Calibute Downing, D.D.—This zealous person was bora at Shenington in Gloucestershire, in the year 1604, descended of an ancient and worthy family, and educated in Oriel college, Oxford. After he had completed his studies at the unversity, he became successively rector of Ickford in Buckinghamshire, of West llsley in Berkshire, and vicar of Hackney, near London. Upon the last removal, Wood says, he sought to become chaplain to the Earl of Strafford, the lord lieutenant of Ireland, concluding that employment the readiest way to become a bishop; and while he had any hopes of obtaining such preferment, he wrote and spoke boldly in vindication of that calling. But being a reputed weathercock, turning whatever way his own humour and ambition blew him, he, upon some discontent, watched his opportunity, to gciin preferment in any way in which it could be obtained. " For," our author adds, " he was esteemed by the faction to be fitted for any base employment, and was one who ever looked awry on the church."* This representation, proceeding from the pen of bigotry, and designed to reproach his character, contains a sufficient refutation of itself. Though Dr. Downing might, like some other clergymen, both in ancient and modern times, be too anxious to obtain greater preferment; there is certainly no substantial evidence, at least Mr. Wood has produced none, that he was ever very fond of bishops, or any other splendid and lucrative ecclesiastical office; especially as he ever looked awry on the church.
In the year 1640, "Dr. Downing, in a sermon before the artillery company, maintained, " that for the defence of religion, and the reformation of the church, it was lawful to take up arms against the king, if it could be obtained in no other way." For this, lie was forced to abscond, when he retired to the house of the Earl of Warwick, till the meeting of the long parliament. In the year 1643, he resigned his vicarage, and was succeeded by Dr. Spurstowe, afterwards one of the ejected nonconformists.t Upon the commencement of the civil war, he became chaplain to Lord Roberts in the Earl of Essex's army, in which office he has incurred the heavy censure of our high-church historians. Dr. Downing and Mr. Marshall arc charged with publicly avowing, " that the soldiers taken prisoners and released by the king upon their oaths, that they would never bear arms against him, were not obliged by that oath; and
by their power absolved them, and so engaged those miserable wretches in a second rebellion."* It may be observed in reply, that there was no need for these divines to use these arts, because the prisoners referred to amounted only to 150 men, which could not be much wanted, especially as the city of London was now pouring out multitudes of recruits for the army: and in addition to this, priestly absolution was not then the practice, nor the power of it the claim, of puritan divines; but that which they utterly disbelieved and abhorred.t
Dr. Downing was appointed one of the licensers of the , press, and chosen one of the assembly of divines. Wood says, " he sided with the independents, was a preacher of sedition and rebellion, and died suddenly and very unwillingly "t Such kind of abuse this writer usually pours forth' against the most holy and useful men, who were zealous to promote a reformation of the church. Dr. Downing died in the year 1644, aged forty years; and he left behind him the character of " a pious man, a warm preacher, and ever zealous to promote the interests.of the Redeemer's kingdom and the welfare of his country." Sir George Downing, of East-Hatly in Cambridgeshire, was his son.S
His Works.—1. A Discourse of the State Ecclesiastical of this Kingdom, in relation to the Civil, 1633.—4. A Digression discussing some ordinary Exceptions against Ecclesiastical Officers, 1633.— 3. A Discourse of the false Grounds which the Bavarian Party have laid to settle their own Faction, and shake the peace of the Empire, 1641.—4. A Discourse upon the Interest of England, 1641.—5. A Discoursive Conjecture upon the Reasons which produce the present Troubles of Great Britain, different from those of Lower Germany, 1641.—6. Several Sermons, 1643.