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Nehemiah Coxe

Petty France, London

Nehemiah Coxe was the son of the early Particular Baptist leader Benjamin Coxe. In 1669, he joined the Bedford church made famous by John Bunyan, and in 1673 was called to serve as pastor of the church’s sub-congregation at Hitchin. In 1674, he was censured by the Bedford church for certain “miscarriages”. It may be that Coxe’s words and practices were related to the issue of open or closed membership, so hotly debated at the time. Benjamin Coxe clearly advocates a closed membership position in his published writings, while the Bedford church, and especially Bunyan, resisted such a notion with great vigor. Could Nehemiah have been advocating such views, which the Bedford people would view as having a tendency to make rents and divisions in the congregation? His appearance at the closed membership Petty France church so soon after this could help to explain the situation.

Coxe was a qualified physician, skilled in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and a discerning theologian. When the West Country evangelist Thomas Collier began to deviate from the Calvinistic Orthodoxy of the London Churches, the elders in London asked Coxe to reply in print to Collier’s views. He did this in his 1677 work Vindiciae Veritatis, or a Confutation of the Heresies and Gross Errours Asserted by Thomas Collier. In a brief epistle at the beginning of the work, they address the issue of Coxe’s “inferiority in years”, stating that he did not write the book out of a sense of personal ability, but at their request, because “we did judge him meet and of ability for the work” and because his responsibilities at the time provided him with the opportunity to answer Collier’s errors. They say of this work, “we hope, we may truly say, without particular respect to his Person, he hath behaved himself with that modesty of Spirit, joined with that fulness and clearness of answer and strength of argument, that we comfortably conceive (by God’s blessing) it may prove a good and soveraign Antidote against the poison”. The book is a very powerful expression of Reformed doctrine. In 1681, during a period of persecution, Coxe published A Sermon Preached at the Ordination of an Elder and Deacons in a Baptized Congregation in London. This is a helpful summary of the roles and responsibilities of elders and deacons. Also in 1681, Coxe published A Discourse of the Covenants that God made with Men before the Law. Coxe’s contemporary C.M. du Veil, in his 1685 Commentary on Acts, called Coxe “that great divine, eminent for all manner of learning”, and referred to the “excellent” book A Discourse of the Covenants as full of “most weighty and solid arguments.”

It is clear that Nehemiah Coxe was held in high regard by his brethren, and would thus have been well equipped to serve as an editor of the Confession of Faith (see Documentary Sources and Origins of the Confession). He died in 1688, prior to the General Assembly of 1689, leaving behind one son.

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