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William Twisse

William Twisse, D. D.—This illustrious divine was born at Spenham-Land, near Newbury, in Berkshire, about the year 1575, and educated first at Winchester school, then in New College, Oxford, where he was chosen fellow. He spent sixteen years at the university; and, by a most intense application, obtained an extraordinary knowledge of logic> philosophy, and divinity. His profound erudition appeared in his public lectures and learned disputations, but especially in correcting the works of the celebrated Bradwardine, then published by Sir Henry Savile. He took his various degrees with universal applause. He was an admired and popular preacher, and gready followed both by the collegians and townsmen.

He continued in his beloved pursuits at the university, till his brilliant talents and profound literature excited very public attention. His uncommon fame reached the court of King James, who chose him to be chaplain to Lady Elizabeth, then about to leave her native country and go to the Palatine. He cheerfully complied with the appointment, and accompanied the pious young princess to the foreign court; and, to moderate her grief, and administer comfort to her troubled mind, upon her painful separation from her friends, he expounded some portion of scripture to her every day. He dwelt much upon the great uncertainty of life, and the importance of a smtable preparation for death; and, from his appropriate instructions and admonitions, she derived that signal advantage by which she was enabled to endure the greatest adversity with undaunted courage. This amiable princess was exercised with many trials very soon after her arrival. For, presently after she was crowned Queen of Bohemia, she was forced to flee from the country and to live an exile all the rest of her days. She bore these tribulations with christian magnanimity. This is represented as the effect of the doctor's excellent instructions, who taught her, " That Divine providence ordereth all the estates and conditions of all men, according to his own good pleasure, and for the eternal advantage of his people:" as, Rom. viii. 28. "We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."* He did not, however, continue very long at the court of the Palatine, but was called back to England. His return was the occasion of deep regret both to the prince and princess, which was particularly expressed at the

* Clark's Live*, last vol. part i. «. 13.14.

time of his departure. Upon his arrival in his native country, he took his final leave of the court, and devoted himself to those profound studies by which he published to the world those learned works which will be the admiration of learned and pious men to the latest posterity.

Dr. Twisse, about the same time, became curate of Newbury, near the place of his birth; where, by his exemplary life and useful preaching, he gained a most distinguished reputation. In this retired situation, which was exactly suited to his wishes, he lived in great peace and comfort; and being secluded from the world, his time was wholly devoted to his studies and the spiritual advantage of his flock. He never sought after worldly riches, or aspired after ecclesiastical preferment, but modestly refused them when they were offered. He, indeed, often congratulated himself that he was in so low a condition, and so little exposed to the alluriug temptations. He often professed how greatly he was indebted to divine goodness, for having placed him in so mean and obscure a place, where he,was preserved from, aspiring after worldly preferment. No man ever sought more industriously to obtain ecclesiastical promotion than he sought to avoid it. Hence, when he was offered the provostship of Winchester college, and warmly entreated to accept it, he as warmly contended against it, though it was a post of considerable pecuniary interest. He preferred his studies, and the ministry of the word, to any idle or honourable post; and worldly interest had but little influence on his mind. Also, when the Bishop of Winchester laid a prebend at his feet, he politely thanked his lordship, but .modestly declined accepting it. The Earl of Warwick promised to confer upon him a more valuable living than that of Newbury, which at first he agreed to accept, provided the people of his charge could be furnished with a suitable pastor. He accordingly waited upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, requesting his favourable approbation, and was kindly received. His lordship granted all that he requested, and observed, that he would make mention of him to the king as a pious and learned divine, and no puritan. Dr. Twisse was, however, sagacious enough to see the snares mat were laid for him; and therefore, without making any further application, he returned to Newbury, resolving not to exchange his curacy for any other situation. Also the states of Friesland invited him to the professor's chair in the university of Franeker; and he was pressed to accept a professor's place at Oxford; but he refused them both. He was more concerned for his beloved studies, and ministerial usefulness, than for all the splendour and emolument of a university.

Upon the publication of the Book of Sports, our learned divine refused to read it, and ventured to declare his opinion decidedly against it: he, nevertheless, escaped better than many of his brethren, who, for so doing, were suspended from their ministry, driven out of the kingdom, or cast into prison. He was a person of great moderation, yet as decidedly against the use of the superstitious ceremonies as the encouragement of profane sports.* His refusal to read the book did not pass unnoticed at court; but when King James heard of it, he commanded the bishops not to molest him. His majesty, indeed, very well knew, that, though Dr. Twisse lived in low circumstances, and in an obscure situation, his fame was so great in all the reformed churches, that their lordships could do nothing against him which would not be a public reproach to themselves. It was, after all, no small disparagement to them, and to the church to which they belonged, that so eminently pious and learned a divine should live without preferment. The celebrated Dr. Prideaux said, " The bishops do very little consult their own credit, in not preferring Dr. Twisse, though against his wishes, to some splendid ecclesiastical dignity; by which, though they despair of drawing him to their party, they might take off, or mollify, the popular envy, and not hear themselves exposed to scorn by the curate of Newbury." During the civil wars, Prince Rupert, coming to Newbury, entertained our divine very courteously, and made him many honourable promises, if he would turn against the parliament, write in defence of the royal cause, and live among the king's party: but Dr. Twisse very wisely and politely declined the royal invitation .t

He obtained uncommon celebrity from the books which he published, especially upon points of controversy. Here his talents and erudition were employed upon his favourite subjects without restraint, and with extraordinary success. Among his antagonists were Dr.Thomas Jackson, Mr.Henry Mason, and Dr. Thomas Godwin, who was a person of great learning, especially in antiquities; but is said to have been more fit to instruct grammarians than to contend with a logician like Dr. Twisse. He next encountered Mr. John Goodwin, the celebrated advocate for Arminiauism, whom

• Mede's Works, p. 845, 846.

t" Claik's Lives, last tol. part i. p. 14—17.

he is said to have refuted with great learning and judgment. His next contest was with Mr. John Cotton, a divine whom he highly esteemed, and whom he treated with great gentleness. He learnedly refuted Dr. Potter's " Survey of the New Platform of Predestination."* He treated Dr. Heylin according to his deserts, in defence of the morality of the sabbath. He also successfully contended with the famous Arminius and others, in defence of the doctrines of grace. His answers to Dr. Jackson and Arminius, and his " Riches of God's Love," when first published, were all suppressed by the arbitrary appointment of Bishop Laud.t

In the year 1640, Dr. Twisse was chosen one of the sub-committee, to assist the committee of accommodation appointed by the house of lords to consider the innovations introduced into the church, and to promote a more pure reformation.? In the year 1643, he was nominated, by an order of the parliament, prolocutor to the assembly of divines. On account of his great modesty, he repeatedly declined the appointment, but was at length prevailed upon to accept the office. The learned assembly was opened July 1, 1643, when Dr. Twisse preached to both houses of parliament, in Henry the seventh's chapel. "In his sermon," says Fuller, "he exhorted his learned auditory to a faithful discharge of their duty, and to promote the glory of God and the honour of his church; but he was sorry that they wanted the royal assent. He hoped, however, that in due time it might be obtained, and that a happy union would be procured between the king and parliament."^

Dr. Twisse, on account of his age and manifold infirmities, was not able to attend upon the concerns of the assembly; but, in a few months, was taken ill, falling down in the pulpit to rise no more. He had been long grieved to behold the disagreement between the king and the parliament, which, he said, would prove fatal to both; and he often wished that the fire of contention might be

• Toplady's Historic Proof, vol. i. p. 68.

+ About the same time, Dr. George Downham, bishop of Derry in Ireland, published a book against the Arminians; upon which, Bishop Laud procured the suppression of all the copies sent to England; and, not satisfied with this, he caused a letter to be sent to Archbishop Usher, commanding the same proceeding against the book in Ireland. The pious and learned primate tamely yielded to tbe superior power of this arbitrary prelate; issued his warrant for the seizure of all the remaining copies of Downturn's work; and signified that he should "take order that nothing ■hould be hereafter published contrary to his majesty's sacred direction."— Prytme's Canl. Doome, p. 171, 172.

? Kingdom's MS. Collec. p. 800. tulk-r's Church Hut. b. Mi. p. 199.

extinguished, though it were at the price of his own blood.» When he fell down in the pulpit, he was carried to his lodgings and laid upon his bed, where he languished about a twelvemonth. During his long illness, multitudes of persons resorted to him, who witnessed his exemplary faith and patience. In the civil wars, he had been driven from his curacy and the people of his charge, at Newbury, and deprived of all his property by the royal forces; so that, in the time of his sickness, when certain persons were deputed from the assembly to visit him, they reported, " that he was very sick, and in great straits." The parliament, having taken his case into consideration, passed an order, December 4, 1645, for one hundred pounds to be given him oul of the public treasury.*- Nearly the last words that Dr.Twisse uttered, were, " I shall at length have leisure enough to follow my studies to all eternity;" and died July 20, 164G, aged seventy-one years. The whole house of commons, and the assembly of divines, paid their last respects to his memory by following, in one sorrowful procession, his mortal remains to the grave; when Dr. Robert Harris preached his funeral sermon from Joshua, i. 2., Moses my servant is dead. He was buried in Westminster abbey, where his body quietly rested till the restoration, when the humane, the liberal, and the enlightened Charles ordered his bones to be dug up, together with the bodies of many other persons, eminent in church and state, and thrown into a pit digged on purpose in St. Margaret's church-yard.J: The

• Clark's Lives, p. 17. + Whitlocke's Mem. p. 189.

J One or those illustrious persons, whose body suffered this shameful Indignity, was the valiant Admiral Blake, whose name was a terror to the enemies of Britain; who raised the naval reputation of his country to a higher pitch than any of his predecessors, and whose services to the English nation will be a monument of his renown as durable as time. The following is a lit of some of the persons to whose bodies this malevolence was offered, on the 12th and 11th of September, 1661. Others would probably nave shared the same fate; but the thing was so indecent, and drew so general an odium on the government, that a stop was put to any further proceedings:

Elizabeth Cromwell, mother of William Stroud, esq. M. P.

Oliver, lord protector, Humphrey Mackwortb, colonel,

Elizabeth Claypnle, her daughter, Dennis Bond, esq.

Robert Blake, admiral, Thomas May, esq. the historian,

John Pym, esq. M. P. John Mildruin, colonel,

Dr. Isaac Dorislaus, Colonel Boscawen,

Sir William Constable, colonel, Doctor William Twisse, prolocutor,

Edward Popham, admiral, Stephen Marshall, presby. divine,

Richard Dean, admiral, William Strong, indepen. divine.

Granger'/ Biog. Hist. vol. iii. p. 80.— Wood's Athens Oxen. Toi. i. p. 826.

refined barbarity and contemptible meanness of these proceedings, might have been expected amongst untutored savages, rather than from a monarch bred up in all the refinements of the English court.

Though Dr. Twisse died in necessitous circumstances, the parliament, after his death, voted a thousand pounds to be given to his children, out of the public treasury ;• but, on account of the national confusions, it is doubtful whether it was ever paid. Mr. Clark says, " he was much admired for his great learning, subtle wit, exact judgment, great integrity, pleasing behaviour, and his exemplary modesty, piety, humility and self-denial."+ Fuller denominates him, "a divine of great abilities, learning, piety, and moderation.^ Wood says, "his plain preaching was esteemed good; his solid disputations were accounted better; but his pious life was reckoned best of all." The most learned of his adversaries confessed that there was nothing extant more accurate and full upon the Aiminian controversy, than what is contained in his works. All writers against Arminianism have made honourable mention of bis works, and have acknowledged him to have been the mightiest man in those controversies that the age produced.!) He was succeeded at Newbury by Mr. Benjamin Woodbridge, who was afterwards ejected in l66"2.||

His Works.—1. A Discovery of Dr. Jackson's Vanities, 1631.— 2. Vindiciae Gratiae, Potestatis et Providentiae Dei, 1632.—3. Dissertatio Scientist Media tribus libris absoluta, 1639.—4. Disiertiones, 1639.—5. Of the Morality of the Fourth Commandment, 1641.—

6. A Treatise of Reprobation, in Answer to Mr. John Cotton, 1646.—

7. Animadvertiones ad Jacobi Arminii Collat. cum Frank. Junio et Job. Arnold Corvin, 1649.—8. De Predestinatione et Gratia, 1649.— 9. The Doubting Conscience Resolved, 1652.—10. The Riches of God's Love unto the Vessels of Mercy, consistent with his absolute hatred or reprobation of the Vessels of Wrath, 1653.—11. Two Tracts in Answer to Dr. H. (Hammond) 1653.—12. The Synod of Dort and Ares reduced to Practice, with an Answer.—13. The Scriptures Sufficiency to determine all matters of Faith.—14. The Christian Sabbath defended against the crying Evil of these Times of the Antisabbatarians of our Age.—15. Fifteen Letters, published in Mede's Works.—He also left numerous manuscripts behind him.

* Whiilocke's Mem. p. 321. + Clark's Lives, p. 13,14,18.

1 Fuller's Worthies, part i. p. 96.

\ Wood's Athena: Oxon. vol. ii. p. 40, 41.

I) Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol. i. p. 290.