« PreviousContinue »
ledge in various departments; languages, divinity, and natural history, were among his favourite pursuits. His propensity, however, for curious inquiries perverted him from the road of sound and useful knowledge, and led him often into the shadowy regions of astrology and oneironism. These pursuits induced him to study with much assiduity the mysteries of the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and other nations, famous for recondite science. The direct results of these researches may indeed be said to have amounted just to a caput mortuum, but their collateral effects were both interesting and important. He was led to pursue the study of antiquities and of chronology, and from these he entered upon the arduous task of prophetic and apocalyptic interpretation. It is by his attainments and skill in this department that he is principally known to posterity.. In such repute was he for a profound knowledge of ancient history and chronology, that Archbishop Usher requested his assistance when he undertook to settle the sacred chronology, and so high a sense of regard did the archbishop bear him that, some time after, he recommended him to the provostship of Trinity college, Dublin, and twice procured him the offer of it; but such was Mr Mede's love of retirement, that he declined the offer, and requested only some small donative to his fellowship, or to have a place in some collegiate church or rural college.
He continued patiently pursuing his studies till the age of fifty-two, scarcely ever leaving the walls of his college-rarely troubling himself with those things which most agitate and interest mankind. In September, 1638, he was suddenly taken ill after dinner, and retiring to his chamber alone, sat down in a chair, but soon after fainted, and fell upon the floor, near the fire, where he was sometime after found by a friend who happened to come to his apartment. After this, it appears, he fell into the hands of unskilful physicians, and died in two days. Of his character, all who have written speak in the highest terms. He lived very much the life of a recluse, but was a man of amiable and cheerful habits, loving society, at least of that particular kind which met his taste, and delighting in nothing so much as in the converse of wise and good men. He appears to have inherited no private property, but was enabled, from his college and professional emoluments, to be extensively charitable, and leave at his death some legacies for the benefit of the poor, his relatives and his college. As an author, he has enjoyed the singular felicity of founding a new school, or new department of sacred study, in which he has enjoyed an undisputed mastership, and an advancing fame. He is the father of all those that handle the mysterious harp of inspired prophecy. During his lifetime he published only three treatises. The first entitled, Clavis Apocalyptica ex innatis et insitis visionum characteribus eruta et demonstrata;' to which he added, in 1632, In Sancti Joannis Apocalypsin Commentarius.' This is the largest and most elaborate of any of his writings. The other two, which were published during his lifetime, were but short tracts, and upon not very interesting subjects, the one being on the word urang, the name given anciently to the sacramental table; and the other on the churches or places of worship in the apostolic and succeeding times. His other works, which were left in manuscript, were edited by Dr Worthington, and appeared in folio 1672, with a full life the author. The whole works are divided into five books, and dis
deric, and an entertainment being given to them, Davenant was selected as Moderator, in the theological disputation, which, according to the custom of the age, then occurred. In the following year, on a similar occasion, another public disputation took place between some chief divines of England and of the Palatinate, among whom the Heidelburgh professor, Abraham Scultetus, distinguished himself. The Margaret professor was then also appointed Moderator. The questions discussed, as we learn from Nicholl's Progresses of James I., were these three: Nulla est temporalis Papæ potestas supra reges, in ordine ad bonum spirituale. Infallibilis fidei determinatio non est annexa cathedræ papali. Cæca obedientia est illicita.' The excellent, but pedantic Bishop Hacket, in his Life of Archbishop Williams, records these academical feats with great vivacity. Speaking of one super-eminent disputant, Dr Collins, he thus proceeds :-' He was a firm bank of earth, able to receive the shot of the greatest artillery. His works in print, against Eudæmon and Fitzherbert, sons of Anak among the Jesuits, do noise him far and wide. But they that heard him speak would most admire him. No flood can be compared to the spring-tide of his language and eloquence, but the milky river of Nilus, with his seven mouths all at once disemboguing into the sea. O how voluble ! how quick! how facetious he was! What a Vertumnus when he pleased to argue on the right side, and on the contrary. Those things will be living to the memory of the longest survivor that ever heard him. In this trial, wherein he stood now to be judged by so many attic and exquisite wits, he strived to exceed himself, and shewed his cunning marvellously that he could invalidate every argument brought against him with variety of answers. It was well for all sides, that the best divine, in my judgment, that ever was in that place, Dr Davenant, held the reins of the disputation. He kept him within the even boundals of the cause; he charmed him with the Caducæan wand of dialectical prudence; he ordered him to give just weight, and no more. Horat. Î. 1. Od. 3. Quo non arbiter Adriæ major, tollere seu ponere vult freta. Such an arbiter as he was now, such he was and no less, year by year, in all comitial disputations; wherein whosoever did well, yet constantly he had the greatest acclamation. To the close of all this exercise, I come. The grave elder opponents having had their courses, Mr Williams, a new admitted bachelor of divinity, came to his turn, last of all. Presently, there was a smile in the face of every one that knew them both, and a prejudging that between these two there would be a fray indeed. Both jealous of their credit, both great masters of wit; and as much was expected from the one as from the other. So they fell to it with all quickness and pertinacity; yet, thank the Moderator, with all candour; like Fabius and Marcellus, the one was the buckler, the other the sword of that learned exercise. No greyhound did ever give a hare more turns upon Newmarket heath, than the replier with his subtleties gave to the respondent. A subject fit for the verse of Mr Abraham Hartwell, in his Regina Literata, as he extols Dr Pern's arguments made before Queen Elizabeth: 'Quis feline tanto tela jacet? tanto fulmine nemo jacet.' But when they
done their best with equal prowess, the marshal of the Davenant, cast down his warder between them, and parted
In October 1614, he was chosen master of his college. In 1618, he was sent by King James as one of his four delegates to the synod of Dort. Upon the death of his brother-in-law, Dr Robert Townson, he was nominated bishop of Salisbury in 1621.
Bishop Davenant continued in favour at court during the life of James; but in the Lent of 1630, he incurred the royal displeasure for some strictures in which he had indulged in a sermon preached at Whitehall on the predestinarian controversy. Charles had been pleased strictly to forbid "all curious search" into this point of doctrine, Davenant defended himself on the ground, that he had advanced nothing contrary to the 17th article of the church. But on being informed that it was not his majesty's pleasure he should ever touch upon the question of predestination, he apologised for his mistake, and promised never more to offend in this way.
Davenant was a man of great learning, and published several theological works which continue in repute to the present day. His 'Expositio Epistolæ D. Pauli ad Colossenses,' is reckoned a masterpiece of expository divinity. It was published at Cambridge in 1627, and republished in 1630 and 1639. A quarto edition was published at Amsterdam in 1646. It has been recently translated by the Rev. Josiah Allport, in 2 vols. 8vo.
Few men," says Mr Allport," appear to have been more honoured and venerated by all parties than Bishop Davenant. In all the works of friends or opponents, there is not to be found a single sentence approaching even to disrespect, much less any thing that can tend to cast the slightest reflexion upon his deportment in any measure of his public or private life. His profound learning, acuteness of intellect, catholic spirit, active benevolence, and meekness, are constantly adverted to; and the phrases the good Bishop Davenant,' the excellent Bishop Davenant,' the learned Bishop Davenant,' &c. &c. are the usual appendages to his name, even in the writings of those who took up the pen in express hostility to certain of his theological views"
BORN A. D. 1570.-DIED A.D. 1642.
WILLIAM BEDELL, an eminent bishop of the 17th century, was descended from an ancient family in Essex, and was born at Black Notley, in that county, in 1570. He finished his studies at Emanuel college, Cambridge, of which he was chosen fellow in 1593; in 1599 he became bachelor of divinity. He was ordained by the suffragan bishop of Colchester, and on leaving the university, he was settled at St Edmond's Bury, in Suffolk, where he laboured in the ministry of the gospel with much success. On Sir Henry Wotton's being appointed ambassador to the Venetian republic, Bedell accompanied him in the capacity of chaplain; and arriving at Venice at a period when the disputes between the Venetians and the pope had run so high that the former were on the point of dissenting from the Romish communion, he formed a close intimacy with the celebrated father, Paul Sarpi, the principal leader in that struggle against ecclesiastical despotism.
With Bedell's assistance, Father Paul acquired such a knowledge of the English language, as to be able to translate the book of Common Prayer into his vernacular tongue. This he did, it is thought, in the intention, should the existing quarrel with the pope terminate in separation, of making it the model for a new ritual. While at Venice, Bedell acquired an intimate knowledge of the Hebrew, by the aid of the rabbi who was at the head of the Jewish synagogue in that place.
After eight years' stay at Venice, Bedell returned to England, and assumed his parochial duties. He also assisted in publishing a translation of Father Paul's History of the Council of Trent, his History of the Interdict, and also that of the Inquisition. Soon afterwards he was presented to the living of Honingsheath, in the diocese of Norwich, on which occasion he successfully resisted an exorbitant demand by the bishop for induction fees. At this latter place Bedell remained for twelve years, wholly devoted to his pastoral duties, and such was the retirement in which he lived, that Diodati, an eminent Genoese divine, who had known him at Venice, visiting England at that time, in vain inquired for him, and at last met with him merely by accident. His worth and talents, however, gradually became known, and in 1626 he was unanimously elected provost of Trinity college, Dublin. In this new office he sedulously set himself to correct existing abuses, and undertook particularly the religious instruction of the college. In 1624, he had published a controversial correspondence betwixt himself and a Mr Wadsworth, who had been a fellow-student of his own, and had also held a living in the same diocese, but who, having gone to Spain as chaplain to the English ambassador, had renounced Protestantism and embraced the Catholic faith. A 2d edition of these letters was published in 1685.
In 1629, he was appointed bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh, in the province of Ulster. When he entered upon his diocese, he found it in a great disorder; its revenues had been dissipated, its cathedral and parish churches were in a state of dilapidation; more than nine-tenths of the people were papists; and of the few clergymen who were capable of assisting him, each had several parishes to serve. In this state of matters, he fearlessly applied himself to the work of reformation. His first step was to abolish pluralities, and having set the example himself by resigning the see of Ardagh, which had been united to that of Kilmore, on account of the scantiness of the revenues of both, his clergy, with a single exception, relinquished their pluralities also. With great difficulty he accomplished the reform of his own spiritual court; he also abolished various oppressive exactions which his predecessors had practised. For the instruction and conversion of the natives, he caused a short catechism of the elements of Christianity in English and Irish, to be printed and widely circulated; he also established schools in every parish of his diocese, and having himself acquired the Irish language, he composed a complete grammar of it. The New Testament, as well as the Book of Common Prayer, had been already translated into Irish: Bishop Bedell was desirous that the people should possess the whole Bible in their native tongue, and with this view employed a person of the name of King, a converted papist, who was deemed the best Irish scholar of his day. King was then about 70 years of age, but the bishop finding him qualified for the clerical office,