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William Charke

William Charke was fellow of Peter-house, Cambridge, in 1572, where, most probably, he received his education. Cambridge, at this time, was a nest of puritans; but Dr. Whitgift, with the other heads of colleges, laboured to expel the growing faction, as it was called. Many of the students and fellows were disaffected to the ceremonies and discipline of the church, among whom was Mr. Charke. He did not, therefore, remain long unobserved; for the heads of colleges, of whom Whitgift was chief, presently brought complaints against hiin to Lord Burleigh, chancellor of the university. Mr. Charke, in his sermon at St. Mary's, December 3,

\ 1572, asserted, 1. " That the states of bishops, archbishops, metropolitans, and popes, were introduced into the church

( by Satan.—And, 2. That the ministers of the church ought not to be superior one to another." For divulging these sentiments, he was the very next day cited before Drs. Whitgift, Pern, Howford, Kelk, and Bying, the vice-chancellor ; before whom he acknowledged the delivery of the two propositions, the former directly, the latter implicitly. He was brought before them a second time, in February following, and was often admonished and commanded to revoke his errors publicly at St. Mary's, on a Lord's day, which he absolutely refused: only he acknowledged that there ought to be some superiority among ministers, in matters of jurisdiction/ Upon which, the vice-chancellor, with the consent of the heads, pronounced sentence upon him of exclusion from the college, and banishment from the university. He was, therefore, excluded and expelled from the place.* Whether his punishment was not greater than the crime with which he was charged, is left with the candid reader to determine.

Mr. Charke, upon his departure from Cambridge, appealed from the judgment of the vice-chancellor and heads, to Burleigh, the chancellor. This he did, says Mr. Strype, in a well-penned epistle, written in a good Latin style, desiring, by his lordship's means, to be again restored to his

college, promising to conduct himself quietly and peace ably. In this letter, he said, " That be denied not himself to be one, who, being led by argument taken from scripture, and the example of foreign churches, thought something to be wanting, whereby our church, lately rescued from darkness, might come nearer the original pattern. That when he was aware how his opinion might prove dangerous to be divulged among the unskilful multitude, because it appeared something new to the common people, and was different from the ordinances, he kept to himself the knowledge of the truth, and had ever studiously avoided the promulgation of it in his sermons; but that in a private senate, and in the Latin tongue, he thought he might use greater liberty. He had, therefore, in a very learned and wise assembly, explained his opinion more freely in those matters. And that, by so doing, he had ignorantly fallen into the crime of violating a law; and so was cited to appear in judgment. And that his judges had forbidden him not only the use of water and fire, by which men live; but the use of learning too, by which they live zcelf. He, therefore, humbly appealed to his equity and goodness, as the only hope he had left of recovering his place ; praying him to write to the university for Jits restoration; and that hereafter he might be wholly rejected, if he violated the peace cither of the church, the slate, or the university."*

The chancellor, knowing him to be a good scholar, and that he was treated with tyrannical severity, upon receiving this humble and peaceable supplication, made intercession for him, by addressing the following letter to the vice-chancellor and heads of houses:*

" After my very hearty commendations.

" Whereas you have expelled William Charkc, late fellow of Peter-house, for some speeches used in a sermon which he lately had ad clerum, tending to the disturbing the quietness and peace of the church, and manifestly contrary to the orders taken for the maintenance of the same peace. For as much as the said Charkc hath been with me, and partly wisely extenuating his fault, and partly very honestly acknowledging that he committed the same by overmuch vehemency of spirit, and promising faithfully never hereafter to deal in this or the like again, that may be offensive, hath shewed some good parts, affec

• 8trype*» Whitgift, p. 43, 44.

t Baker's MS. Collcc. vol. xzix. p. 373.

tion, and good gifts to be in him, the which, in mine opinion, it were great charity and good wisdom, by gentle usage and persuasion, to reduce to be profitable in the church, rather than by too suddenly cutting him off from the course of his studies, utterly to lose. These are heartily to pray you, the rather for my sake, and for proof of him hereafter, to receive him again into the university and his fellowship within the college, upon his like promise made to you not to meddle hereafter in such kind of doctrines. Wherein, if you shew some indulgence for this time, and rather suppress the memory of his said speech and doctrine, for it was delivered in the Latin tongue, and not popularly taught, in my judgment you shall do well; and so praying you to do, I bid you hearty farewell. From my house, Feb. 20, l.r>7'2.

" Your loving friend,

" William BunLEiGH." This intercession, however, was to no purpose. It does not appear that Mr. Charke was ever restored to his fellowship. He was, about the same time, one of the superadded members of the presbytery at Wandsworth in Surrey.* In the year 1580, wc find him employed, with other learned men, in a conference with Campian, the famous popish priest. He was engaged in the fourth day's dispute, when the subjects of discussion were,—1." Whether the scriptures contain sufficient doctrine for salvation. And, 2. Whether faith alone justifieth." These conlerences were afterwards collected and published, by the consent of both parties.t

Upon Mr. Charkc's banishment from the university, he was countenanced and entertained by several of the nobility, and patronized by persons of learning and real worth. He was domestic chaplain first to Lord Cheiny, then to I he Duchess of Somerset, at Chelsea, and was with her when she died. In the year li>81, he was chosen constant preacher to the society of LincolnVinu. Hut, to succeed effectually in their choice, the society applied to the Bishop of London, for his approbation and allowance. The bishop, knowing Mr. Charkc's great abilities, and that he was eminently qualified for a situation of so much learning, did not refuse; but signified that application should be first made to the lords of the council, for their allowance. This was accordingly done, and the lords

* Kingdom*! MSS. p. .'ID.—Fuller's Church HUt. h. Ix. p. 103. 1 Slrjpc'f Aunal', vol, ii, p. 646.

Xified their full approbation; so that he was chosen and litted.* He afterwards united with his brethren in subscribing the " Book of Discipline."* X

In the above respectable situation, Mr. Charke, by the favour of his learned patrons, was protected some years from the tyrannical oppressions of the times; and though a zealous nonconformist, he enjoyed his lecture at Lincoln'sinn till the year 1593. The period at length arrived when they could no longer screen him from the fury of the prelates; for in that year, it appears, he was silenced by Archbishop Whitgift.$ Notwithstanding the treatment he met with, he was greatly admired and commended, even by rigid conformists, on account of his distinguished learning and great moderation. After his suspension, pleading his cause before the archbishop, that he conducted himself peaceably, &c. his grace replied, " This is not enough. It is not sufficient, that you do not preach against the bishops: you do not preach for them."^

Mr. Strype denominates him a man of eminent parts, and a chief leader among the puritans.|| Dr. Nowell styles him a person of great learning and godliness.! The Oxford historian, speaking of the various books of Hooker's " Ecclesiastical Polity," observes, " That the three books, (meaning the three last,) which Hooker completed before his death, were, with the consent of his unlucky widow, seized upon in his study,, soon after his decease, by William Charke, a noted puritan, and another minister that lived near Canterbury; who, making the silly woman believe that they were writings not fit to be seen, did cither burn them in the place, or carry them away."« Admitting this statement to be correct, the whole, it seems, was done by the permission of that sil/j/ woman, the unlucky widow; and if Mr. Charke and his companion persuaded her that the papers were not f.1 to be seen, all this might be perfectly just and true. But our historian's sole authority is the letter of Dr. King, bishop of Chichester, dated November 13, 1664, above sixty years after the event; and he has made considerable additions to it.tt Mr. Charke was

* Strype's Annals, Voi. lit. p. 55, 50. t Neat's Puritans, vol. i. p. 423.

* MS. Chronology, vol. I. p. 313. (4.)

^ Minister's Reasons against Subscrip. part 11. p. 173. Edit. 1603'
I, Strjpe's WMtgift, p. 43.—Annals, vol. II. p. 533.
f. Churton's Life of Nowell, p. 278, note.

Wood's Athena; Oxon. vol. i. p. 263.
► * Kins'* Lelter, prrfiieii lo the Life of {looker. Edit. 1615.

living towards the close of the year 1600; but when he died we have not been able to learn. He published several pieces against the papists.