This person, the president of his company, was born of worthy parentage, at Malden, in the County of Surrey. He was bred at Westminster School; and then entered, in 1575, as student of Christ's Church, one of the Oxford colleges. As it is a matter of some interest, shewing that he went through an extensive course of study, the dates of his various degrees will be given. In 1578, he graduated as Bachelor of Arts; in 1581, he proceeded as Master of Arts; in 1589, he became Bachelor in Divinity; and in 1595, he was made Doctor in Divinity. The successive degrees of the greater part of the persons belonging to the list of Translators could be given, but are omitted for the sake of brevity. It is enough to record, that they nearly all attained to the highest literary honors of their respective universities.
Dr. Ravis, in 1591, was appointed rector of the Church of All-hallows, Barking, in London. The next year, he became Canon of Westminster, and occupied the seventh stall in that church. Two years later, he was chosen Dean of Christ's Church College. He was also, in 1596 and the year following, elected Vice-Chancellor of the University. In 1598, he exchanged his benefice at All-hallows Church for the rectory of Islip. He also held the Wittenham Abbey Church, in Berkshire. All these preferments and profitable livings mark him as a rising man. His holding a plurality of churches for the sake of their revenues, in neither of which he could perform the duties of the pastoral office, was one of the cases that justified the complaint of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, at the Conference in Hampton Court. His lordship complained of this practice, as occasioning many learned men at the universities to pine for want of places, while others had more than they could fill. "I wish, therefore," said he, "that some may have single coats, or one living, before others have doublets, or pluralities." To this, the frugal Bancroft, then Bishop of London, who kept his own ribs thoroughly warmed with such investitures, made the thrifty reply, "But a doublet is necessary in cold weather? This prelate, a fierce persecutor of the Puritans, was reputed to have manifested very little "saving grace," except in the way of penurious hoardings. The graceless wags of his day made this epitaph upon him; "Here lies his Grace, in cold clay clad, Who died for want of what he had!"
The pernicious custom of pluralities, whereby a man receives tithes for the care of souls of which he takes no care, fleecing the flock he neither watches nor feeds, is one of those abuses still continued in the Church of England, and calling for thorough reform.
In 1604, soon after Dr. Ravis was commissioned as one of the Bible-translators, the Lords of the Council requested his acceptance of the bishopric of Gloucester, for which there were very many eager suitors. Three years later, he was translated to the bishopric of London. Anthony Wood says, that he was first preferred to the see of Gloucester, which he reluctantly accepted, on account of his great learning, gravity, and prudence; and that though his diocese "was pretty well stocked with those who could not bear the name of a bishop, yet, by his episcopal living among them, he obtained their love, and a good report from them." If he deserved this commendation while at Gloucester, he changed for the worse on his translation to London, where he not only succeeded the bitter Bancroft in his office, but also in his severe and exacting behavior. So true is the remark, that "bishops and books are seldom the better for being translated." No sooner had he taken his seat in London, than he stretched forth his hand to vex the non-conforming Puritans. Among others, he cited before him that holy and blessed man, Richard Rogers, for nearly fifty years the faithful minister of Weathersfield, than whom, it is said, "the Lord honored none more in the conversion of souls." In the presence of this venerable man, who, for his close walking with God, was styled the Enoch of his day, Bishop Ravis protested, "By the help of Jesus, I will not leave one preacher in my diocese, who doth not subscribe and conform. "The poor prelate was doomed to be disappointed; as he died, before his task was well begun, on the 14th of December, 1609. On account of his high offices, and his dying before the translation was completed, it is not probable that he took so active a part in that business as some of his colleagues. Though too much carried away by a zeal for the forms of his Church, which was neither according to knowledge nor charity, he lived and died in deserved respect, and hath a fair monument still standing in his cathedral of St. Paul's
This distinguished ecclesiastic was a native of Guildford, in Surrey. He was the son of pious parents, who had been sufferers for the truth in the times of popish cruelty. He was born October 29th, 1562. At the age of fourteen, he was entered as a student of Bal4ol College, Oxford; and in 1583, he was chosen to a fellowship. In 1585, he took orders, and became a popular preacher in the University. He was created 121~,1or of Divinity, in 1597; and a few months after, was elected Master of University College. At this time began his conflicts with William Laud, which lasted with great severity as long as Abbot lived. Dr. Abbot was a Calvinist and a moderate Churchman; while Dr. Laud was an Armenian, and might have been a cardinal at Rome, if he had not preferred to be a pope at Canterbury.
In 1598, Dr. Abbot published a Latin work, which was reprinted in Germany. The next year he was installed Dean of Winchester. In 1600, he was elected Vice-Chancellor of the University; and was reelected to the same honorable post in 1603 and 1605. It was about this time, that he was put into the royal commission for translating the Bible.
Dr. Abbot went to Scotland, in 1608, as chaplain to the Earl of Dunbar; and while there, by his prudent and temperate measures, succeeded in establishing a moderate or qualified episcopacy in that kingdom. This was a matter which King James had so much at heart, that he ever after held Dr. Abbot in great favor, and rapidly hurried him into the highest ecclesiastical dignities and preferments. He was made Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry on the 3rd of December, 1609; and then, in less than two months, was translated to the see of London. In less than fifteen months more, he was made Archbishop of Canterbury, and Primate of all England. Thus he was twice translated himself, before he saw the Bible translated once. Though an excellent preacher, he had never exercised himself in the pastoral office, rising at one stride from being a University-lecturer to the chief dignities of the Church.
When he reached the primacy, he was forty-nine years of age; and was held in the highest esteem both by the prince and the people. In all great transactions, whether in church or state, he bore a principal part...
It was in 1619, that the Archbishop founded his celebrated hospital at Guildford, the place of his nativity, and nobly endowed it from his private property. In that same year, a sad mischance befell him. His health being much impaired, he had recourse to hunting, by medical advice, as a means of restoring it. This sort of exercise has never been in very good repute among ecclesiastics. Jerome recognizes some worthy fishermen who followed the sacred calling; but says, "we no where read in Scripture of a holy hunter." While his Grace of Canterbury was pursuing the chase in Bramshill Park, a seat of the Earl of Ashby de la Zouch, an arrow from his cross-bow, aimed at a deer, glanced from a tree, and killed a game-keeper, an imprudent man, who had been cautioned to keep out of the way. This casual homicide was the cause of great affliction to the prelate. During the rest of his life, he observed a monthly fast on a Tuesday, the day of the mishap. He also settled a liberal annuity upon the poor game-keeper's widow, which annuity was attended with the additional consolation, that it soon procured her a better husband than the man she had lost. For the Primate, however, who was ever a celibate, there was no such remedy of grief, and all the rest of his life was overcast with gloom. This business subjected him to many hard shots from them that liked him not. Once returning to Croydon, after a long absence, a great many women, from curiosity, gathered about his coach. The Archbishop, who hated to be stared at, and was never fond of females, exclaimed somewhat churlishly, "What make these women here!" Upon this an old crone cried out, "You had best to shoot an arrow at us!" It is said that this tongue-shot, which often goes deeper than gunshot, went to his very heart...
Dr. George Abbot continued in office during those troublous times which preceded the civil wars, till he died, at his palace of Croydon, on Sunday, August 4th, 1633, at the age of seventy-one, quite worn out with cares and infirmities.
He was a very grave man, and of a very "fatherly presence," and unimpeachable in his morals. He was a firm Calvinist, and a thorough Church-of-England-man. He was somewhat indulgent to the more moderate Puritans; but the more zealous of them accused him sharply of being a persecutor, while the high-toned churchmen vehemently charged him with disloyalty to their cause. It is also said, that as he had never exercised the pastoral care, but was "made a shepherd of shepherds, before he had been a shepherd of sheep," he was wanting in sympathy with the troubles and infirmities of ministers. He was severe in his proceedings against clerical delinquents; but he protested that he did this to shield them from the greater severity of the lay judges, who would visit them with heavier punishments, to the greater shame of themselves and their profession. He was, in truth, stern and melancholy. As compared with his brother, Robert Abbot, the Bishop of Salisbury, it was said, that "gravity did frown in George, and smile in Robert.'' The other brother of these bishops was Lord Mayor of London.
The Archbishop was regarded as an excellent preacher and a great divine. Anthony Wood speaks of him as a "learned man, having his learning all of the old stamp," that is to say, vast and ponderous. He published lectures on the book of Jonah, and numerous treatises, mostly relating to the political and religious occurrences of the times. But to have borne an active part in the preparation of the most useful and important of all the translations of the Bible, is an honor far beyond the chief ecclesiastical dignities and the highest literary fame.
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