Henry Smith (1560-1591), born in Withcote, Leicestershire, was one of the most influential and prolific
Puritan divines during Elizabeth’s reign in England. He was known as “silver-tongued Smith” to his contemporaries. Smith’s practical and experiential sermons were used for family devotions for over a
century after his death, and went through numerous editions. The Puritan
Richard Baxter in his magnum opus of practical divinity, The Christian Directory, recommends Smith’s sermons as essential even for the “smallest library that is tolerable.”
After leaving the college at Lincoln College, Oxford, Smith lived and followed his studies with Richard Greenham, rector of Dry Drayton, Cambridgeshire, and sometime fellow of Pembroke Hall.
Smith devoted himself to the ministry of the
Church of England, but upon considering his disagreement with various practices and ceremonies, he contented himself with the lectureship, a common Puritan practice. Smith sought to reform the English church from within,
believing that it was utterly unlawful to make a separation.
Subsequently, Smith preached in and about London with great success, and in 1587, upon Greenham’s recommendation, was elected lecturer at St. Clement Danes, London, by the rector and congregation.
He resigned his lectureship in 1590, due to failing health, retired to Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire, and busied himself in preparing his works for the press and in revising his sermons. He dedicated his collected sermons to Lord Burghley, but died
before the collection was published. Smith was buried at Husbands Bosworth on July 4, 1591. He was universally lamented by both the
Anglican and Puritan parties.