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LIFE OF JOSEPH HALL, D. D.
BISHOP OF EXETER AND NORWICH,
BY MR. CHALMERS.
Op this author Mr. Warton has remarked, that “ so variable are our studies, and so fickle is opinion, that the poet is better known than the prelate or the polemic.” But so far is this from being the case, that of many thousands who have read bishop Hall's Meditations and Sermons with pleasure and advantage, few have ever heard that he was a poet, and still fewer that his poems were once proscribed by authority as unfit to be circulated or read; and although the history of his poetry forms a very small part of his life, the latter surely deserves more attention than has been paid to it by the editors of the Biographia Britannica. It would be difficult to mention a preláte of more excellent and distinguished character, or one, of his time, whose talents and misfortunes, whose zeal in prosperity and courage in adversity deserved more honourable mention. Still as he appears in the present collection as a poet only, it will probably not be expected that the following sketch should equal the more ample detail which his theological labours would necessarily demand.
He was born July 1, 1574, in Bristow Park, within the parish of Ashby de la Zouch, in Leicestershire. His father was an officer to Henry earl of Huntingdon, then president of the north, and under him had the government of that town, which was the chief seat of the earldom. His mother was of the family of the Bembridges, and, according to bis own account, a woman of great piety. His parents had twelve children; and although disposed to bring up Joseph for the church, were inclined from motives of economy to contine his education to the care of a private tutor. But Mr. Gilby, fellow of Emmanuel College, hearing of this design, represented its disadvantages in such a manner to Mr. Hall's eldest son, that the latter importuned his father that Joseph might be sent to the university, and generously offered to sacrifice part of his inheritance, rather than prevent his brother from enjoying the advantages of academical education. His father, struck with this mark of brotherly affection, declared that, whatever it might cost him, Joseph should be sent to the university.
He was accordingly removed to Cambridge at the age of fifteen, and admitted of Emmanuel College, of which he was chosen scholar, and took the degree of bachelor of arts. His residence, however, was not without its difficulties. In 1591, as his expenses began to be felt in so large a family, he was recalled to fill the office of schoolmaster at Ashby de la Zouch, and would have been prevented from ever returning to college, had not Mr. Edmund Sleigh of Derby, an uncle by marriage, offered to defray half the expenses of his residence at Cambridge, until he should attain the degree of master of arts; and this he liberally performed. Another difficulty, however, presented itself. In 1595 his scholarship expired, and the statutes of the college permitting only one person of a county to become fellow, he was about to leave the university a second time, when the earl of Huntingdon prevailed on his countryman and tutor, Mr. Gilby, to resign his fellowship, on promise of being made his lordship's chaplain, and receiving higher promotion. Mr. Gilby consented, and the days of examination for the fellowship were appointed; but before two of the three days of trial had expired, news was brought of the sudden death of the earl, by which event Mr. Gilby was likely to be deprived of the conditions on which he resigned. Alarmed at this, our author with very honourable feeling went to the master of the college, Dr. Chaderton, and stated the case, offering at the same time to leave college, and hoping that Mr. Gilby could be re-admitted. The latter, however, he was told, could not take place, as the fellowship had been declared void, and the election must proceed whether he continued to be a candidate or not. Mr. Hall accordingly went to the third examination, and was unanimously chosen.
In 1596 he took his degree of master of arts, and acquitted bimself on every public trial with great reputation. He read also the Rhetoric Lecture in the schools, but resigned it, when he found that it interfered with an object more dear to him, the study of divinity; and soon after entered into holy orders. As we have no account of him when at college, except the few particulars in his Specialities, written by himself, we cannot trace the progress of his Muse. It is not improbable that, like other juvenile poets, he had written some pieces at a very early period of life. All that is certain, however, is, that his Satires were published in 1597 and 1598, in the following order : Virgidemiarum', Sixe Bookes. First Three Bookes of Tooth-less Satyrs : 1. Poetical ; 2. Academicall; 3. Moral ; printed by T. Creede for R. Dexter. The Three last Bookes of Byting Satyrs, by R. Bradock for Dexter, 1598 ; both parts, 1599.
Soon after his entering into the church, he was recommended by Dr. Chaderton to the lord chief justice Popham, to be master of Tiverton school in Devonshire, then newly founded by Mr. Blundel, but he had scarcely accepted the appointment when lady Drury of Suffeld offered bim the rectory of Halsted near St. Edmundsbury, which induced him to relinquish the school. Two years after his settlement at this place, he married a daughter of sir George Winniff of Bretenham.
In 1605 he accompanied sir Edmund Bacon to the Spa, where he composed his Second Century of Meditations, the first having been published before he set out. At Brussels he entered into a conference with Coster the jesuit, and confirmed his own religious persuasion by what he had occasion to see of the practices and actual, state of the Romish church, which he states as the principal object that induced him to take this journey. About a year and a half after, happening to be in London, he was invited to preach before prince Henry at Richmond Palace, which he performed so much to his highness's satisfaction that he made him one of his chaplains .
His errand to London was a dispute with his patron sir Robert Drury, whom we have
Tise. A gathering or harvest of rods. C.
2 Wood says that on Oct. 30, 1611, he was collated to the archdeaconry of Nottingham upon the promotion of Dr. John King to the see of London. Wood's Ath. vol. i. Fasti. 155. C.
But these argu
doticed as the patron of Donne also, but who in Mr. Hall's case does not appear to have acted with liberality or justice. He had detained about ten pounds per annum belonging to the living of Halsted, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the incumbent who assured him that with such a deduction it was an incompetent maintenance, and that he had been obliged to write books in order to be able to buy some. ments did not prevail, and he was about to resign Halsted, when Edward, lord Denny, afterwards earl of Norwich, gave him the donative of Waltham Holy Cross in Essex. About the same time (1612) he took the degree of doctor in divinity.
He now returned home, and resumed his professional duties, happy in having overcome his perplexities, and in the acquisition of a new patron, whom he valued so highly as to refuse the prince's invitation to reside near his person, and in the road to higher preferment. He was afterwards made a prebendary of the collegiate church of Wolverhampton, a very small endowment, but acceptable to our author from the prospect it afforded of public usefulness; and after many law-suits he was the means of recovering some revenues belonging to the church which had been unjustly withheld. He is said by all his biographers to have retained the living of Waltham for twenty-two years, and this assertion is founded on his own words in his Specialties; but as he expressed the time in numerals there may be a mistake in the printing, for if he remained at Waltham twenty-two years, he must have kept that living after he was bishop of Exeter, wbich is not very probable, especially as we find there were three incumbents on the living of Waltham before the
year 1637. In 1616 he attended the embassy of James Kay, viscount Doncaster, into France, and during his absence king James performed a promise he had made before his setting out, of conferring upon him the deanery of Worcester. In the following year he accompanied his majesty into Scotland as one of his chaplains, but on his return it was insinuated to the king that Dr. Hall leaned too much to the presbyterian interpretation of the five points, the discussion of which at that time occupied the attention of the protestant world; on this he was required to give his opinion in writing, and the king was so well satisfied, and so much of his way of thinking, as to command it to be read in the university of Edinburgh. In 1618 he was sent to the synod of Dort, which was sum, moned by the States General, and consisted of the most eminent divives deputed from the United Provinces, and churches of England, Scotland, Switzerland, &c. its object was to decide the controversy between the Calvinists and Arminians respecting the five points. Dr. Hall's companions on this mission were Dr. Carleton, bishop of Landaff and afterwards of Chichester ; Dr. Davenant, master of Queen's College, Cambridge; and Dr. Ward, master of Sidney; but the state of his health requiring his return after about two months, his place was supplied by Dr. Goad. During his short residence, however, he preached a Latin sermon before the synod, and on his departure, among other honourable testimonies of their esteem, received from them a rich gold medal, which is painted suspended on his breast in the fine portrait now in Emmanuel College. It appears by his treatise, entitled Via Media, that he was not extremely rigid with respect to all the five points; but his was not an age for moderation, and no party sought a middle way.
In 1624 be refused the bishopric of Gloucester, but in 1627 accepted that of Exeter,
· Viz. Predestination; the extent of Christ's death; man's free-will and corruption; the manner of our conversion to God; and, perseverance. C.
to which he was consecrated Dec. 23, holding with it in commendam' the rectory of St. Breock in Cornwall. At this time he appears again to have lain under the suspicion of being a favourer of the puritans. What he says in his defence is worthy of notice. “I entered upon that place (the bishopric) not without much prejudice and suspicion on some hands; for some who sat at the stern of the church, had me in great jealousy for too much favour of puritanism. I soon had intelligence, who were set over me for spies; my ways were curiously observed and scanned. --Some persons of note in the clergy, finding me ever ready to encourage those whom I found conscionably forward and painful in their places, and willingly giving way to orthodox and peaceable lectures, in several parts of my diocese, opened their mouths against me, both obliquely in the pulpits, and directly at the court, complaining of my too much indulgence to persons disaffected, and my too much liberty of frequent lecturings within my charge. The billows went so high, that I was three several times upon my knees to his majesty, to answer these great criminations; and what contest I had with some great lords coneerning these particulars, it would be too long to report: only this, under how dark a cloud I was hereupon, I was so sensible, that I plainly told the lord archbishop of Canterbury, (Laud) that rather than I would be obnoxious to these slanderous tongues of his misinformers, I would cast off my rochet: I knew I went right ways, and would not indure to live under undeserved suspicion.".
It must be allowed that the religious principles which he inculcated from the pulpit and the press were much more consonant to what the puritans maintained, than the lax Arminianism for which Laud contended; but at the same time bishop Hall's zeal for episcopacy was not inferior to that of any supporter of the church. Few men
indeed wrote more, or suffered more, in the cause. He published, even when publishing became hazardous, several able treatises in defence of the liturgy and church discipline, and was the powerful antagonist of Marshall, Calamy, Young, Newcomen, and Spurstow, who wrote a celebrated book called Smectymnuus, (a title made up of their initials, christian and surname) and all this he boldly ventured, when the republican party had possessed themselves of the fortresses of civil and ecclesiastical government, and were about to substitute persecution for argument; nor was it long before they made him experience the dangers of a high station in the church.
On the 15th of November 1641, he was translated, by the little power now left to the king, to be bishop of Norwich, but on the 30th of December following, having joined with the archbishop of York, and eleven other prelates, in a protest against the validity of such laws as should be made during their compelled absence from parliament, he was ordered to be sent to the Tower with his brethren, on the 30th of January 1641-2. Shortly after they were impeached by the commons of high treason, and on their appearance in parliament were treated with the utmost rudeness and contempt. The commons, however, did not think fit to prosecute the charge of high treason, having gained their purpose by driving them from the house of lords, and he and his brethren were ordered to be dismissed ; but upon another pretext they were again sent to the Tower, and it was not until June following that he was finally released on giving bail for five thousand pounds. He immediately returned to Norwich, and being received with rather more respect than could be hoped for in the then state of popular opinion, he resumed his functions, frequently preaching, as was his custom, to crowded audiences, and enjoying the forbearance of the predominant party till the beginning of April 1643, when the destruction of the church could no longer be delayed. About this time, the ordinance for