Isaac Ambrose

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Isaac Ambrose.

Isaac Ambrose (1604 - January 20, 1663/1664) was an English Puritan divine, the son of Richard Ambrose, vicar of Ormskirk, and was probably descended from the Ambroses of Lowick in Furness, a well-known Roman Catholic family.

He entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1621, in his seventeenth year. Having graduated B.A. in 1624 and been ordained, he received in 1627 the little cure of Castleton in Derbyshire. By the influence of William Russell, earl of Bedford, he was appointed one of the king's itinerant preachers in Lancashire, and after living for a time in Garstang, he was selected by the Lady Margaret Hoghton as vicar of Preston. He associated himself with Presbyterianism, and was on the celebrated committee for the ejection of "scandalous and ignorant ministers and schoolmasters" during the Commonwealth.

So long as Ambrose continued at Preston he was favoured with the warm friendship of the Hoghton family, their ancestral woods and the tower near Blackburn affording him sequestered places for those devout meditations and "experiences" that give such a charm to his diary, portions of which are quoted in his Prima Media and Ultima (1650, 1659). The immense auditory of his sermon (Redeeming the Time) at the funeral of Lady Hoghton was long a living tradition all over the county. On account of the feeling engendered by the civil war Ambrose left his great church of Preston in 1654, and became minister of Garstang, whence, however, in 1662 he was ejected with the two thousand ministers who refused to conform. His after years were passed among old friends and in quiet meditation at Preston. He died of apoplexy about 20 January 1663/4.

As a religious writer Ambrose has a vividness and freshness of imagination possessed by scarcely any of the Puritan Nonconformists. Many who have no love for Puritan doctrine, nor sympathy with Puritan experience, have appreciated the pathos and beauty of his writings, and his Looking to Jesus long held its own in popular appreciation with the writings of John Bunyan.

Dr Edmund Calamy (1600-1666) wrote about him, ”He lived & died a Nonconformist and was a man of that substantial worth, that eminent piety, and that exemplary life, both as a minister and a Christian,that it is to be lamented the world should not have the benefit of particular memoirs concerning him from some able hand” Dr Calamy adds, “One thing that was peculiar in him deserveth to be mentioned here; it was his usual custom once in a year, for the space of a month, to retire into a little hut in a wood, and avoiding all human converse, to devote himself to contemplation. Possibly by this practice he was fitter for his sacred ministration all the rest of the year. He lived in the latter part of his life at Preston and when his end drew near was very sensible of it. Having taken leave of his friends abroad with unusual solemnity, as if he foresaw that he should see them no more, he came home to Preston from Bolton, and set all things on order. In a little time some of his hearers from Garstang came to visit him.He discoursed freely with them, gave them good counsel, told them he was now ready whenever his Lord should call, and that he had finished all he designed to write; having the night before sent away his discourse concerning angels to the press. He accompanied his friends to their horses, and when he came back shut himself in his parlour, the place of his soliloquy, meditation, and prayer; they thought he stayed long, and so opened the door, and found him just expiring. This was in the year 1663-4,cetat. 72. He was holy in his life, happy in his death, and honoured by GOD,and all good men” (This quote by Dr Calamy is quoted in the opening pages of the Isaac Ambrose book "Prima, Media Et Ultima") (1)

References

(1) Prima, Media, Et Ultima, or the First, Middle and Last Things" by Isaac Ambrose