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Biographical Sketches of the Lives of the Westminster Divines (1) - William Twisse.

Dr. William Twisse - Prolocutor of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster


Dr. Twisse was born in England in 1578 near the town of Newbury, where later he was to pastor. A man of humble and quiet disposition, he refused many offers of advancement within the Church of England, asking leave instead to abide at the small town of Newbury to attend the flock over which God placed him.

Yet despite his own preferment to live quietly he became well known throughout the whole the Church of Christ by his virtue of his work Vindiciae Gratiae answering Jacobus Arminius's book against William Perkins. At one time even being offered the Professorship of Divinity at the University of Francker, the highest academic post in Denmark. But Dr. Twisse again refused choosing to stay at the small market town of Newbury and feed the poor sheep of Christ.


It is said that piety crowns learning and that is evident in the life of Dr. Twisse. It was his daily custom before both dinner and supper to read a portion out of the holy scriptures, expounding the more difficult passages for the edification of his family: that their souls might be refreshed along with their bodies; that they might see themselves in the mirror of the divine law; that they might become better acquainted with the word of God as their comfort in affliction: and learn to understand the way of His precepts so as to keep them diligently and talk of all His wondrous Works.

He faithfully admonished the people under his pastoral care, to beware of the profanation of the Sabbath, by sports, pastimes and following carnal worldly pleasures: and implored them to remember the sabbath day and to keep it holy. And shrinked not from defending the sanctification of the Sabbath, refusing to read King James I's proclamation called 'The Book of Sports', which permitted the people to engage in certain sports on the Lord's Day. This proclamation was commanded to be read in all the churches with those who refused suspended together with all their benefits. But when the King was informed of Dr Twisse’s refusal, he secretly commanded the bishops not to meddle with him. For the King knew, that Dr. Twisse's fame was so great in all the reformed churches; that nothing can be done against him, but that it would reflect disgrace on those who did it.

An eminently distinguished writer it was once said of him: "The whole scope, and intent of his writings, is to set forth the absolute sovereignty and lordship of God, over all created beings, both angels and men: and to show, that no man in nature's state, with all his acquired abilities, can possibly put fourth one act pleasing to God."

The Westminster Assembly

On calling together the Assembly of Divines at Westminster in 1643 both the Houses of Parliament chose and appointed Dr. Twisse to be their Prolocutor (Chairman). As Prolocutor Dr Twisse preached the first sermon of the Assembly on 1st July 1643, chosing John 14:18 "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." In which he exhorted them faithfully to discharge their high calling to the glory of God and the honour of his church.


Dr. Twisse died on 20th July 1646 and buried at the request of the Assembly in the church of St.Peter, Westminster, here his body lay until the Restoration of King Charles II when in 1661 his bones were dug up and thrown with the bones of others into a hole at the back door of the lodgings in the church yard at St. Margaret's, showing the rage of the enemies of Christ.

But we remember the words of the Catechism produced by the Assembly of which Dr Twisse was Prolocutor concerning the resurrection of the dead: "...the selfsame bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls forever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ. The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up in dishonour by him, as an offended judge."

A detailed sketch of Dr Twisse's life may be found in the Memoirs of the Westminster Divines by James Reid (1811).

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