Praise-God Barebone

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Praise-God Barebone (said to have been christened Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone[1] or Barbon; c. 1598 – 1679) was an English leather-seller, preacher and Fifth Monarchist. He is best known for giving his name to the Barebone's Parliament of the English Commonwealth of 1653.


Early life

Barebone's place of birth is unknown. The first that is known about him is that he became a freeman of the Leathersellers Company in January 1623, having served an eight- or nine-year apprenticeship. He was elected a warden of the yeomanry of the leather-sellers in 1630, and a liveryman in 1634. In 1630 he married his wife Sarah, with whom he would have at least one son, Nicholas Barbon.[2]


By 1632, Barebone had joined the semi-separatist congregation founded in 1616 by Henry Jacob, later to be led by John Lathrop and then, from 1637, by Henry Jessey. By December 1641 he had begun preaching to audiences at his premises at the Lock and Key, at the lower end of Fleet Street near Fetter Lane. On 19 December of that year, his sermon against bishops and the Book of Common Prayer attracted hostile attention from apprentices, who smashed the premises's windows. Some of Barebone's congregation were taken to the Bridewell prison, others to the Counters, and still others made their escape over the roof-tops, while the crowd was left to destroy his shop-sign.[2]

The following month more than fifty people, including many members or former members of Jessey's church, were rebaptised by immersion in London. Barebone strongly disagreed with these advocates of believers' baptism, and within a few weeks he issued A Discourse Tending to Prove the Baptism... to be the Ordinance of Jesus Christ. The claim that Barebone himself was an anabaptist is likely to derive from post-Restoration critics. A second work, A Reply to the Frivolous and Impertinent Answer of RB, was published in the spring of 1643. In the next few years Barebone was involved in conflicts with those who controlled the vestry of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, and with Francis Kemp, the lawyer who acted for them. Barebone later joined the sect known as the Fifth Monarchists, known for their millenarianism.[2]

Election to the Nominated Assembly

In July 1653 Barebone was returned to the Nominated Assembly, set up after the expulsion of the Rump Parliament by Oliver Cromwell. The Assembly very quickly became known as Barebone's Parliament by critics, Barebone proving a likely target due to his name and his humble origins. Although never elected to the Parliament's council of state, Barebone was an active member. He sat on the committee on tithes set up on 19 July, and was also one of the original members of the committee established on 19 August to consider law reform. In late July at Westminster he was tasked with placating large numbers of women who were demonstrating in support of John Lilburne.[2]

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