BIDDLE, JOHN: A founder of modern English Unitarianism; b. at Wotton-under-Edge (15 m. s. of Gloucester), where he was baptized Jan. 14, 1615; d. in a London jail Sept. 22, 1662. He was educated at Oxford, and appointed head master of the free school in the parish of St. Mary le Crypt, Gloucester, 1641. Study of the Scriptures led him to disbelieve the doctrine of the Trinity, and, his unsoundness being reported to the city magistrates, he was summoned before them. Fearing imprisonment, he made a confession of faith (May 2, 1644) which was not satisfactory, and so he made a second in which he used more conventional language and was allowed to go free. He then committed to paper Twelve Arguments Drawn out of Scripture: wherein the commonly received opinion touching the Deity of the Holy Spirit is clearly and fully refuted, and to these views he was faithful the rest of his life. A friend informed the magistrates of the existence of this paper and so he was cited before the committee of Parliament then at Gloucester, and put in the common jail Dec. 2, 1645. Happily a prominent citizen bailed him out. In 1646 he was summoned to appear before Parliament at Westminster to explain his position, and boldly avowed his belief. He was committed to the custody of one of the officers of the House of Commons and so continued for five years. Meanwhile a committee of the Assembly of Divines sitting at Westminster considered his case and to them he gave a copy of his Twelve Arguments. They made answer to it, but did not move him. So in 1647 he published his paper, which makes a tract of thirty-eight small pages. It stirred up great indignation and was suppressed and burned by the common hangman. Next he published A Confession of Faith Touching the Holy Trinity, according to the Scripture (1648), a tract of seventy-five small pages, in which in six articles, accompanied by
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The principal source of information respecting Biddle is the Life by Joshua Toulmin, London, 1789, which analyzes all his writings, including several translations, not mentioned above. There are earlier accounts, such as J. Bidelli Vita, by J. Farrington, ib. 1682, and A Short Account of the Life of John Biddle, ib. 1691. Consult also A. ŗ Wood, Athenú Oxonienses, ed. P. P. Bliss, iii, 593-603, 4 vols., ib. 1813-20; J. H. Allen, Historical Sketch of the Unitarian Movement, pp. 131-135, New York, 1894; DNB, v, 13-16. Some additional information is in Walter Lloyd's Bicentenary of Barton Street Dissenting Meeting House, Gloucester, pp. 40-50, Gloucester, 1899.
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