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Robert Wright

Robert Wright.—He lived fourteen years in the university of Cambridge, was a very learned man, and tutor to the Earl of Essex, both in school learning and at the university. Being dissatisfied with episcopal ordination, he went to Antwerp, where he was ordained by the laying on

land, Lord Rich of Rochford, in Essex, made him his domestic chaplain; and he constantly preached and administered the sacrament in his lordship's chapel, but in no other place, seeing the bishop utterly refused him a license. He was an admired preacher; and, for his great seriousness and piety, was universally beloved by the clergy in the county. While his noble patron lived, he protected him from danger; but this excellent lord was no sooner dead, than Dr. Aylmer, bishop of London, laid hands on him; and for saying, " That to keep the queen's birth-day as an holiday^ is to make her an idol" he was committed to the Gatehouse, where he continued a long time.t

* Strype't Admii, To], iii. p. 15,21. + Strype's Aylmer, p. 83—87.

of the hands of the presbytery.

Having lain in prison several months, he petitioned the bishop to be brought to trial, or admitted to bail. But all the answer he could obtain of his grace, was, that he deserved to He in prison seven years. This very hard usage, together with Mr. Wright's open and undisguised honesty and piety, moved the compassion of his keeper; and, his wile being in child-bed and in great distress, he gave leave, with the private allowance of the secretary of state, to make her a visit at Rochford, upon his parole. But it so happened, that Dr. Ford, the civilian, met him on the road, and acquainted the bishop with his escape; who, falling into a violent passion, sent immediately for the keeper, and demanded his prisoner. The keeper pleaded the great compassion of the case; but all was unavailable. For the bishop threatened to complain of him to the queen, and have him turned out of his place. Mr. Wright, having received information of his keeper's danger, returned immediately to his prison, and wrote as follows to the lord treasurer in his behalf:—" Oh ! my lord," says he, " I most humbly crave your lordship's favour, that I may be delivered from such unpitiful minds; and especially, that your lordship will stand a good lord to my keeper, that he may not be discouraged from favouring those who profess true religion." This was written in May, 1582. The keeper was therefore pardoned.*

The bishop, however, was resolved to have full satisfaction of the prisoner; and, bringing him before the high commission, he was examined upon certain articles concerning the Book of Common Prayer; the rites and ceremonies; praying for the queen and church; and the established form of ordaining ministers. He was, moreover, charged with preaching without a license, and with being a mere layman. To which he replied, " that he thought the Book oi Common Prayer, upon the whole, was good and godly, but could not answer tor every particular. That as to rites and ceremonies, he thought that his resorting to churches where they were used, was a sufficient proof, that he did not utterly condemn them. That he prayed tor the queen, and for all the ministers of God's word; consequently, for archbishops, bishops, &c. That he was only a private chaplain, and knew of no law that required a license for such a place. But he could not acknowledge, that he was a mere

• Strypc'i Annals, vol. Ui. p. 123,124.

layman, having preached seven years in the university with a license, and being since that time regularly ordained, by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery at Antwerp."

The bishop having charged Mr. Wright with saying, " That the election of ministers ought to be by their flocks," he acknowledged the charge, and supposed it was no error; adding, " That he was himself thus chosen by his flock at Rochibrd; that in his opinion, every minister was a bishop, though not a lord bishop; and that his grace of London, must be of the same opinion; because when he was last before him, he rebuked Mr. White for striking one of his parishioners, alleging that text, A bishop must be no striker: which had been impertinent, if Mr. White, who was only a minister, had not been a bishop.^ When he was charged with saying, " That the ministers who only used the common prayer, were dumb dogs /' he said, " the phrase, though used in scripture, has very seldom been in my mouth, on any occasion whatever. But it can never be proved, that I ever called any man, especially any preacher, by that name. Yet a man who is professedly the pastor of a flock, and does not preach at all, may, according to the design of the prophet, deserve the name of dumb dog."

Aylmer also charged him with saying," There were no lawful ministers in the church of England; and that those who are called ministers, are thieves and murderers." To this, Mr. Wright said, " I will be content to be condemned, if I bring not two hundred godly, preaching ministers, as witnesses against this accusation. I do as certainly believe, that there are lawful ministers in England, as that there is a sun in the sky. In Essex, I can bring twenty godly ministers, all preachers, who will testify that they love me, and have cause to think that I love and reverence them. I preached seven years in the university of Cambridge with approbation, and have a testimonial under the hands and seals of the master and fellows of Christ's college, being all ministers,

This excellent divine having been a considerable time in the Gatehouse, in September, 1582, became willing to subscribe to the allowance of the ministry of the church of England, and the Book of Common Prayer. Yet Bishop Aylmer required his friends to be bound in a good round sumt that henceforth he should never preach, nor act, contrary to the same. Upon these conditions, his grace was

of my good behaviour."*

not unwilling to grant him favour, if fhe queen approved of it.* It is, indeed, very doubtful whether the favour was ever obtained; for the unmerciful proceedings of the above prelate against the puritans, were almost unparalleled, t