Book Review: Calamy Celebrated

Calamy Celebrated

The 350th Anniversary of the Birth of Dr Edmund Calamy (1671-1732)

Alan Clifford

Andrew Fuller Centre for Baptist Studies, 2021 (ISBN: 9781774840221, 36pp, $20)

Edmund Calamy’s name is most closely associated with his account of the ejected ministers of 1662, but, as this volume illustrates, the achievements of the minister were numerous. Born to a family of Dissenting pastors, Edmund Calamy III (for he was the third in succession to bear the name) hardly rested on his ecclesiastical laurels but made a very worthy ministry in his own right, leading the Princes Street Chapel, lecturing at Salter’s Hall, authoring many works of history and biography, and coordinating those of his own religious persuasion nationally. 

Clifford makes the salutary point that Calamy was a key living link between leading lights of Puritanism and Methodism, narrating his youthful meeting with an elderly Baxter and his later encounter with the aspirant Doddridge. In between the two great movements represented by these notable gentlemen came the vexation of the Salter’s Hall Controversy, in which Calamy fought manfully against the downgrading ethos of Unitarianism. The Doddridge link, pleasing though it is, is pushed rather too hard. Despite Calamy’s main interaction with the prophet of Northampton being to warn him off approaching pastoral office, Clifford advances an ‘ambitious’ argument that the spirit of Calamy was nonetheless influential not only in Doddridge’s ministry, but also in sparking the entire Methodist revival. Readers may perhaps indulge such exuberant theorising as the natural outcome of an author deeply invested in, and warm toward, his subject.

Such warmth is understandable – numerous episodes of the Calamy’s life convey his maturity and good humour. One such is the recollection of his serious consideration of taking orders in the church established by law, even to the extent of a sojourn in that principal seminary of England, the city of Oxford. Another is Calamy’s strivings against the ‘enthusiasm’ of the Camisard emigres, culminating in a loyal homage to Queen Anne as thanks for the favour she bestowed on his championing of constitutional moderation. Above all, Calamy’s affection toward the moderate Calvinism of Baxter and his defence of this theology against the diverging extremes of Dissent in his day underscore the worthiness of this servant of the gospel.

Between such pleasurable anecdotes as those mentioned, the high quality of the research and referencing, the succinct manner of analysis, and the audacity of Clifford’s lionisation of Calamy’s legacy, this short biography makes for genuinely pleasurable reading.

Edward Keene, Little Shelford