Praise-God Barebone

Praise-God Barebone (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.


By 1632, Barbon 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 Barbon'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.

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.

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.

Later career

Barbon was re-elected to the common council for the three years from 1657 to 1660. After the restoration of the Rump Parliament he was named to the London militia committee under the act of 7 July 1659. During 1660, Barebone endeavoured to prevent the Restoration of the English monarchy. He published Marchamont Needham's book News from Brussels in a Letter from a Near Attendant on His Majesty's Person..., which related unfavourable anecdotes about the de jure king of England, Charles II. In July 1660, following the Restoration, a royalist tract called The Picture of the Good Old Cause Drawn to the Life, which reprinted a petition he had made in February calling for Members of Parliament to deny rule by Charles II or any other single person. As a result of these views, he was arrested on 25 November 1661 and charged with treason alongside James Harrington and Samuel Moyer. He was then imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was freed on 27 July 1662 after a petition from his wife pleading his illness. In 1666, his premises was one of the most westerly buildings to be engulfed in the Great Fire of London.

Barebone died at the end of 1679 and was buried on 5 January 1680 in the parish of St Andrew Holborn.


1642    A Discourse tending to prove ... Baptism ... to be the ordinance of Jesus Christ. As also that the Baptism of Infants is warentable. The preface indicates Barebone's religious tolerance.
1643 A Reply to the Frivolous and Impertinent answer of R.B. and E.B. to the Discourse of P.B..
1675 Good Things to Come. In this Barebone looked forward to the imminent arrival of Jesus Christ: ‘his kingdom and reign shall be outward, and visible on earth... when he shall come the second time, in power and great glory’ (p. 10).


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