Tears and Mourning: 17th Century Sermons on Plague & Loss

John Featley (d. 1666) was an Anglican priest and chaplain to the English kings, Charles I and Charles II. During his lifetime, Featley published a number of sermons on tears and mourning in situations of loss and difficulty. These included occasions such as plague, civil war, marriage, old age, etc. His 1665 sermon, “Tears in Time of Pestilence, or A Spiritual Antidote against the Plague,” (where his name is spelled “Featly”) is now available in a modern transcript in two formats:

Featley’s Plague Sermon: html
Featley’s Plague Sermon: pdf

A 649-page book of the entire collection of Featley’s texts, first published in 1646 and then again posthumously in 1683, A Fountain of Tears, is available as a Google book online. The plague sermon is on pp. 291-377 in that text. Below is the text of Featley’s biography from the online Dictionary of National Biography:

FEATLEY or FAIRCLOUGH, JOHN (1605?–1666), divine, son of John Fairclough, the elder brother of Daniel Featley [q. v.], was born in Northamptonshire in or about 1605. He was admitted either clerk or chorister at All Souls’ College, Oxford, and took his B.A. degree on 25 Feb. 1624 (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 414). After being ordained he proceeded, as he tells us, to ‘Saint Christophers in the Western Indies, where I had the honor to be the first preacher of the Gospel in the infancy of that Mother-Colony in the year 1626’ (Featlæi Παλιγγενεσία, pt. ii. p. 38). During 1635 and 1636 he was curate to his uncle at Lambeth, and probably at Acton. In 1639 he was made chaplain to Charles I, ‘at Hurtly Fields in the first Scottish expedition’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 226). When the king’s cause had declined he was persuaded by his uncle to again withdraw to St. Christopher’s, for which he sailed with his wife, children, and servants from Tilbury Hope on 24 June 1643 (Featlæi Παλιγγενεσία, pt. ii. p. 39). On 17 April 1646 he writes from his house at Flushing, Holland. After the Restoration he was appointed on 29 June 1660 chaplain extraordinary to the king, who presented him on 13 Aug. to the precentorship of Lincoln (Le Neve, Fasti, ed. Hardy, ii. 86), and in September following to the prebend of Melton Ross with Scamlesby in the same cathedral (ib. ii. 204). In 1661 he appears as rector of Langar, Nottinghamshire, having in the previous year petitioned for the rectory of Beckingham, Lincolnshire (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, pp. 226, 601). By the dean and chapter of Lincoln he was afterwards instituted to the vicarage of Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire. On 7 June 1661 he was created by royal mandamus D.D. at Oxford (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 256). He died at Lincoln in 1666, and was buried in a chapel in the cathedral. He published two if not more of his uncle’s tracts, together with his life, and was himself author of: 1. ‘Sermon to the West India Company [on Joshua i. 9],’ 4to, London, 1629. 2. ‘Obedience and Submission. A Sermon [on Heb. xiii. 17] preached … 8 Dec. 1635,’ 4to, London, 1636. 3. ‘A Fountain of Teares emptying itselfe into three rivelets, viz., of (1) Compunction. (2) Compassion. (3) Devotion,’ 12mo, Amsterdam, 1646; another edition, 12mo, London, 1683. His portrait, a small head, appears on the engraved title of the first edition of this manual.

[Wood’s Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 729–31; Cox’s Magna Britannia, iii. 587; Nichols’s Bibliotheca, vol. x. No. 5, p. 337 n. (Denne’s Addenda); Chalmers’s Biog. Dict. xiv. 168; Granger’s Biog. Hist. of England, 2nd ed. ii. 190.]

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