Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Synodicon in Gallia Reformata

Like a kid in a candy store, I am pleased to report that Google Books has recently digitized and made available from the University of Lausanne a rare book by an English Puritan that is a treasure for students of French Huguenot history. The title is worth citing in full:

Synodicon In Gallia Reformata: or the Acts, Decisions, Decrees, and Canons of those famous National Councils of the Reformed Churches in France. Being I. A most faithful and impartial history of the rise, growth, perfection and decay of the Reformation in that kingdom, with its fatal catastrophe upon the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in the year 1685. II. The Confession of Faith and Discipline of those Churches. III. A Collection of Speeches, Letters, Sacred Politics, Cases of Conscience, and Controversies in Divinity, determined and resolved by those grave Assemblies. IV. Many excellent Expedients for preventing and healing Schisms in the Churches, and for re-uniting the dismembered Body of divided Protestants. V. The Laws, Government, and Maintenance of their Colleges, Universities and Ministers, together with their Exercise of Discipline upon delinquent Ministers and Church-members. VI. A record of very many illustrious events of divine providence relating to those churches. The whole collected and composed out of original manuscript acts of those renowned Synods. A work never before extant in any language. In Two Volumes. By John Quick, Minister of the Gospel in London (1692)

Volume 1
Volume 2

For background on the author, here is a helpful extract from an article by Alan Clifford.

Alan C. Clifford, "Reformed Pastoral Theology Under the Cross: John Quick and Claude Brousson," WRS Journal 5/1 (February 1998) 21-35:

The author of these fascinating folios was a little-known Presbyterian minister from the west of England. John Quick2 was born at Plymouth in 1636. After graduating at Oxford in 1657 he was ordained at Ermington in Devon in 1659. Along with his illustrious Puritan brethren—a more famous contemporary John Flavel (1628-91) ministered at nearby Dartmouth—Quick exercised a faithful and courageous ministry. He served at Kingsbridge with Churchstow and then at Brixton near Plymouth.

Undeterred by the Act of Uniformity (1662), he continued to preach. He was arrested during the Lord’s Day morning worship on 13 December 1663 and imprisoned at Exeter. At his trial, he was nearly acquitted on a technicality. However, since he refused to give up preaching, he was sent to prison. After suffering for a further eight weeks, he was liberated by Sir Matthew Hale. The Bishop of Exeter, Seth Ward, then prosecuted Quick for preaching to the prisoners but the Lord’s servant was acquitted, his unashamed ‘guilt’ notwithstanding!

Charles II’s Indulgence of 1672 brought a brief respite for the persecuted Puritan brotherhood. Quick was licensed to preach at Plymouth. When restrictions were imposed again the following year, he was imprisoned for three months with other nonconformists at the Marshalsea prison in Plymouth. On his release, Quick left the west of England for London. He then traveled to Holland where he became a minister to the English church at Middleburg in 1679. Returning to London two years later, Quick gathered a Presbyterian congregation in a small meeting house in Middlesex Court, Bartholomew Close, Smithfield. On the eve of easier times, his London ministry—“successful to the conversion of many,” says Dr. Edmund Calamy3—was relatively undisturbed; the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and the Toleration Act of 1688-89 eventually brought persecution to an end. Known as “a serious, good preacher” with a “great facility and freedom in prayer,”4 John Quick continued to serve his people faithfully until his death on 29 April 1706. His wife Elizabeth died in 1708. Their only daughter became the wife of Dr. John Evans (1680?-1730) who completed the commentary on the Epistle to the Romans in Matthew Henry’s immortal Exposition.5

Consistent with his personal courage and pastoral gifts, John Quick combined scholarship with zeal for the truth. The blending of these qualities explains his authorship of the Synodicon in Gallia Reformata. During his early ministry and subsequently, he became acquainted with the Huguenot refugees, some of whom landed at his native Plymouth from La Rochelle in 1681—the year the dreadful “dragonnades” began. Accordingly, writes Calamy, Quick “was very compassionate to those in distress; at a great deal of pains and expense for the relief of the poor French Protestants, and his house and purse were almost ever open to them. He was a perfect master of their language, and had a peculiar respect for their churches, upon the account of their sound doctrine and useful discipline, and the noble testimony which they bore to religion by their sufferings.”6

Quick’s interest in the Huguenots did not end with the Synodicon. Besides a few published sermons of his own, he also prepared for publication a selection of fifty brief biographies of eminent pastors, theologians, and martyrs of the French Reformed Church, the Icones Sacrae Gallicanae.7 He also produced a similar selection of twenty Puritans, the Icones Sacrae Anglicanae.8 These ambitious ventures failed with the death in 1700 of William Russell, Duke of Bedford (the dedicatee of the Synodicon) who had offered to assist with the cost. Advancing illness also prevented Quick from collecting subscriptions for the work.9 Following the author’s death, the manuscript volumes were eventually deposited at Dr. Williams’ Library in London.10

2 For Quick, see Dictionary of National Biography (London, 1885-1900).
3 An Account of the Ministers...Ejected or Silenced after the Restoration in 1660, 2nd edition (London, 1713), ii. 333.
4 Ibid. 333.
5 J. B. Williams, Memoirs of..the Revd. Matthew Henry (London, 1828; fac. rep. Edinburgh, 1974), 308.
6 Calamy, op. cit., 333-4. “He was...exceeding compassionate to the distressed and laid out his pains and estate too very largely, especially to the banished French, for which nation he had a peculiar respect on the account of their sound doctrine, gospel-discipline, fixed adherence to Christ, and the kindness he had found among them in former times...” (Daniel Williams, A Funeral Sermon... of the Reverend Mr John Quick [London, 1706], p. 36).
7 For the complete list, see Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, 2 (London, 1887-88), 257-9.
8 See A. H. Drysdale, History of the Presbyterians in England (London, 1889), 468. In June 1694, Quick approached Matthew Henry for biographical material for his project. In a letter to his “venerable father,” dated 26 June, Henry wrote: “Last Friday, Mr Quick, of London, Minister, author of the Synodicon, came to my house, recommended to me by Sir Henry Ashurst. He tells me he hath now under hand a book which he calls Icones, intending an account of the lives of eminent ministers, our own and foreigners, never yet written: he casts for four volumes in folio, and obligeth me to furnish him with what memoirs I can get concerning any in this country. I refer further talk of it till I can see you” (J. B.Williams, op. cit. 238).
9 See “Translated Abstracts from the Act Book of the Consistory of the Threadneedle Street [French] Church, 1693-1708,” entry for 6 March 1702-3: “M. Quick returned the 25s paid him as subscription for the book called Icones which he proposed to give to the public, his indisposition compelling him to refrain from printing it” (Proceedings 7 [1901-4], 40.)
10 Due to the decayed condition of the originals, a two-volume 19th century transcription of the Icones is accessible to readers at the library. The transcriber was the Revd Hugh Hutton, MA (d. 1871), minister of Churchgate Street Presbyterian Church, Bury St Edmunds (see John Browne, History of Congregationalism...in Norfolk and Suffolk [London, 1877], 421). The work occupied 3 years (1862-5) for which the princely sum of £150 was paid. I am grateful to the Librarian, Mr John Creasey for permission to quote from the Quick MSS, DWL 6:38-39 (50), hereafter given as ISG.


  1. Dear brother Andrew Myers,

    Thank you for citing my work on John Quick and his Synodicon in Gallia Reformata.

    Currently visiting our daughter & family in Jacksonville, FL, I have been thrilled to discover a lot of info on the courageous Florida Huguenots. What astonishing events, 60 years before the Pilgrim Fathers landed in New England! We've been to Fort Caroline and Matanzas Beach where Jean Ribault and many of his Huguenot sailors were martyred by the brutal Spanish Catholics in September, 1565.

    We live in East Anglia, which has significant historical links with the USA. Hingham, Massachusetts was named after Hingham, Norfolk (7 miles from our home). A party of puritan pilgrims led by Robert Peck included President Abraham Lincoln's ancestor Samuel Lincoln. They left 'old England' in 1637.

    Then, during WWII, bombers and fighters of the USAAF flew from local bases against Nazi Germany. There's a sense in which the 'sons of the Puritans' returned to help us in our hour of need.

    As pastor of Norwich Reformed Church, I am also interested in the Huguenot link. At the time Jean Ribault landed in Florida on 1 May 1562, other persecuted Huguenots were taking refuge in Norwich and elsewhere in England.

    Last year, I published a book 'Calvin Celebrated: the Genevan Reformer and His Huguenot Sons' (Charenton Reformed Publishing, 2009).

    It'll be good to hear from you. We fly back to the UK on Thursday, 9 December.

    God bless you in your witness and ministry!

    Yours in Christ,

    Dr Alan C. Clifford


  2. Dear Dr. Clifford,

    Thanks you so much for your note. I have appreciated your writings on the Huguenots very much. It is interesting that you are writing from Jacksonville -- I am a student of the French Huguenot history of Florida, and have been writing a book on that sad but noble chapter of history for some years.

    I wish you safe travels, and God's many blessings.

    Yours in Christ,