Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Mediation in Church Controversies
By Joseph Hall (15741656)
From Observations on some Specialities of Divine Providence in the Life of Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich
IT was not long after, that his Majesty, finding the exigence of the affairs of the Netherlandish churches to require it, both advised them to a synodical decision; and, by his incomparable wisdom, promoted the work. My unworthiness was named for one of the assistants of that honourable, grave, and reverend meeting, where I failed not of my best service to that woefully distracted Church. By the time I had stayed some two months there, the unquietness of the nights in those garrison towns working upon the tender disposition of my body, brought me to such weakness through want of rest, that it began to disable me from attending the Synod: which yet, as I might, I forced myself unto; as wishing that my zeal could have discountenanced my infirmity. Where, in the meantime, it is well worthy of my thankful remembrance, that being in an afflicted and languishing condition for a fortnight together with that sleepless distemper, yet it pleased God, the very night before I was to preach the Latin sermon to the Synod, to bestow upon me such a comfortable refreshing of sufficient sleep, as thereby my spirits were revived, and I was enabled with much vigour and vivacity to perform that service: which was no sooner done, than my former complaint renewed upon me, and prevailed against all the remedies that the counsel of physicians could advise me unto; so as, after long strife, I was compelled to yield unto a retirement, for the time, to the Hague; to see if change of place and more careful attendance, which I had in the house of our right honourable ambassador, the Lord Carleton, now Viscount Dorchester, might recover me. But when, notwithstanding all means, my weakness increased so far as that there was small likelihood left of so much strength remaining as might bring me back into England, it pleased his gracious majesty, by our noble ambassadors solicitation, to call me off, and to substitute a worthy divine, Mr. Doctor Goade, in my unwillingly forsaken room. Returning by Dort, I sent in my sad farewell to that grave assembly; who, by common vote, sent to me the president of the synod and the assistants, with a respective and gracious valediction. Neither did the deputies of my lords the States neglect after a very respectful compliment sent from them to me by Daniel Heinsius, to visit me: and, after a noble acknowledgement of more good service from me than I durst own, dismissed me with an honourable retribution: and sent after me a rich medal of gold, the portraiture of the synod, for a precious monument of their respects to my poor endeavours; who failed not, while I was at the Hague, to impart unto them my poor advice, concerning the proceeding of that synodical meeting. The difficulties of my return, in such weakness, were many and great; wherein, if ever, God manifested His special providence to me, in overruling the cross accidents of that passage; and, after many dangers, and despairs, contriving my safe arrival.
After not many years settling at home, it grieved my soul to see our own Church begin to sicken of the same disease, which we had endeavoured to cure in our neighbours. Mr. Montagues tart and vehement assertions of some positions, near of kin to the Remonstrants of Netherland, gave occasioner1 of raising no small broil in the Church. Sides were taken; pulpits everywhere rang of these opinions; but parliaments took notice of the division, and questioned the occasion. Now, as one that desired to do all good offices to our dear and common mother, I set my thoughts on work, how so dangerous a quarrel might be happily composed: and, finding that mistaking was more guilty of this dissension, than misbelieving (since it plainly appeared to me, that Mr. Montague meant to express, not Arminius, but B. Overall, a more moderate and safe author, however he sped in delivery of him); I wrote a little project of pacification, wherein I desired to rectify the judgment of men, concerning this misapprehended controversy; showing them the true party in this unreasonable plea; and, because B. Overall went a midway, betwixt the two opinions which he held extreme, and must needs therefore somewhat differ from the commonly-received tenet in these points, I gathered out of B. Overall on the one side, and out of our English divines at Dort on the other, such common propositions concerning these five busy articles, as wherein both of them are fully agreed. All which being put together, seemed unto me to make up so sufficient a body of accorded truth, that all other questions moved hereabouts appeared merely superfluous; and every moderate Christian might find where to rest himself without hazard of contradiction. These I made bold, by the hands of Dr. Young, the worthy dean of Winchester, to present to his excellent Majesty, together with an humble motion of a peaceable silence to be enjoined to both parts, in those other collateral and needless disquisitions; which, if they might befit the schools of academical disputants, could not certainly sound well from the pulpits of popular auditories. Those reconciliatory papers fell under the eyes of some grave divines on both parts. Mr. Montague professed that he had seen them, and would subscribe to them very willingly: others, that were contrarily minded, both English, Scottish, and French divines, proffered their hands to a no less ready subscription. So as much peace promised to result out of that weak and poor enterprise, had not the confused noise of the misconstructions of those who never saw the work, crying it down for the very names sake, meeting with the royal edict of a general inhibition, buried it in a secure silence.
Some insolent Romanists, Jesuits especially, in their bold disputations (which, in the time of the treaty of the Spanish match and the calm of that relaxation, were very frequent), pressed nothing so much as a catalogue of the professors of our religion, to be deduced from the primitive times; and, with the peremptory challenge of the impossibility of this pedigree, dazzled the eyes of the simple: while some of our learned men, undertaking to satisfy so needless and unjust a demand, gave, as I conceived, great advantage to the adversary. In a just indignation to see us thus wronged by misstating the question betwixt us, as if we, yielding ourselves to another church, originally and fundamentally different, should make good our own erection upon the ruins, yea, the nullity of theirs; and, well considering the infinite and great inconveniences that must needs follow upon this defence, I adventured to set my pen on work; desiring to rectify the opinions of those men, whom an ignorant zeal had transported, to the prejudice of our holy cause; laying forth the damnable corruptions of the Roman Church, yet making our game of the outward visibility thereof; and, by this means putting them to the probation of those newly obtruded corruptions, which are truly guilty of the breach betwixt us. The drift whereof being not well conceived by some spirits that were not so wise as fervent, I was suddenly exposed to the rash censures of many well affected and zealous Protestants; as if I had, in a remission of my wonted zeal to the truth, attributed too much to the Roman Church, and strengthened the adversaries hands and weakened our own. This envy I was fain to take off by my speedy apologetical advertisement, and, after that, by my Reconciler,2 seconded with the unanimous letters of such reverend, learned, sound divines, both Bishops and doctors, as whose undoubtable authority was able to bear down calumny itself; which done, I did, by a seasonable moderation, provide for the peace of the Church, in silencing both my defendants and challengers, in this unkind and ill-raised quarrel.
Immediately before the publishing of this tractate (which did not a little aggravate the envy and suspicion), I was by his majesty raised to the bishopric of Exeter; having formerly, with much humble deprecation, refused the see of Gloucester earnestly proffered unto me. How, beyond all expectation, it pleased God to place me in that Western charge; which, if the Duke of Buckinghams letters, he being then in France, had arrived but some hours sooner, I had been defeated of; and, by what strange means it pleased God to make up the competency of that provision, by the unthought of addition of the rectory of St. Breok within that diocese; if I should fully relate the circumstances, would force the confession of an extraordinary hand of God in the disposing of those events.
I entered upon that place, not without much prejudice and suspicion on some hands; for some, that 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 espials.3 My ways were curiously observed and scanned. However, I took the resolution to follow those courses which might most conduce to the peace and happiness of my new and weighty charge. Finding, therefore, some factious spirits very busy in that diocese, I used all fair and gentle means to win them to good order; and therein so happily prevailed, that, saving two of that numerous clergy, who continuing in their refractoriness fled away from censure, they were all perfectly reclaimed; so as I had not one minister professedly opposite to the anciently received orders (for I was never guilty of urging any new impositions) of the church in that large diocese.
Thus we went on comfortably together, till some persons of note in the clergy, being guilty of their own negligence and disorderly courses, began to envy our success; and, 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 pulpit 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 knee to his majesty, to answer these great criminations; and what contestation I had with some great lords concerning 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, that rather than I would be obnoxious to those slanderous tongues of his misinformers, I would cast up my rochet. I knew I went right ways, and would not endure to live under undeserved suspicions.