« PreviousContinue »
ence with the dethroned monarch, Burnet never compromised his allea giance. He was evidently sincere in his attachment to the new order of things, and his conviction of the truth and value of the great principles of public liberty was, we believe, not only honest, but carried him forward, with more activity, perhaps, than quite accorded with his clerical character and station, in the political agitations of the time." ?
He is described by Macky, his contemporary, as “a large, strongmade, bold-looking man, and one of the greatest orators of his age.' To his powers as a preacher, Speaker Onslow bears testimony. Burnet had preached a sermon against popery at the end of Charles's reign : " Sir John Jekyl,” says the speaker, “ told me that he was present at the sermon, (I think it was this,) and that when the author had preached out the hour-glass, he took it up and held it aloft in his hand, and then turned it up for another hour, upon which the audience-a very large one for the place set up almost a shout for joy. I once heard him preach,” Onslow continues, " at the Temple-church, on the subject of
popery. It was on the fast day for the negotiations of peace at Utrecht. He set forth all the horrors of that religion with such force of speech and action, (for he had much of that in his preaching and action at all times,) that I have never seen an audience anywhere so much affected as we all were who were present at this discourse. He preached then, as he generally did, without notes. He was in his exterior, too, the finest figure I ever saw in a pulpit.”
Some tory scribe, soon after his decease, proposed the following inscription for his monument:
“ Here Sarum lies, of late so wise,
And learned as Tom Aquinas;
A Christian than Socinus.
“ Oaths, pro and con, he swallowed down ;
Lov'd gold like any layman;
God's holy word for Mammon.
“ Of every vice he had a spice,
Although a rev'rend prelate;
A true dissenting zealot.
“ If such a soul to Heav'n should stroll,
And 'scape old Satan's clutches ;
For Marlb'rough and his duchess !"
lu the Jacobite Relics' there are several other songs directed against Burnet, and all as destitute of either poetry, truth, or wit, as the above. That he was betrayed, by the ardour of his temperament, into frequent improprieties, it would be rash to deny; neither does it appear that he was always so indisposed towards arbitrary principles of government as he became after he had accepted of place from a revolutionary sovereign; but his motives appear to have been always conscientious, and the general tenour of his conduct was certainly more worthy of applause than deserving of censure. With him in part originated the measure for augmenting poor livings out of the first fruits payable to the crown ; during the progress of which, he either instituted to stalls, or bestowed small annuities upon those ministers in his diocese, whose incomes were too slender for their comfortable maintenance. He also allowed pensions to several clergymen's widows, who had been left destitute ; contributed largely to the repairing and building of churches and parsonage-houses; and supported four students at the university, and fifty boys at a school at Salisbury. Equally opposed to political, as to religious persecution, he interfered effectually, although in opposition to the wishes of the whig lords, in behalf of the earl of Clarendon, when that nobleman, in 1690, became involved in some of the plots of the day. He also interested himself in favour of Sir John Fenwick; and procured Queen Anne's pardon for Dr Beach, a nonjuring divine, who had preached a treasonable sermon. During the reign of William and Mary, although he never lost the royal favour, he frequently disgusted their majesties by the bold candour with which he delivered his sentiments. To him, pluralists, whom he designated as sacrilegious robbers of the revenues of the church, were so odious, that his chaplains were invariably dismissed on their obtaining promotion. A clergyman in his diocese once asked him, if, on the authority of St Bernard, he might not hold two livings. “ How will you be able to serve them both ?” inquired Burnet. “I intend to officiate by deputy in one," was the reply. “Will your deputy,” said the bishop, “be damned for you too ? Believe me, you may serve your cure by proxy, but you must be damned in person !" “I knew Burnet," says Dr King. “ He was a furious party-man, and easily imposed on by any lying spirit of his own faction; but he was a better parson than any man who is now seated on the bishop's bench. Although he left a large family when he died, (three sons and two daughters, if I rightly remember,) yet he left them nothing more than their mother's fortune. He always declared that he should think himself guilty of the greatest crime, if he were to raise fortunes for his children out of the revenues of his bishopric.” So much for the “spice of every vice” with which the bishop was tainted, and particularly his alleged greediness of gold.
* Eclectic Review, vol. xxii. pp. 435_488.
In conversation, he is described as having been often unintentionally disagreeable, through a singular want of consideration. One day, during Marlborough's disgrace and voluntary exile, Burnet, while dining with the duchess, who was a reputed termagant, compared the duke to Belisarius. “ How do you account,” inquired her grace, so great a man as that celebrated Roman, having been so miserable and deserted ?" “Oh! madam," replied the bishop, “he had, as you know, such a brimstone of a wife !!!
Although hasty and careless in his composition, he has, deservedly, by his vigour, the variety of his knowledge, and the liberality of his sentiments, acquired considerable reputation as an author. Horace Walpole, after stating that his very credulity is a proof of his honesty, declares his style and manner to be very interesting. “ It seems," he adds, “as if he had just come from the king's closet, or from the apartment of the man whom he describes, and was telling his reader, in plain terms, what he had seen and heard.” Lord Dartmouth thought
Burnet a man of the most extensive knowledge he had ever met with. “ He had read and seen a great deal,” he says, “ with a prodigious memory and a very indifferent judgment. He was extremely partial, and readily took every thing for granted that he heard to the prejudice of those that he did not like, which made him pass for a man of less truth than he really was. I do not think,” continues his lordship," he designedly published any thing he believed to be false.” This opinion, however, was entirely changed on perusing the second portion of the work, which was not published till eleven years after the first. “I wrote,” says Dartmouth, “in the first volume of this work, that I did not believe the bishop designedly published any thing he believed to be false ; therefore think myself obliged to write in this, that I am fully satisfied that he published many things that he knew to be so.”! The humorous piece, entitled, "Memoirs of P. P. the Parish Clerk,' was composed in ridicule of the · History of his own Time,' a work which excited considerable clamour among the tories, and exposed his memory to much animadversion and ridicule froin Swift, Pope, Arbuthnot, and others. The foul-mouthed dean calls him a Scotch dog! rogue ! vain silly puppy! canting puppy! treacherous villain! His • Exposi tion of the Thirty-nine Articles,' originally undertaken at the request of Queen Mary and Archbishop Tillotson, although it incurred the censure of the lower house of convocation, was honoured with the applause of Tenison, Sharpe, Stillingfleet, Patrick, Lloyd, Hall, and others, and is still esteeined a standard work on the subject of which it treats, His • Account of the Life and Death of the Earl of Rochester,' Dr Johnson says, “is a book the critic ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the saint for its piety."
Yet Cunningham-who is seldom chargeable with want of candour—founds a heavy charge against the bishop on his publication of this excellent little book, as a betrayal of the secrets of confession.
BORN A, D, 1636.--DIED A. D. 1715.
THOMAS, son of the Rev. John Tenison, was born at Cottenham in Cambridgeshire, on the 29th of Septe ver, 1636.
His father was rector of Mundesley in Norfolk, whence he had been ejected for his adherence to Charles I. At the Restoration he became rector of Bracon-Ash, or, according to Masters, of Topcroft in Norfolk. Young Tenison acquired the rudiments of education at the grammar-school of Norwich,—a seminary at that time in high repute under the able mas. tership of Mr Lovering. From this school he proceeded, about the year 1653, to Cambridge, where he was admitted a scholar of Benedict college, upon Parker's foundation. Here he took his degree of A. B. in 1656–7; and at first applied his attention to medicine; but, on the eve of the Restoration, he procured private ordination from Dr Duppa. In 1662 he became tutor, and, in 1665, was chosen one of the university-preachers, and presented to the cure of St Andrew the Great, in Cambridge. When the plague broke out in Cambridge, and all who could fed from the infected city, it is recorded of Tenison that he remained behind, with only two scholars and a few servants, during the whole of the calamity, conscientiously and regularly performing the duties of his cure. In token of their esteem and gratitude, his parishioners presented him with a valuable piece of plate, when he left them in 1667, on being presented to the rectory of Holywell in Huntingdonshire.
• The Oxford editors of Burnet's History offer a very satisfactory reply to the noble annotator and other detractors from the bishop's well-earned fame. “Lord Dartmouth,' say they, “uses strong, and Swift much ill language, on Burnet's supposed want of veracity; and the excellent Latin verses of Dean Moss on the same subject are now, we understand, in print. Yet, the bishop's friends need not be apprehensive of a verdict of wilful falsehood against him in consequence of the corrections of his narrative in the subsequent annotations. Lord Dartmouth, indeed, a man of honour, asserts, that this author has published many things which he knew to be untrue. See his note at the beginning of vol. iv. His lordship, it must be allowed, had better opportunities than we have for determining what Burnet knew; but, as he has adduced little or nothing in support of this charge, we may be permitted to think that strong prejudice, not wilful falsehood, occasioned the bishop's erroneous statements."
5 Memoir of Burnet, in Georgian Era,' vol i.
About this period he entered into the matrimonial state, with Anne, daughter of Dr Love, some time master of Benedict. In 1670 he appeared as an author, in a work entitled “The Creed of Mr Hobbes examined. It had been alleged of Tenison that he leaned to some of Hobbes's objectionable opinions ; but the suspicion was fully refuted in this work. In 1674 he became first minister of St Peter's Manscroft, Norwich. In 1678 he published a · Discourse of Idolatry,' and, the year following, some remains of Lord Bacon. In 1680 he took the degree of D. D., and towards the close of that year was presented by Charles II., who had already nominated him one of his chaplains, with the vicarage of St Martin's-in-the-Fields. In this living he exerted himself indefatigably for the spiritual and moral improvement of his parishioners, and in watching and checking the proceedings of the popish party. In 1681 he published · A Sermon of Discretion in giving Alms, which led him into a controversy with Pulton the Jesuit; and, in 1684 he published • The difference between the Protestant and the Socinian Methodists,' in answer to a book written by one of his Jesuit antagonists, entitled · The Protestant's plea for a Socinian.'
Dr Tenison attended the duke of Monmouth while in prison and on the scaffold ; and we have Burnet's testimony that he acquitted himself conscientiously in his solemn duty to that unfortunate nobleman, yet with all mildness and becoming respect. In 1687 he held a conference with Pulton, in which the grounds and authorities of the protestant faith were largely debated. A report of this conference was soon afterwards published, and Dr Tenison followed up the debate with a number of controversial tracts written with ability and moderation, in 80 much so that even James II. acknowledged the amiable spirit of the Doctor, and made advances to him.
In the succeeding reign he laboured hard to effect a revision of the liturgy, and to conciliate the dissenters, to whom he exhibited a very tolerant spirit. The queen was so highly satisfied with his conduct, that she solicited for him, and obtained the bishopric of Lincoln, to which he was consecrated in January, 1692. It is said that Jersey, then master of the horse, strenuously opposed Tenison's elevation to
. Sve Memoir of Beveridge.
the mitre, and represented to the queen that the Doctor had preached a funeral sermon for Eleanor Gwynn, Charles's mistress, in which he had spoken more than charitably of that poor woman :-“ I have heard as much," her majesty calmly replied, " and it is to me a proof that the poor creature died a penitent at last; for if I can read a man's heart through his looks, I feel persuaded that had Nell Gwyne not made a good end, the Doctor never could have been induced to speak of her as he did.” In 1693, upon the death of Dr Marsh, Tenison was offered the archbishopric of Dublin; but he declined it on account of some difficulties which stood in the way of the restitution of certain church impropriations which had been forfeited to the crown, but which he thought ought to be restored to the respective churches. In the following year, however, upon the death of Dr Tillotson, the bishop of Lincoln was elevated to the primacy.
Dr Kennet observes of this elevation, that it was “the solicitous care of the court to fill up the see of Canterbury. The first person that seemed to be offered to the eye of the world was Dr Stillingfleet, bishop of Worcester ; but his great abilities had raised soine envy and some jealousy of him; and indeed his body would not have borne the fa. tigues of such a station. Even the bishop of Bristol, Dr John Hall, master of Pembroke college, Oxford, was recommended by a great party of men who had an opinion of his great piety and moderation. But the person most esteemed by their majesties, and most universally approved by the ministry, and the clergy, and the people, was Dr Tenison, bishop of Lincoln, who had been exemplary in every station of his life,—had restored a neglected large diocese to some discipline and good order,—and had before, in the office of a parochial minister, done as much good as perhaps was possible for any one man to do." Soon after his elevation to the archiepiscopal see, the queen being seized with the disease which proved fatal to her, at her particular desire was attended on her death-bed by Dr Tenison. He also preached her majesty's funeral sermon. Soon after, Dr Ken, the deprived bishop of Bath and Wells, addressed a letter to his grace, in which he charged him with gross neglect of duty, in not representing to her majesty "the great guilt she lay under by her conduct at the Revolution,” and endeavouring to awake her to a proper sense of penitence. The archbishop took no notice of Ken's letter; but he did what Ken himself had he been in his situation-would probably have shrunk from, he charged the king with gross misconduct in the matter of Lady Villiers, with whom, it was well-known, he had been long too familiar; and so boldly and warmly did he follow up his remonstrances, that the king took them in good part, and solemnly pledged himself never again to visit Lady Villiers. He continued in favour at court notwithstanding of his integrity, and was in constant attendance on King William during his last illness.
As primate, Dr Tenison officiated at the coronation of Queen Anne; his steady opposition, however, to several of her worst measures, and particularly the bill against occasional conformity, lost him her majesty's favour. The following sentiments which occur in a speech made by his grace against this bill in 1704, deserve to be quoted :- “I think the practice of occasional conformity, as used by the dissenters, is so far from deserving the title of a vile hypocrisy, that it is the duty of all