 1636 he was appointed rector (or perhaps only lecturer) of Rochford in Essex, but had to leave for the sake of his health. In 1639 he was elected to the perpetual curacy of St Mary Aldermanbury in London, where he had a large following.[2]

Presbyterian activist

At the opening of the Long Parliament he distinguished himself in defence of the Presbyterian polity, in contributing to the joint conciliatory work known as Smectymnuus. It argued against Bishop Joseph Hall's presentation of episcopacy, while articulating the Presbyterian positions. The initials of the names of the contributors formed the name under which it was published, viz., Stephen Marshall (SM), Edmund Calamy (EC), Thomas Young (TY), Matthew Newcomen (MN), and William Spurstow (WS, then often written VVS equivalent to UUS).[2] These were clerical leaders of the Presbyterian movement within the Church of England. At the same period Calamy was an influential evangelical preacher, calling in December 1641 for a preaching ministry throughout England.[5]

Calamy was an active member in the Westminster Assembly of divines, set up in 1643.[2] In that year he edited the Souldier's Pocket Bible, a popular Biblical anthology designed for the Parliamentarian military forces.[6]

The Smectymnuans were against religious tolerance and Calamy strongly advocated checking independent religious thinkers in 1644, attracting allies such as Lazarus Seaman.[7] Refusing to advance to Congregationalism, he found within Presbyterianism a middle course which best suited his views of theology and church government.[2] Calamy belonged to the hypothetical universalist group in the Assembly, those influenced by John Davenant or his reading of the Synod of Dort. Richard Baxter reported that Calamy, Lazarus, Richard Vines and John Arrowsmith were not hostile to universal redemption.[8]

In 1647 he worked on the Assembly's Catechism.[9] In 1648 he was preaching at St Benet Fink, to find an adversarial atmosphere in which the Baptist Edward Barber had been invited to contradict him.[10]

He opposed the execution of King Charles I, and lived quietly under the Commonwealth.[2] Asked for advice by Oliver Cromwell on the dissolution of the Rump Parliament and the establishment of a Protectorate, he replied that nine out of ten would oppose it.[11]

After the Restoration

He was assiduous in promoting the return of Charles II of England, travelling to the Netherlands as one of the negotiators.[6] After the Restoration in 1660 he was offered the bishopric of Coventry and Lichfield, but declined it.[2] Presbyterians had warned him that his reputation and honour would suffer if he accepted, and he tried to co-ordinate a refusal with Richard Baxter, in the same position.[12]

He was made one of Charles's chaplains, and vainly tried to secure the legal ratification of Charles's declaration of 25 October 1660. He was ejected for Nonconformity in the Great Ejection of 1662, and was so affected by the sight of the devastation caused by the Great Fire of London that he died shortly afterwards. He was buried in the ruins of his church, near the place where the pulpit had stood.[2]


His publications are almost entirely sermons.[13]

Calamy the Younger

His eldest son was also called Edmund Calamy, known as "the Younger". Calamy the Younger followed a religious path similar to his father's, and lost the rectory of Moreton, Essex in the Great Ejection of 1662. He was of a retiring disposition and moderate views, and died in 1685. He was the father of the historian Edmund Calamy.[14]


  1. ^ "Calamy, Edmund (CLMY616E)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Chisholm 1911.
  3. ^ McMahon, C. Matthew. "Memoirs of the Puritans: Edmund Calamy". A Puritan's Mind. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2008.
  4. ^ "Reformation and Civil War 1539-1699". St Edmundsbury Borough Council. Archived from the original on 7 August 2009.
  5. ^ Hill, Christopher (1975) [1974]. Change and Continuity in 17th Century England (2nd printing ed.). Harvard University Press. p. 25. ISBN 9780674107656.
  6. ^ a b "Calamy". Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Calvin College. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  7. ^ "The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 by David Masson - Full Text Free Book (Part 4/13)".
  8. ^ Clifford, Alan C. (1990). Atonement and Justification: English Evangelical Theology, 1640–1790 : An Evaluation. Clarendon Press. p. 26. ISBN 9780198261957.
  9. ^ Duncan, Ligon. "Four Studies of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647)". First Presbyterian Church (Jackson, Mississippi). Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2008.
  10. ^ Hill, Christopher (1972). The World Turned Upside Down. Viking. p. 105. ISBN 9780670789757.
  11. ^ Hill, Christopher (1984). The Experience of Defeat. Viking. p. 182. ISBN 9780670302086.
  12. ^ Lamont, William M. (1979). Richard Baxter and the Millennium. Croom Helm. p. 233. ISBN 9780856649998.
  13. ^ "Online Books by Edmund Calamy". The Online Books Page. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  14. ^ Gordon, Alexander (1886). "Calamy, Edmund (1635?-1685)" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 08. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 230–231.

Further reading

  • Richard L. Greaves, Saints and Rebels: Seven Nonconformists in Stuart England (1985), pp. 9–62

Further reading

  • Achinstein, Sharon (2004). "Calamy, Edmund (1600–1666)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.

1893 text

Edmund Calamy, D.D., the celebrated Nonconformist divine, born February, 1600, appointed Chaplain to Charles II., 1660. He refused the bishopric of Lichfield which was offered to him. Died October 29th, 1666.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

6 Annotations

First Reading

Elliot Vernon  •  Link

The entry is in fact incorrect. Edmund Calamy the elder was not a DD but rather a BD. The honour of DD was given to his grandson, the famous memorialist of ejected puritans.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

He opposed the infamous murder of his Sovereign King Charles I, with constancy and courage. Under the usurpation of Cromwell, he was passive and lived as privately as he could, yet he gave no reason to suspect, that he was at all a well wisher to that government, when the times afforded a favourable opportunity, he neglected not the promoting the return of King Charles II, and actually preached before the House of Commons on the day they voted that great question, which, however, has not hindered some from suggesting their suspicions of his Loyalty. After this step was taken, he together with Mr Ash and other eminent Divines, were sent over to compliment the King in Holland, by whom they were extremely well received. When His Majesty was restored, Mr Calamy retained still a considerable share in his favour, and in June 1660, was appointed one of his Chaplains in Ordinary, and was offered the Bishoprick of Coventry and Litchfield, which he refused.
---Biographia Britannica. 1748.

Bill  •  Link

On his majesty's return, he appointed Mr. Calamy one of his chaplains; the duty of which office, owing to prevailing animosities, he performed, it is generally said, no more than once but Pepys in his 'Diary,' June 6, 1660, notes that "his letters tell him that Mr Calamy had preached before the king in a surplice:" he indeed adds a note, "this I heard afterwards to be false," but he appears to mean the use of the surplice. It is certain that Calamy preached once subsequently. Pepys notes under August 12, 1660, "(Lords Day) To White Hall Chapel, where Mr Calamy preached and made a good sermon upon these words, 'To whom much is given, of him much is required.' He was very officious with his three reverences to the king as others do." It is evident that the king's Presbyterian chaplain was closely watched; but it appears also evident, judging from his text, that if he was ready to pay all the usual marks of reverence to his majesty, he was not disposed to shrink from reminding him of the duties as well as the privileges which his exalted position devolved upon him. Besides his chaplaincy, Calamy was offered the bishopric of Lichfield and Coventry, which it is thought he would have accepted, if he could have subscribed to the terms of the king's declaration. His moderation was such, that he appeared only desirous of removing those restrictions which affected the Presbyterian clergy, accompanied with such reforms in the services of the church as would have allowed a conscientious performance of their pastoral duties. But finding the temper of the high Church party set upon their rejection by acts of further restraint and intolerance, he seized upon the opportunity of the passing of the Act of Uniformity to resign his living. Being well received at court, his friends recommended him to petition for an indulgence; but his request was fruitless. He did not, like some of the other ejected ministers, attempt to assemble a congregation elsewhere, but still continued to attend the church in which he had so long officiated. On one of these occasions, when no clergyman attended, some of his friends requested him to preach. After some hesitation he ascended the desk, from which it had always been his custom to deliver his discourses, and preached upon the concern of old Eli for the ark of God, into which he introduced some matter that touched upon recent events; which being deemed seditious, he was committed to Newgate, where he lay, until the outcry raised by his friends induced the king to order his liberation. He lived to see London in ashes; which event had such an effect upon his nerves, that he survived the melancholy spectacle little more than a month. He died October 29, 1666.
---Biography: Or, Third Division of "The English Encyclopedia", Volume 2. 1868

Bill  •  Link

CALAMY, EDMUND, the elder (1600-1666), puritan; B.A. Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, 1619; known as a Calvinist; B.D., 1632; vicar of St. Mary's, Swaffham, Cambridge; lecturer at Bury St. Edmunds, 1627?-36, retiring when the bishop insisted on observance of church ceremonies; lecturer at Rochford, Essex; incumbent of St. Mary's, Aldermanbury, 1639-62; one of the authors of 'Smectymnuus,' written against Bishop Joseph Hall's claim of divine right for episcopacy; member of Westminster Assembly, 1643; presbyterian and intolerant of Congregationalism; opposed Charles I's trial and execution; advocated the Restoration; compelled by his wife to refuse the see of Lichfield and Coventry; member of Savoy conference, 1661; ejected, 1662; imprisoned for unlicensed preaching, 1663; published sermons.

His son:
CALAMY, EDMUND, the younger (1635?-1685), puritan; eldest son of Edmund Calamy the elder; educated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 1652-6, and at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, 1656; M.A., 1658; ordained presbyterian minister, 1653; intruded rector of Moreton, Essex, 1659-62; withdrew to London; preached in private houses; opened meeting-house, 1672.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Wkipedia page for St. Mary's Aldermanbury, where Edmund Calamy the Elder was the rector from 1639 - 1662, is interesting. A few highlights about some 17th century people:

St. Mary Aldermanbury was a parish church in the City of London first mentioned in 1181 and destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. …

The footprint of the church remains at the junction of London's Aldermanbury and Love Lane … The gardens also house a monument to Henry Condell and John Heminges, key figures in the production of the First Folio of William Shakespeare's plays and co-partners with him in the Globe Theatre. Condell and Heminges lived in the St. Mary Aldermanbury parish and were buried in its churchyard. …

Notable burials in the church included the notorious "hanging judge" Judge Jeffreys.
Of the interment of Judge Jeffreys, Leigh Hunt wrote:
"Jeffreys was taken on the 12th of September, 1688. He was first interred privately in the Tower; but three years afterwards, when his memory was something blown over, his friends obtained permission, by a warrant of the queen's dated September 1692, to take his remains under their own care, and he was accordingly reinterred in a vault under the communion table of St. Mary, Aldermanbury, 2nd Nov. 1694. …

Also buried in the church were:
• Edmund Calamy the Elder, Presbyterian minister, who was the perpetual curate of St. Mary Aldermanbury 1639–1662.
• Edmund Calamy the Younger, a preacher removed by the Great Ejection
• Edmund Calamy III, historian and Presbyterian minister
• Edmund Calamy IV, his son, dissenting minister
• Henry Condell, actor, member of the King's Men
• Thomas Digges, astronomer who is believed to have been the first person to postulate in print that the universe is infinite
• John Heminges, actor, member of the King's Men
• James Janeway, Puritan author and minister

• In 1656 the poet John Milton married his second wife, Elizabeth Woodcock, at St. Mary's.

St. Mary's was destroyed in WWII and rebuilt at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, as a memorial to Winston Churchill, who made his Sinews of Peace, "Iron Curtain" speech in the Westminster College Gymnasium in 1946.

For pictures and more info, see…

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