Cooper JohnCooper John
Cooper John is mentioned by the Rev. S. Palmer, as incumbent of Cheltenham, at the passing of the Act of Uniformity. He was born about the year 1620, and educated at Pembroke College, Oxford. When John Biddle was deprived of the Mastership of the Crypt Free-Grammar School, at Gloucester, on account of his Unitarian sentiments, Mr. Cooper was appointed, by the Magistrates of that city, in their capacity of trustees, to succeed him. After this, Mr. C. became Minister of the parish Church at Cheltenham, from which he was ejected in 1662; and it is a remarkable circumstance, as tending to shew how ineffectual mere human efforts are to impede the progress of divine truth, that he became an active supporter of those very principles, in defence of which Mr. Biddle had been so great a sufferer, and for supporting which he had been deprived of the Mastership of the above School. After Mr. Cooper's ejectment, he was chosen Minister of a Unitarian congregation in Cheltenham, and appears to have held that office for about twenty years, until the time of his decease, which, according to the following memorandum, extracted by Mr. John Goding from an old parochial register, took place in 1682.
"In the yeare of our Lord God, 1682, Rev. John Cooper, Minister of the Unyterian Conventicle of this place, March 18, agt . 62."
He left a daughter, named Mary, who died about the year 1696 or 1697; and whose principles were Unitarian, like those of her father. The Minister, who preached her funeral sermon, commended her to his auditors as a pattern of Christian virtue, however erroneous she might have been in her judgment.
Mr. Cooper was succeeded in the ministerial office of the Unitarian congregation at Cheltenham, by Ralph Taylor, Henry Sturmy, Thomas Macock, et Allan Kear : but whether they exercised that office jointly, or separately, it is difficult to say. They are all described as very serious and diligent, devout and pious, strictly honest, and charitable according to their ability; but not so accomplished in human learning as their predecessor. The names of the subsequent Ministers are not known; but Mr. Goding informs us, that the last was the Rev. John Welles, who died in 1789, and whose name is still remembered. "The edifice wherein these persons proclaimed the great truth, that Jehovah is One and his name One," says Mr. Goding, "has long since been removed. It occupied a portion of the site of the present Mechanics' Institution, and, hke all the primitive edifices of the Nonconformists, was hid from general observation, being only accessible by a narrow arched passage from the main street. From the united testimony of many of the more aged inhabitants, and also of orthodox Ministers, yet surviving, who have preached in it, this building was of a very antiquated appearance, containing a gallery, ornamented with curious old oak carvings, and capable of holding 150 to 200 persons. At the period Mr. Cooper undertook the ministry of this humble edifice, Cheltenham had just recovered from the evil effects of the CivilWars, and contained 1500 inhabitants. After this memorable event, the place gradually declined to a small village, so much so, that there are yet surviving those who boast with pride that they could in the days of their youth name all the then residents of the town. It was at this last-named period that the descendants of the original worshipers, finding their numbers diminished, and in all probability unable to support their Pastor, had recourse to mortgaging their house of prayer. This was, however, their last effort as a society, and at the death of the Minister the place was consigned to the mortgagee, who resided at "Warwick, and for ever closed as a Unitarian chapel."
(Vidend. Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial, Vol. I. p. 532. The Grounds and Occasions of the Controversy concerning the Unity of God, &c, the Methods by which it has been managed, and the Means to compose it: by a Divine of the Church of England. London, 1698, 4to. p. 16. Christian Keformer for 1844, Vol. XL pp. 386—391.)DidierLe Roux
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