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George Withers

George Withers, D. D.—This person was a divine of good learning, incorporated in both universities, and afterwards preacher at Bury St. Edmunds; but in the year 1565, refusing to enter into bonds to wear the square cap, he was silenced by Archbishop Parker. Afterwards, however, by the urgent entreaties of his people, he wrote a submissive letter to his lordship, signifying his willingness to wear the cap, rather than the godly people should be discouraged, or the wicked led to triumph.i

Dr. Withers being a learned and popular preacher, was chosen one of the preachers to the university of Cambridge ; and being an avowed enemy to popery, he recommended to the university to pull down the superstitious and ridiculous paintings in the glass windows. This occasioned a considerable noise in the university, and created him

* Wood's Athrne, vol. i. p. 481.—Hist, and Antiq. of Oion. vol. ii p. 288. Edit. 1196.

+ Ibid.—Hevlin's Life of Laud, p. M. t Strype's Parker, p. 187, 188.

neat trouble. Archbishop Parker cited him before the high commissioners, to answer for what be had done; and upon his appearance, his lordship demanded his license to preach in that scat of learning. Hcthereforc produced the letters of the university, by which, in the year 1563, he was nominated and appointed one of the twelve university preachers. The archbishop pronounced this license defective, being in the name of the vice-chancellor, masters, and scholars alone, without the name of the chancellor. He wrote, at the s ime lime, to Sir William Cecil, the chancellor, urging him to exercise his authority.* By these proceedings, Dr. Wit hers was most probably forbidden preaching any more at Cambridge; but it does not appear whether he suftcred my other punishment.

Upon the above commotions, he travelled to Geneva, Zurich, and other places, where he became intimately acquainted with Bullingcr, Gaulter,and other learned divines. Having remained among his new friends a few years, he returned to England; and, in October, 1570, was made archdeacon of Colchester; and, in November, 1572, was admitted rector of Danbury in Essex. He submitted to the ceremonies for the sake of peace, though he never approved of them.+ In the year 1583, upon the publication of Whitgift's three articles, and the oppressive measures which immediately followed, he wrote to his worthy friend the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, expressing his strong objections against such rigorous proceedings. In this letter, dated from Danbury, February 19, 1583, he addressed the treasurer as follows :}

u My duty to your honour in most humble manner premised, with my most earnest prayer to God for you. ~\ our continual care of the church, and the importunity of my friends, have enforced me to write to your lordship concerning the present controversies in the church. I have long wished the church were rid of some things, in the retaining of which I can see no advantage. The silencing of ministers is like a man who, being angry with his shepherd, forbids him to feed his sheep, yet appoints none other in his place, and so the sheep starve in the fold. Your care to have insufficient ministers removed, is commendable and godly.

" With regard to the subscription to the Book of Common Prayer, now urged, though I think reverently of the book;

» Slrype's Parker, p. 192—194. + Ibid. p. 198,199

J Strype's Annals, vol. iii. Appen. p. 62—64.

yet to think that its authors erred in nothing, is a reverence due to the canonical books of scripture alone, and not to any human author whatever. The things in the book which I wish reformed are, first, such as cannot be defended: as private baptism. How to reconcile it to the doctrine of the church as by law established, to me appears impossible. Also the minister receiving the other sacrament with the sick man alone, is contrary to the nature of the communion; contrary to the doctrine established ; and is cousin-german to the private mass. The other tilings are taken out of the popish portuis, and translated into the Book of Common Prayer, which serves to confirm our adversaries in popery. I wish the weapon were taken out of their hands.

" It is also an inconvenience, that the translation of the scripture, as corrupted by the bishops, still rcmaineth in the Book of Common Prayer uncorrected: that the interrogatories in baptism are directed to infants; and that the present urging of subscription, instead of producing greater tiniti/, 1 (ear it will make greater division. For I think that many who now use the book, and are in other things conformable, will hardly yield to subscribe according to the form now required. Beseeching your lordship to pardon my boldness, I commit you to the protection of Almighty God.

" Your lordship's in Christ,

" George Withers." Dr. Withers quitted the rectory of Danbury in 1605, most probably on account of his nonconformity; but remained archdeacon to his death. He died previous to April 10, 1617.* The Oxlbrd historian denominates him, " The Puritanical Satirist."* He published " The Layman's Letters," 1585.—" A View of the Marginal Notes in the Popish Testament," 1588.