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Andrew Willet

Andrew Willet, D. D.—This learned and laborious divine wasTBoni uf the city of Ely, in the year 1562, and educated first in Peter-house, then in Christ's college, Cambridge. He was blessed with pious parents, who brought him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. His father, Mr. Thomas Willet, was sub-almoner to King Edward VI., and a painful sufferer during the cruel persecutions of Queen Mary. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, he became rector of Barley in Hertfordshire, and was preferred to a prebend in the church of Ely. His son Andrew, while a boy at school, discovered an uncommon genius, and made extraordinary progress in the various rudiments of knowledge. He was so intense in his application, that his parents were obliged to use various methods to divert his attention from his books. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to the university, where he was soon preferred to a fellowship. Here he became intimate with Downham, Perkins, and other celebrated puritans, who encouraged each other in their studies. Willet soon distinguished himself by his exact acquaintance with the languages, the arts, and all the branches of useful literature. He was concerned not to have these things to learn, when he came forth to teach others; wisely judging that youth should prepare that which riper years must use. Among the aneedotes related of him while at Cambridge, shewing the promising greatness of his abilities, is the following:—" The proctor of the college being prevented, by some unforeseen occurrence, from executing his office at the commencement, just at hand, none could be found to take his place excepting Willet, who acquitted himself so well, that his orations gained him the approbation and applause of the university, and the high admiration of all who knew how short a time he had for preparation."* In the year 1586, he united with the master and fellows of Christ's college, in defence of themselves against the accusutions of their enemies, in which they acquitted themselves with great honour.t

Having spent thirteen years at the university, he came forth richly traught with wisdom and knowledge. On the death of his father, the queen presented him to the rectory of Barley, and gave him his father's prebend in the church

* BarVsdalr'j Remembrancer, p. 53—58. + Baker's MS. Collcc. Vo1, iv. p. 79.

' of Ely. He entered upon his charge at Barley, January .29, 1598.* Though he is said to have sought no other preferment, one of his name became rector of Reed in Middlesex, in the year 1613; and rector of Chishall-Parra in Essex, in 1620.t We cannot, however, learn whether this was the same person. He studied to deserve preferments, rather than to obtain them. His own observation was, that some enjoy promotions, while others merit them. He always abounded in the work of the Lord, and accounted the work in which he was engaged as part of his wages. About the time that he entered the ministerial • work, he married a near relation to Dr. Goad, by whom he had eleven sons and seven daughters.

Dr. Willet was a man of uncommon reading, having digested the fathers, councils, ecclesiastical histories, the civil and canon law, and numerous writers of almost all descriptions. Indeed, he read so much, and understood and retained what he had read so well, that he was denominated a living library. To secure this high attainment, he was extremely provident of his time. He constantly rose at a very early hour, by which means he is said to have got half way on his journey before others set out. He was laborious in the numerous duties of his ministry; and he greatly lamented the condition of those who sat under idle and ignorant ministers. He also often lamented the state of the prelates of those times, who, after obtaining rich livings, though they were men of talents and learning, would not stoop to labour for the welfare of souls. But he, as a faithful steward of Christ, constantly preached three times a week, and catechised both old and young throughout his parish. And though he was a man of most profound learning, had been some time chaplain to Prince Henry, and had frequently preached at court, his sermons and catechetical instructions were dressed in so plain and familiar a style, that persons of the weakest capacity might easily understand him.J He esteemed those the best discourses which were best adapted to the condition of the people, and most owned of God: not those which were most decorated with human ornaments, and most admired among men. Though he could administer all needful reproof and warning to the careless and the obstinate; yet his great talent was to bind up the broken-hearted, and comfort the weary, fainting pilgrim.

• Newcourt's ReperC. Ecct. rol. I. p. 800. * Ibid. p. 862. ii. p. 151. X Fuller'! Abel KedlvWui, p. 699.

His external deportment, at home and abroad, was inch as became his profession. He lived, as well as preached, the gospel. His house was the model of a little church and house of God; where morning and evening sacrifices were daily offered unto God. He had laws and ordinances set up in his house, directing all the members of his numerous family to the observance of their respective duties; and he was a pattern to them all in all things. His humility and benevolence were two of the brightest jewels in his crown. Though he had a numerous family of children, he did not consider that a sufficient reason for abridging his constant and extensive liberality. On the contrary, he was of the same mind as one of the fathers, •who said, " The more children, the more charity." And it is said of Dr. Willet, that his substance increased with his liberality.* Many poor ministers tasted the sweetness of his bounty.

Dr. Willet obtained a great degree of celebrity by the numerous and valuable productions of his pen. One of his voluminous publications appeared in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, entitled, " Synopsis Papismi; or, a general View of Papistrie." This work, which was dedicated to the queen, contains upwards of thirteen hundred pages in folio. It is perhaps the best refutation of popery that ever was published. In this work, says Mr. Toplady, no less than fifteen hundred errors and heresies are charged against the church of Rome, and most ably refuted. It passed through five editions; and was highly approved by many of the bishops; held in great esteem by the two universities; and very much admired, both by the clergy and laity, throughout the kingdom. The author, it is incorrectly added, was most zealously attached to the church of England, and not a grain of puritanism mingled itself with his conformity, t

This celebrated divine continued his numerous and painful labours to the last. He used to say, " As it is most honourable for a soldier to die righting, and for a bishop or pastor praying; so, if my merciful God will vouchsafe to grant me my request, I desire that I may finish my days in writing and commenting on some part of scripture."

* Dr. Willet'a mother was a person who abounded in act! of charity. When ber children were gone from her, and settled in life, the ased to feed her poor neighbours, saying, " Now I have my children about me again."—Barksdalt't Rtmcmbrancer, p. 55, 64, 65.

+ Toplady's Historic Proof, Voi. ii. p. 191,192, 305.

Herein God gave him the desire of his heart . He was called to his father's house, as he was composing his " Commentary on Leviticus." Though he did not desire, as good Archbishop Leighton did, that he might die at an inn, the unerring providence of God had appointed that he should. The occasion of his death was a fall from his horse, as he was riding homewards from London, by which he broke his leg, and was detained at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, incapable of being removed. On the tenth day after his fall, having supped cheerfully the preceding evening, and rested well during the greatest part of the night, he awoke in the morning by the tolling of a bell, when he entered into sweet conversation with his wife about the joys of heaven. After singing with melody in their hearts to the Lord, and unitedly presenting their supplications to God, he turned himself in bed, and giving a deep groan, he fell into a swoon. His wife, being alarmed, immediately called in assistance; and upon the application of suitable means, he recovered a little, and raised himself up in bed, but immediately said, " Let me alone. I shall be well, Lord Jesus;" and then resigned his happy soul to God, December 4, 1621, aged fifty-eight years.* His funeral was attended by a great number of knights, gentlemen, and ministers, who, having esteemed and honoured him in life, testified their respect to his memory when dead. Though he wrote against the unmeaning and superstitious practice of bowing at the name of Jesus,* and was a sufferer in the cause of nonconformity; t yet, being so excellent a man, so peaceable in his behaviour, and so moderate in his principles, he was enabled to keep his benefice to the day of his death. " He was a person," says Fuller, " of a sound judgment, admirable industry, a pious life, and bountiful above his ability He is classed among the learned writers and fellows of Christ's college, Cambridgc.|| Mr. Strype denominates him u a learned and zealous puritan."!

Dr. Willct's remains were interred in the chancel of Barley church, where there is a representation of him at full length, in a praying attitude; and underneath is a

• Fuller't Abel Red. p. 575.

t Wood's Athens Oxon. Voi. i. p. 348.

1 Neal's Puritani, vol. il. p. 189.

f Church Hilt. b. z. p. 91.—Worth lei, part L p. 158.

jj Fuller's Hist, of Cam. p. 02.

1 Strype's Annali, vol. iii. p. 441, 490.

monumental inscription erected to his memory, of which the following is a translation :•

Hero liet
Andrew Willp.t, D.D.
once Minister of this Church,
Mid » great ornument of the Church in general.
He died
December 4, 1621, in the 59th
year of his age.

Reader, admire! within this tomb there lies
Willet, though dead, still living with the wise;
Seek you his house:—his polished works peruse,
.* Each valu'd page the living AVillet shews:

All that of him was mortal rests below,
Nor can you tearless from the relics go.

Subjoined to the Latin inscription are the following lines in English:

Thou that erewhile didst such strong reasons frame,
As yet, great Willet, are the popelings shame;
Now by thy sickness thy death hast made,
Strong arguments to prove that man's a shade.
Thy life did shew thy deep divinity,
Death only taught us thy humanity.

His Works.—1. Synopsis Papismi, 1600.—2. Thesaurus Ecclesiae, 1604.—3. De Gratia Generi Humano in primo Parente collata, de Lapsu Adami, Peccato Originali, 1609.—1. Hexapla upon Daniel, 1610.f—5. Hexapla upon Romans, 1611.—6. Hexapla upon Leviticus,

1631. —7. Hexapla upon Genesis, 1632.—8. Hexapla upon Exodus,

1632. —9. De animae natura et viribus.—10. Sacra Emblemata.— 11. De universal! Vocatione Judxorum.—12. Dc Conciliis.—13. De universal! Gratia.— 14. De Antichristo.— 15. Epithalamium.— 16. Funcbres Consciones.—17. Apologise serencssimi Regio Jac. Defensio.—18. Harmony of the First and Second Book of Samuel.—

• 19. Hexapla upon the Twenty-second Psalm.—20. Upon the Seventeenth of John.—21. Upon the Epistle of Jude.—22. Tetrastylon Papismi.—23. A Catalogue of Good Works.—24. Limbomastix.— 25. Funeral Sermons.—26. A Catechism.—27. A Prelection.—28. An Antilogy.—29. Epithalamium in English.—He left an immense quantity of manuscripts behind him.

* Theological and Biblical Magazine, vol. vii. p. 383.

t This work affords much information, as it contains the opinions of many authors on each point of difficulty.—Willitmu't Christian Prcachir, p. 433.

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