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Robert Hart, of Swaffham Prior, in Cambridgeshire, who, (according to tradition preserved in the family,) was converted in a wood near Burwell, under the preaching of Mr. Francis Holcroft,* one of the ejected ministers. Mr. Holcroft was imprisoned in Cambridge Castle, (1663) by Sir Thomas Chickley, for preaching at Great Eversden. His first confinement lasted nine years; but the jailer suffered him sometimes to go out by night, to preach at Kingstone, and in this wood. Mr. Hart was afterwards a member of the church at Isleham.
His maternal grandfather was Andrew Gunton, of Soham, whose wife was Philippa Stevenson. She was first a member of the Independent church at Burwell, and afterwards of the Baptist church at Soham, at it's first formation, under the pastoral care of Mr. John Eve. Her father was named Friend Stevenson, who lived at Soham; his wife was named Mary. She was remarkable for piety, and was buried in the meeting-house at Bur.well. Her parents
were John and Joan Malden, who lived at Soham in the reign of Charles II. when they were objects of ridicule
. He was Fellow of Clare-hall, before his ejeetment. He had been a pupil of Mr. David Clarkson, and chamberfellow with Dr. Tillotson, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, from whom he experienced great kindness under troubles
and persecution, on account of their nonconformity. They were friends of Mr. Holcroft and Mr. Oddy, and were buried near them, in a piece of ground, which the former purchased for a burying ground, at Oakington, a village three or four miles north of Cambridge. These two zealous nonconformists were the founders of almost all the dissenting churches about Cambridgeshire.
Thus John and Joan Malden were the parents of Mary, the wife of Friend Stevenson; and they were the parents of Philippa, the wife of Andrew Gunton; whose daughter, 'named also Philippa after her mother, married Robert Fuller the younger, of Wicken, and became the mother of the Rev. Andrew Fuller.
And Robert Hart, of Swaffham Prior, was the father of Honour Hart, who married Robert Fuller the elder, of Wicken, whose son Robert was our Mr. Fuller's father.
Of Mr. Fuller's first religious impressions, he himself wrote an account, to his much respected friend Dr. C. Stuart of Edinburgh, in five letters, the first two of which were inserted in the Evangelical Magazine, 1798; but without any hint of the person to whom they referred.t
• See Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial, Vol. 1. pp. 202 and 216. First Edition.
+ See pp. 276 and 316.
He also sent a similar detail more lately to a friend at Liverpool, with a few variations of expression.
I wish as much as possible to let my dear departed Brother be his own bingrapher, and shall therefore insert the narrative as given by himself. Possibly some sincere Christian may be puzzled on first reading the former letter, but it is better such a one should be subjected to temporary pain, in learning to distinguish between genuine and false religion ; than that others should be left to deceive themselves, who mistake counterfeit experience for the true work of the Holy Spirit. Close examination will soon lead to discern the essential difference, and a good hope will stand firmer if both feet are placed on the rock alone, than if one rested partly on a quicksand.
Kettering, 1798. My dear Friend, You request the particulars of that change of which I was the subject near thirty years ago. You need not be told that the religious experience of fallible creatures, like every thing else that attends them, must needs be marked with imperfection, and that the account that can be given of it on paper, after a lapse of wany years, must be so in a still greater degree. I am willing however to comply with your request; and the rather, because it may serve: to recal some things which in passing over the mind, produce interesting and useful sensations, both of pain and pleasure.
“My father and mother were Dissenters, of the Calvinistic persuasion, who were in the habit of hearing Mr. Eve, a Baptist minister, who being what is here termed high in his sentiments, or tinged with false Calvinism, had little or nothing to say to the unconverted. I therefore never considered myself as any way concerned in what I heard from the pulpit. Nevertheless by reading and reflection I was sometimes strongly impressed in a way of conviction, My parents were engaged in husbandry, which occupation therefore, I followed to the twentieth year of my age. I remember many of the sins of my childhood, among which were lying, cursing, and swearing. It is true, as to the latter, it never became habitual. I had a dread upon my spirits to such a degree, that when I uttered an oath or an imprecation, it was by a kind of force put upon my feelings, and merely to appear manly, like other boys with whom I associated. This being the case, when I came to be about ten years old, I entirely left it off, except that I sometimes dealt in a sort of minced oaths and imprecations , when iny passions were inflamed::
“In the practice of telling lies I continued some years longer; at length however I began to consider this as a mean vice, and accordingly left it off, except in cases where I was under some pressing temptation.
“I think I must have been nearly fourteen years old, before I began to have much serious thought about futurity. The preaching upon which I attended was not adapted to awaken my conscience, as the minister had seldom any thing to say except to believers, and what believing was I neither knew, nor was I greatly concerned to know. I remember about this time, as I was walking alone, I put the question to myself, What is faith? there is much made of it, What is it? I could not tell, but satisfied myself in thinking it was not of immediate concern, and I should understand it as I grew older.*
* About this time an incident took place, which Mr. F. mentioned to me many years ago.
Being sent by his father to do some business in the pastures, he perceived a hawk's nest on one of the trees. He climbed the tree, and found two young hawks, with which he was greatly pleased. Having to perform his business in the pasture, he tied the birds to a bush, and went to work. Soon after, on going to the place, he found they had made their escape.
In the midst of his concern, he thought of those words—If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove thence to yonder place, and it shall remove." Now, thought