Bernard Gilpin, B. D.—This celebrated person was born of an ancient and honourable family, at Kentmire in Westmoreland, in the year 1517, and educated in Queen's college, Oxford. He made the closest application to his studies, and uncommon progress in useful learning. Having determined to apply himselt to divinity, he made the scripr tures his principal study; and with a view to his better acquaintance with them, he resolved by the greatest industry to gain a thorough knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages. He had not been long thus employed before he was noticed as a young man of excellent parts and considerable learning; and became exceedingly admired and beloved for the sweetness of his disposition, and the politeness of his manners. At the usual term, he took his degrees in Arts, and was elected fellow of his college. His reputation was, indeed, so great, that he was chosen to supply the college newly founded by Cardinal Wolsey.J
• 8trype's Aylmer, p. 87.
+ The zeal and assiduity of Bishop Aylmer in defence of the ehnrch of England, is said to have recommended him to the particular favour of Queen Elizabeth. Though in the early part of his life he declaimed against the wealth and splendour of bishops, and spoke with vehemence against their lordly dignity and civil authority, and was an avowed advocate of what was afterwards called puritanism ; yet, as be rose in ecclesiastical prefer* ment and worldly grandeur, he Changed bis opinions, and became the most violent in the opposite sentiments. And notwithstanding he is styled a person of extranrdinary wisdom, a worthy prelate, and a blessing to the church ; he was certainly one of the most unfeeling and cruel persecutors, of which the pages of history afford sufficient proof. He was preceptor to lady Jane Grey j and, on the accession of Queen Mary, he went into exile. Jiis escape was very remarkable. Being a little man, the merchant of the ship in which he made his escape, put him into a win. butt, with a partition i in the middle ; so that he was inclosed in one end of the cask, while the searchers drank wine drawn out of the other.—He was a man of great courage, and had one of his own teeth drawn, to encourage Queen Elizabeth to submit to a similar operation. When be wished to rouse the attention of his audience while be was preaching, he usually took his Hebrew Bible out of his pocket, and read them a few verses, and then resumed his discourse. He was remarkably fond of bowls, even on toe Eord's-day, when he commonly used very unbecoming language, to the great reproach of bis character.—Strype's Aylmer, p. 215—292.—Woofs Athena, vol. i. p. 611.—Biog. Brit an. vol. i. p. 364—391. Edit. 1778.— Granger's Biog. Hist. vol. i. p. 208.
$ The following memoir of Mr. Gilpin is chiefly collected from tht " British Biography," vol, iii. p. 98—.
Mr. Gilpin having been trained up in the popish religion, still continued a steady son of that church ; and in defence Qf popery, had held a disputation with John Hooper, after-, wards bishop of Worcester, and the famous marlyr. This was in the reign of Henry VIII.; but upon the accession of King Edward, Peter Martyr being sent to Oxford, delivered public lectures upon divinity in a strain to which that university had been little accustomed. He attacked the Romish doctrines in a manner that alarmed the popish party ; which induced them to unite, and make as strong an opposition as they were able. Mr. Gilpin having gained considerable reputation in the university, the popish party were exceedingly solicitous to engage him in a public defence of their cause, and made the most pressing applications for this purpose. But they fount! his zeal much cooler than their own. Indeed, he was not satisfied with the cause of the reformers, having never had a sufficient opportunity of acquainting himself with their principles: but, on the other hand, he had never been a bigotted papist; and had discovered, in his dispute with Hooper, that several of the Romish doctrines were not so well supported by scripture, as he had before supposed. While his mind was thus unsettled, he thought himself ill qualified to defend either side by public disputation. His inclination was to stand by as an unprejudiced observer; and to embrace the truth, whether he found it among papists or protestants. By much importunity, however, he at length yielded, and the next day appeared in public against Peter Martyr.*
Mr. Gilpin being thus drawn into the controversy against his inclination, was determined to make it as useful as possible to himself. By bringing his old opinions to the test, he hoped that he should be enabled to discover whether they were justly founded, or he had hitherto been involved in error. He resolved, therefore, to lay aside as much as possible, the temper of a caviller; and to follow truth, from which he was determined nothing should make him swerve. Having commenced the dispute, he soon found the arguments of his adversary too strong for him. They came so forcibly authorized by the testimony of scripture, that he
* Dr. Peter Martyr, a celebrated reformer, was horn in Florence, and invited to England by tbe Protector Somerset and Arcbbisbop Cranmer. In the year 1548, he was made regius professor of divinity at Oxford, and, in 1550, installed canon of Christ-church. His numerous works, which are in Latin, consist chiefly of commentaries on the scriptures, and pieces on controversy. On the accession of Queen Mary, and the commencement of persecution, be desired to withdraw, and died at Zurich, November 12, 1562—Qrangtr', Biog. Hut. vol. i. p. 141.
could not help frankly acknowledging they were of a very different nature from the wire-drawn proofs and strained interpretations, in which he had hitherto acquiesced. The disputation, therefore, was soon over. Mr. Gilpin had too much honesty to defend suspected opinions. He yielded to the force of truth; and owned publicly, that he could not maintain what he undertook to defend; and therefore determined to enter no more upon controversy, till he had gained that full information which he was anxious to obtain.*
Mr. Gilpin being thus staggered by his opponent's arguments, the first step he took, after imploring divine assistance, was to commit to paper, the substance of the dispute. Also, he resolved to enter into a strict examination of the whole, but especially those points in which he had found himself the most closely pressed. At the same time, he began with great assiduity to examine the scriptures, and the writings of the fathers, with a particular view to the controversy betwixt protestants and papists. The first result of his inquiries, cooled his zeal for popery, and gave him a more favourable opinion of the doctrines of the reformation. In this unsettled state of mind, he communicated his thoughts to his friends, and particularly to Tonstal, bishop of Durham, who was his mother's uncle, and his great friend. The advice he received induced him to examine the scriptures and the fathers with still greater attention; and at last he became thoroughly convinced, that there were numerous sore abuses and corruptions in the church of Rome, and that a reformation was highly necessary.
As an academic life affords the greatest leisure for study, Mr. Gilpin was resolved still to continue wholly employed in the pursuit of knowledge. He had too just a sense(of the ministerial work, to rush upon it hastily, or to be unacquainted with the qualifications requisite to the discharge of it; and too mean an opinion of himself, to think he was yet possessed of them. He thought more learning was necessary in that controversial age, than he had yet acquired. And his chief argument with his friends, who were continually urging him to leave the university, was, that he was not yet sufficiently instructed in religion himself
* Peter Martyr was much concerned for Mr. Gilpin's welfare, and nsed to say, be cared not mucb for his other adversaries; but for Gilpin, wbo sppke and acted like a man of integrity, he was much troubled. He therefore often prayed that God would convince him of his error, and convert him to the truth ; which the Lord was pleated afterwards to do.—FuUtr't A.itl Btdivivus, p. 353.
to teach others. The christian ministry, said he, was an arduous work, especially in those times; and protestantism could not sutler more than by the rawness and inexperience of its teachers. These thoughts continued to attend him at Oxford till the thirty-fifth year of his age. About this time, the vicarage of Norton, in the disocese of Durham, becoming void, his friends, with some difficulty, prevailed upon him to accept it. Accordingly, he was presented to this living in November, 1552. But before he entered upon his important charge, he was appointed to preach before King Edward at Greenwich.
Mr. Gilpin was resolved on this occasion to censure the prevailing avarice and corruptions with honest freedom, and ordered his sermon accordingly. He began by first addressing the clergy. He was sorry, said he, to observe
get benefices, not to take care of their flocks, was their great object. Half of them were pluralist*, or nonresidents, and such could never fulfil their charge. He was shocked, he said, to hear them quote human laws against the word of God. If such laws did exist, they were the remains of popery, and ought to be repealed. For while mens' consciences would permit them to hold as many livings as they could get, and discharge none, it was impossible the gospel could have any considerable success.
From the clergy he turned to the court; and observing the king was absent, he was obliged to introduce that part of his sermon, by saying, it grieved him to see those absent, who, for example's sake, ought to have been present. He had also heard other preachers remark, that it was common for. them to be absent. Business might, perhaps, be their excuse; but he could not believe that serving God would ever hinder business. If he could, he said, he would make them hear in their chambers. However, he would speak to their seats, not doubting that what he said would be carried to them.—" You, great prince," said he, " are appointed by God to be the governor of this land,; let me then here call upon you in behalf of your people. It is in your power to redress them; and if you do not, the neglect must be accounted for. Take away dispensations for pluralities and nonresidence, and oblige every pastor to hold only one benefice; and, as far as you can, make every one do his duty. Your grace's eye to look through the realm, would do more good than a thousand preachers. The land is full of idle pastors. And how can it be otherwise, while the nobility, and patrons of
amongst them so manifest
•lect of their function. To livings, put in just who will allow them to take out most profit .'It would be good, if your grace would send out surveyors, to see how benefices are bestowed. It is no wonder that your people are continually rising up in rebellion, when they have no instructors to teach them their duty. If some remedies be not applied to these evils, we are in danger of falling into more ignorance, superstition, and idolatry, than we ever were in while under the Bishop of Rome. This must, indeed, be the case, if some proper methods be not taken to prevent it; for benefices are every where so plundered and robbed by patrons, that in a little time no one will bring up his children to the church. It is amazing to see how the universities are diminished within these few years. And I must tell your grace, that all these evils will be laid to your charge, if you do not exert yourself to prevent them. For my part, I will do my duty: I will tell your grace what corruptions and abuses prevail, and pray to God that he will direct your heart to amend them."
He next addressed the nobility and magistrates. He told them, that they all received their honours, their powers, and their authority, from God, who expected they would make a proper use of such gifts; and would certainly call them to an account for the abuse of them. But he saw so much ambitious striving for these things at court, that he was afraid they did not all consider them in their true light. He observed, that the spirit of avarice was crept in among them; that the country cried out against their extortions; and that when the poor came to seek for justice in London, the great men would not see them ; but their servants must first be bribed. Oh! said he, with what glad hearts and clear consciences might noblemen go to rest, after having spent the day in hearing the complaints of the poor, and redressing their wrongs. For want of this, he said, they were obliged to seek their right among lawyers, who quickly devoured every thing they had, and( thousands every term were obliged to return worse than they came.—" Then," •aid he, "let me call upon you magistrates, and put you in mind, that if the people are debtors to you for obedience, you are debtors to them for protection. If you deny this, they must suffer; but God will assuredly espouse their cause against you. .And now, if we search for the root of all these evils, what is it but avarice ? This it is that maketh the bad nobleman, the bad magistrate, the bad pastor, the bad lawyer."—Having thus freely addressed his audience, he concluded his sermon with a warm exhortation, that all would consider these things, and that such as found themselves faully would amend their lives.*
Such was the manner in which Mr. Gilpin entered on the work of the ministry ; and such was the sense he had of the sincerity and faithfulness necessary to the proper discharge of it. Whatever appeared to be his duty, appeared also to be his interest; and he was never swayed by hope or fear. He considered himself in some degree chargeable with those vices of which he had the knowledge, if he failed to rebuke them. His plain dealing on this occasion was therefore well taken, and recommended him to the notice of many persons of the first rank. And Sir William Cecil presented him a general license for preaching.
Soon after this, he repaired to his parish, and with becoming seriousness entered upon the duties of his function. Though he failed not occasionally to use the king's license in other parts of the country, he considered his own parish as requiring his principal labours. He chiefly preached on practical subjects; and seldom touched on points of controversy, lest by attempting to instruct, he should only mislead. Though he was fully resolved against popery, he did not see protestantism in its clearest light; and was scarcely settled in some of his religious opinions. Hence by degrees he became extremely diffident, which gave him great uneasiness. He thought he had engaged too soon in the work of the ministry ; that he ought not to rest in giving his hearers merely moral instructions; and that, as the country was overspread with popish errors, he did ill in pretending to be a teacher of religion, if he were unable to oppose those errors.
These thoughts made deeper impressions upon his mind every day; and being at length extremely unhappy, he wrote to Bishop Tonstal, then in the Tower, giving him an account of his situation. The venerable prelate advised Gilpin to prqvide a trusty curate for his parish, and to spend a year or two in Germany, France, and Holland; by which means he might have an opportunity of conversing with men celebrated for learning, both papists and protestants. Mr. Gilpin having long earnestly desired a conference with learned men abroad, was much pleased with the advice. And as to the expense, Tonstal observed, that his living would do something towards his maintenance, and
• This sermon is published with Carleton and Gilpin's Life of Bernard. Gilpin, sod is the only thing he ever published.
he would make up all deCciencies. This, however, did not remove the difficulty from his mind. Mr. Gilpin's views of the pastoral office were so correct, that he thought no excuse could justify nonresidence for so considerable a time as he intended to l>e abroad. He, therefore, could not think of supporting himself with any part of the income of his living. Yet he was resolved to go abroad ; and if he stayed only a short time, he would rely on the frugal management of the little money he possessed, and leave the rest to the bishop's
?generosity. He accordingly resigned his living, and set out or London, to receive his last orders from the bishop, and to embark for the continent.
The account of his resignation got to London before himself; and Tonstal, anxious for his kinsman to thrive in the world, was much concerned about it. " Here are your friends," said his grace, " endeavouring to provide for you, and you are taking every method to frustrate their endeavour But be warned ; by these courses you will presently bring yourself to a morsel of bread." Mr. Gilpin begged the bishop would attribute what he had done to a scrupulous conscience, which would not permit him to act otherwise. "Conscience!" replied the bishop, " why, you might have had a dispensation." " Will my dispensation," an* swered Gilpin, " restrain the tempter, in my absence, from endeavouring to corrupt the people committed to my care.' Alas! I fear it would be but an ill excuse for the harm done to my flock, if 1 should say, when God shall call me to an account of my stewardship, that I was absent by dispensation." This reply put the bishop a little out of humour. But after his temper cooled, this instance of Mr. Gilpin's integrity raised him still higher in the prelate's esteem. Nevertheless, Tonstal would frequently chide him for his qualms of conscience, as he called them; and often told him, that if he did not look better to his own interest, he would certainly die a beggar."
Before his departure, the bishop entrusted him with his Treatise on the Eucharist, in manuscript, desiring him to inspect the printing of it at Paris. Upon his arrival in Holland, he travelled to Mechlin, to see his brother George, there prosecuting his studies. Afterwards, he went to Louvain, resolving there to abide. He made frequent excursions to Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, and other places, where he usually spent a few weeks with persons of reputation, both papists and protestants. But Louvain being the principal place for students in divinity, was his chief residence. Here some of the most celebrated divines on both sides of the question resided; and the most important topics in divinity were discussed with great freedom.
Mr. Gilpin's first business was to get himself introduced to men eminent for learning ; to whom his own address and attainments were no mean recommendation, and supplied the place of long acquaintance. He attended upon all public readings and disputations. He committed every thing material to writing; re-examined all his own opinions; proposed his doubts to friends in private; and, in every respect, made the best use of his time. Hereby, he began to obtain more correct views of the doctrines of the re* formation ; he saw things in a clearer and stronger light,
While he was thus prosecuting his studies, and making considerable improvement in useful knowledge, he was suddenly alarmed, together with numerous other protcstants in those parts, by the melancholy news of the death of King Edward, and the accession of Queen Mary. This news, however, was attended widi one favourable circumstance, which was, the release of Bishop Tonstal from the Tower, and his restoration to his bishopric. Soon after, Tonstal finding a rich living vacant in his diocese, made the offer of it to Mr. Gilpin; supposing that by this time he might have got over his former scruples. But Mr. Gilpin still continued inflexible in his resolution not to accept any benefice without discharging the duties of it. He, therefore, gave the bishop his reasons for not accepting his kind offer, in the following letter, dated from Lou vain, November 22,
" Right honourable and singular good lord, my duty " remembered in most humble manner. Pleaseth it your " lordship to be informed, that of late my brother wrote to " me, that in any wise I must meet him at Mechlin; for he " must debate with me urgent affairs, such as could not be " dispatched by writing. When we met, I perceived it " was nothing else but to see if he could persuade me to " take a benefice, and continue in study at the university; " which if I had known to be the cause of his sending for " me, I should not have needed to interrupt my study to " meet him. For I have so long debated that matter with " learned men, especially with the holy prophets, and most " ancient and godly writers since Christ's time, that I trust " so long as I have to live, never to burden my conscience " with having a benefice, and lying from it. My brother
*' said, that your lordship had written to him, that you " would gladly bestow one on me; and that your lordship " thought, and so did other of my friends, of which he " was one, that 1 was much too scrupulous in that point. " Whereunto I always say, if I be too scrupulous, as I " cannot think that I am, the matter is such, that I had " rather my conscience were a great deal too strait, than a " a little too large. For I am seriously persuaded, that I " shall never offend God by refusing to have a benefice, " and lie from it-, so long as I judge not evil of others; " which, I trust, I shall not; but rather pray God daily, *' that all who have cures may discharge their office in his f' sight, as may tend most to his glory and the profit of his " church. He replied against me, that your lordship would " give me no benefice, but what you would see discharged " in my absence, as well or belter than 1 could discharge it " myself. Whereunto I answered, that I would be sorry, " if I thought not that there were many thousands in " England, more able to discharge a cure than I find myself. " And therefore 1 desire they may take both the cure and " the profits also; that they may be able to feed both the " body and the soul, as I think all pastors arc bounden.
As tor me, I can never persuade myself to take the profit, u and another take the pains: for if he should teach and " preach as faithfully as ever St. Austin did, yet I should " not think myself discharged. And if I should strain my " conscience herein, I strive with it to remain here, or in any " other university, the unquietness of it would not suffer " me to profit in my study at all.
." I am here, at this present, I thank God, very well " placed for study among a company of learned men, joining " to the friers minors; having free access at all times to a " notable library among the triers, men both well learned " and studious. I have entered acquaintance with divers " the best learned in the town; and for my part was never " more desirous to learn in all my life than at present. " Wherefore, I am bold, knowing your lordship's singular " good will towards me, to open my mind thus rudely and " plainly unto your goodness, most humbly beseeching you " to suffer me to live without charge, that I may study " quietly.
" And whereas I know well your lordship is careful how " I should live, if God should call your lordship, being " now aged, I desire you will not let that care trouble you. J' For if I had no other shift, I could get a lectureship, I u know, shortly, either in this university, or at least in some *' abbey hereby; where I should not lose any time; and this " kind of life, if God be pleased, I desire before any " benefice. And thus I pray Christ always to have your " lordship in blessed keeping. By your lordship's humble " scholar and chaplain,
" Bernard Gilpin."
The bishop was not offended with' this letter. The unaflvcted piety which it discovered disarmed all resentment, and led him rather to admire a behaviour, in which the motives of conscience shewed themselves so much superior to those of interest. " Which of our modern u gaping rooks," exclaims Bishop Carleton, " could endeau vour with greater industry to obtain a benefice, than this u man did to avoid one!" Mr. Gilpin having got over this affair, continued some time longer at Louvain, daily improving in religious knowledge. And having remained about two years, he went to Paris; where his first care was the printing of Tonstal's book, which he performed entirely to the bishop's satisfaction, and received his thanks for it.
Mr. Gilpin having spent three years on the continent, was fully satisfied in all his former scruples. He was firmly convinced of the errors and evil tendency of popery; and of the truth and importance of the doctrines of the reformation. Therefore, in the year 1556, he returned to England, though the persecutions of Queen Mary were carrying on with unabating fury. Tonstal received his kinsman with great kindness; and soon after his arrival, gave him the archdeaconry of Durham, to which the rectory of Easington was annexed. He immediately repaired to his parish, where he preached with great boldness against the vices, errors, and corruptions of the times; also, by virtue of his office as archdeacon, he took great pains to reform the manners of the clergy. His free and open reproofs soon roused the malice of proud ecclesiastics, who used every method in their power to remove so inconvenient a person. It soon became their popular clamour, that he was an enemy to the church; a scandalizer of the clergy; a preacher of damnable doctrines ; and that if he was spared much longer, religion must suffer from the heresies he was daily propagating.* Indeed, a charge of heresy, consisting of
* Mr. Gilpin, in a letter to his brother, makes the following observation:—" After I entered'upon the parsonage of Easington, and began to i'f preach," says he, " I soon procured many mighty and grievous adversa" ries; for that I preached against pluralities and nonresidence. Some said,
thirteen articles, was soon drawn up against him; and he was accused in form before the Bishop of Durham. But the bishop, who was much acquainted with the world; easily found a meihod of dismissing the cause, so as to protect bis nephew, without endangering himself. The malice of his enemirs, however, could not rest; and they created him so much trouble, and on account of the extreme fatigue of keeping both his places, he begged leave of the bishop to resign either the archdeaconry or his parish. But the bishop observing that the income of the former was not a sufficient support without the latter, and that he was unwilling they should be separated, Mr. Gilpin therefore resigned them both.
The bishop soon after presented him to the rectory of Houghton-le-JSpring, in the county of Durham. The living was valuable; but the duties of it were proportionably laborious. The parish contained no less than fourteen villages; and the instruction of the people having been so exceedingly neglected, popery was arrived to its full growth of superstition. Scarcely any traces of true christianity were indeed left. Nay, what little remained, was even popery itself corrupted. Here all its idle ceremonies were carried to a greater extent than in most other places, and were looked upon as the very essentials of religion. And how these barbarous people were excluded lrom all means of better information, appears from hence, that through the neglect of the bishops and the justices of peace, King Edward's proclamations for a change of worship, bad not been even beard of, in that part of the kingdom, at the time of his death. Such was the condition of the parish of Houghton, when first committed to the care of Mr. Gilpin. He was grieved to see ignorance and vice so lamentably prevail; but he did not despair. He implored the assistance and blessing of God, and was much encouraged. The people crowded about him, and heard him with great attention. They perceived him to be a very different teacher from those to whom they had been accustomed.
After the acceptance of Houghton, Tonstal urged him to accept of a stall in the cathedral of Durham ; telling him, that there did not exist the same objection against this as against the archdeaconry, it being altogether a sinecure;
" all who preached that doctrine became heretics toon after. Other? found " great fault, for that I preached repentance and lalvation by Christ; " and did not make whole sermons, as they did, about trausubstantiation, " purgatory, holy-water, image*, prayers to saints, and such like."
and that he could have no reasonable pretence for refusing it But Mr. Gilpin resolving not to accept it, told the bishop, that by his bounty he had already more wealth', than he was afraid, he could give a good account of. He, therefore, begged that he might not have any additional charge; but that his lordship would bestow his preferment on some one who stood in greater need of it.
Mr. Gilpin now lived retired, and gave no immediate offence to the clergy. The experience he had of their temper, made him more cautious not to offend them. He was, indeed, more cautious than he afterwards approved. For in future life he often taxed his behaviour, at this period, with weakness and cowardice. But all the caution he could use availed nothing. He was soon formally accused a second time before the Bishop of Durham; who again found means to protect him. The malice of his enemies, however, succeeded in part. From this time, TonstaFs favour towards him visibly declined ; and to shew his dislike of heresy, and of his kinsman's conduct, he struck him out of his will, though he had before made him his executor. The loss gave Mr. Gilpin very little uneasiness. His heart was not set upon the things of this world. It was no less than he expected, nor more than he had provided for. He was, indeed, sorry to see the bishop disgusted; and would have given up any thing, except his conscience, to have satisfied him. But a good conscience, he was assured, was the best friend irt the world ; and he was resolved not to part with that, to please any man upon earth.
His enemies, in the mean time, were not silenced. They were so exceedingly enraged by their second failure, that they caused thirty-two articles, expressed in the strongest terms, to be exhibited against him, before Bonner, bishop of London. Here they went the right way to work. Bonner was a man exactly suited to their purpose, nature having formed him for an inquisitor. The fierce zealot at once took fire, extolled so laudable a concern for religion, and promised that the heretic should be at the stake in a fortnight. Mr. Gilpin, who was no stranger to the burning zeal of the Bishop of London, received the account witE
freat composure, and immediately prepared for martyrdom, laying Ins hand on the shoulder of a favourite domestic, be said, " At length they have prevailed against me. I am " accused to the Bishop of London, from whom there will " be no escaping. God forgive their malice, and give me
" strength to undergo the trial." He then ordered bis servant to provide a long garment, in which he might go decently to the stake, and desired it might be got ready with all expedition; " for I know not," said he, " how " soon I may have occasion for it."* As soon as he was apprehended, he set out for London, in expectation of the fire and faggot. But on his journey to the metropolis, We are informed, that he broke his leg, which unavoidably detained him some time on the road. The persons conducting him, took occasion from this disaster maliciously to retort upon him a frequent observation of his, viz. " That nothing happens to us but what is intended for our good." And when they asked him whether he thought his broken leg was so intended, he meekly replied, that he had no doubt of it. And, indeed, so it soon appeared in the strictest sense. For before he was able to travel, Queen Mary died, and he was set at liberty. Thus he again escaped out of the hands of his enemies.
Mr. Gilpin having obtained this providential deliverance, returned to Houghton through crowds of people, expressing the utmost joy, and blessing God for his happy release. The following year he lost his friend and relation Bishop Tonstal;+ but soon procured himself other friends. Upon the deprivation of the popish bishops, the Earl of Bedford recommended him to the patronage of Queen Elizabeth, who offered him the bishopric of Carlisle; and according to Wood, he was much pressed to accept it.} The Bishop of Worcester, his near relation, wrote to him expressly tor this purpose, and warmly urged him to accept the offer, declaring that no man was more fit for such kind of preferment.^ After all, Mr. Gilpin modestly refused. No arguments could induce him to act contrary to the dictates of his conscience. The accounts given us by Bishop Nicolson and Dr. Heylin of Mr. Gilpin's behaviour on this occasion, are extremely disingenuous: they both ascribe it to his lucrative motives. The former intimates that the good man knew what he was about, when he refused to part with the rectory of Houghton for the bishopric of Carlisle: the latter supposes that all his
* Biog. Britan. vol. vii. Sup. p. 79.
+ Bishop Tonstal was one of the politest scholars of the age, and a man of tbe most amiable character. He published a book, entitled Ds Art* Supputandi, which was the first book of arithmetic ever printed ia England, and passed through many editions,—Granger, vol. i.p.95.
!Athene Oxon. vol. i. p. 593. Fuller's Church Hist. b. iz. p. 63.
scruples would have vanished, might he have had the old temporalities undiminished. Both these writers seem to have been very little acquainted with Mr. Gilpin's character. He considered his income in no other light, than that of a fund to be managed for the public good. The bishop's insinuation, therefore, is contradicted by every action in Mr. Gilpin's life: and Dr. Heylin's is most notoriously false, for the bishopric was offered him with the old temporalities undiminished.*
It is certain that Mr. Gilpin was reckoned among the nonconformists of his time; and though he had several reasons for rejecting the offered preferment, that which prevailed most with him, was his disaffection to some points of conformity.+ It was his fixed opinion, that no human invention should take place in the church, instead of a divine institution. The excellent Bishop Pilkington, who succeeded Tonstal at Durham, connived at his nonconformity ; and excused him from subscription, the use of the habits, and a strict observance of the ceremonies.J But the bishop could screen him only for a season. For upon the controversy about the habits, about the year 1566, he was deprived for nonconformity; ^ but it is extremely probable he did not continue long under the ecclesiastical censure. The year after he was offered and nominated to the bishopric of Carlisle, he was offered the provostship of Queen's college, Oxford ; but this he declined also. His heart was set on ministerial usefulness, not ecclesiastical preferment.
Mr. Gilpin continued many years at Houghton without further molestation, discharging all the duties of his function in a most exemplary manner. When he first undertook the care of souls, it was his settled maxim to do all the good in his power; and accordingly his whole conduct was one direct line towards this point. His first object was to gain the affections of his people. Yet he used no servile compliances : his means, as well as his ends, were good. His behaviour was free without levity, obliging without meanness, and insinuating without art. He condescended to the weak, bore with the passionate, and complied with the scrupulous. Hereby he convinced them how much he loved them; and thus gained their high esteem. He was unwearied in the instruction of those
• Biog. Britan. vol. vii. Sap. p. 72.
+ MS. Remarks, p. 117. t Neat's Puritans, vol. i. p. MS.
S Calaoy't Account, vol. 1. Pref.
under his care. He was not satisfied with the advice he gave them in public, but taught them from house to house; and disposed his people to come to him with their doubts and difficulties. And even the reproofs which he gave, evidently proceeding from friendship, and given with gentleness, very seldom gave offence. Thus, with unceasing assiduity, he was employed in admonishing the vicious, and encouraging the well-disposed. And in a few years, by the blessing of God upon his endeavours, a greater change was effected throughout his parish, than could have been expected.
Mr. Gilpin continued to discharge the duties of his ministerial function in the most conscientious and laborious manner. Notwithstanding all his painful industry, and the large scope of labour in his own parish, he thought the sphere of his exertions were too confined. It grieved his righteous soul to behold in all the surrounding parishes so much ignorance, superstition, and vice, occasioned by the shameful neglect of the clergy. The ignorance and public vices in that part of the country, were very remarkable. This appears from the injunctions of Archbishop Grindal in 1570; among which were the following:—" That no " pedlar shall be admitted to sell his wares in the church ** porch in divine service.—That parish clerks shall be able " to read.—That no lords of misrule, or summer lords and M ladies, or any disguised persons, morrice-dancers or M others, shall come irreverently into the church, or play " any unseemly parts with scoffs, jests, wanton gestures, " or ribbald talk, in the time of divine service."* Such was the deplorable condition of the people. Therefore, to supply as far as he was able, what was manifestly wanting in others, he used regularly every year to visit the most neglected parishes in Northumberland, Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Yorkshire: and that his own people might not suffer, he was at the expense of keeping an assistant. Even in those wild parts of the country, he never wanted an audience; and was the means under God of rousing many to a sense of religion, and the great importance of their salvation.
There is a tract of country on the borders of Northumberland, called Reads-dale and Tyne-dale; which, of all other places in the north, were the most barbarous. It was inhabited by a kind of desperate banditti, who lived chiefly
* Biog. Britan. vol. vii. Sup. p. 73.
by plunder. In this wretched part of the country, where no one would even travel if he could avoid it, Mr. Gilpin never failed to spend some part of the year, labouring for the good of their souls. He had fixed places-for preaching, and punctually attended. If he came where there was a church, he made use of it; but if there were none, he used to preach in barns, or any other large buildings, where great crowds of people were sure to attend. In these itinerating excursions, his labours were always very great, and he often endured the most amazing hardships.
This excellent servant of Christ sometimes gave incontestible evidence of his firmness in reproving the vices of the greatest as well as the poorest. Having at one time made the requisite preparations for his journey to Keadsdale and Tyne-dale, he received a message from Dr. Barns, bishop of Durham, appointing him to preach a visitation sermon ou the following sabbath. He therefore acquainted the bishop with his engagements, and the obligation he was under to fulfil them, begging his lordship at that time to excuse him. As the bishop returned no answer, he concluded that he was satisfied, and set out on his journey. But, upon his return, he was greatly surprised to find himself suspended. After some time, he received an order to meet the bishop and many of the clergy, when the bishop ordered Mr. Gilpin to preach before them. He pleaded his suspension, and that he was unprepared; but the bishop immediately took off his suspension, and would admit of no excuse. Mr. Gilpin then went up into the pulpit, and preached upon the high charge of a christian bishop. In the sermon, after exposing the corruptions of the clergy, he boldly addressed the bishop in these words :—" Let not * your lordship say, that these crimes have been committed " by others, without your knowledge; for whatever either " yourself shall do in person, or suffer through your con" nivance to be done by others, is wholly your own. " Therefore, in the presence of God, angels, and men, I u pronounce you to be the author of ail these evils. Yea, " and in that strict day of general account, I will be a " witness to testify against you, that all these things have " come to your knowledge by my means; and all these " men shall bear witness thereof, who have heard me speak " to you this day."
This great freedom alarmed ail who wished well to Mr. Gilpin. They said, the bishop had now got that advantage over him which his enemies had long sought to obtain. And
Vol. I. s
when they expostulated with him, he said, " Be not afraid. The Lord God ruleth over all. If God may be glorified, and his truth propagated, God's will be done concerning me." Thus he assured them, that if his discourse answered the purpose he intended, he was regardless what might befall himself. Upon his going to the bishop, to pay his compliments before he went home, the bishop said, " Sir, I purpose to wait upon you home myself;" and so accompanied him to his house. As soon as Mr. Gilpin had conducted him into the parlour, the bishop suddenly turned round, and seizing him by the hand, said, " Father Gilpin, " I acknowledge you are fitter to be the Bishop of Durham, " than I am to be the parson of your church. I ask " forgiveness of past injuries. Forgive me, father. I know u you have enemies; but while I live Bishop of Durham, " be secure: none of them shall cause you any further " trouble."*
The benevolence and hospitality of Mr. Gilpin were the admiration of all the country. Strangers and travellers found a cheerful reception at his house. All were welcome that came: and every sabbath, from Michaelmas to Easter, he expected to see all his parishioners and their families. For their reception, he had three tables well covered: the first for gentlemen, the second for husbandmen and farmers, and the third for the labouring poor. This kind of hospitality he never omitted, even when losses or scarcity rendered ils continuance rather difficult. He thought it was his duty; and that was a deciding motive. Even when he was from home, the poor were fed, and strangers entertained, as usual. Every Thursday throughout the year, a very large quantity of meat was dressed wholly for the poor; and every day they had as much broth as they wanted. Twentyfour of the poorest were his constant pensioners. Four times in the year a dinner was provided for the poor in general, when they received a certain quantity of corn and a sum of money; and at Christmas they had always an ox divided among them. Whenever he heard of any persons in distress, whether in his own parish or any other, he was sure to relieve them. As he walked abroad, he frequently brought home with him poor people, and sent them away clothed as well as fed. He took great pains to acquaint himself with the circumstances of his neighbours, that the modesty of sufferers might not prevent their relief. But the money best
* Wood says, thai Bishop Barns was a constant favonrer of puritanism. —Athene Of on. vol. i. p. 607.
laid out, in his opinion, was that which encouraged industry. He took great pleasure in making up the losses of those who were laborious. If a poor man had lost a beast, he would send him another in its room : or if the farmers had at any time a bad harvest, he would make them an abatement in their tithes. Thus, as far as he was able, he took the misfortunes of his parish upon himself, and, like a true shepherd, exposed himself for his flock.
In the distant places where he preached, as well as in his own neighbourhood, his generosity and benevolence were continually manifested, particularly in the parts of Northumberland where he preached. Upon the public road, he never passed an opportunity of doing good. He was often known to take off his cloak, and give it to a poor traveller. " When he began a journey to those distant places," it is said, " he would have ten pounds in his purse ; and at his coming home, would be twenty nobles in debt, which he would always pay within a fortnight after."
Among the many instances or Mr. Gilpin's uncommon benevolence, was the erection and endowment of a public grammar school. His school was no sooner opened, than it began to flourish; and there was so great a resort of young people to it, that in a little time the town could not accommodate them. For the sake of convenience, however, he fitted up his own house, where he had seldom fewer than twenty or thirty children. The greater part of these were poor children, whom he not only educated, but clothed and maintained. He was also at the expense of boarding many poor children in the town. He sent many of his scholars to the university, and devoted sixty pounds a year to their
allowance for each scholar was ten pounds annually; which to a sober youth was at that time a sufficient support. And he not only procured able teachers for his school, but took a very active part himself in the constant inspection of it. To increase the number of his scholars, one method which he used was rather singular. Whenever he met with a poor boy upon the road, he would make trial of his abilities by asking him questions; and if he was pleased with him, would provide for his education. Among those educated at his school, and sent to the university, were Dr. George Carleton, afterwards bishop of Chichester, who published Mr. Gilpin's life; Dr. Henry Airay, and the celebrated Mr. Hugh Broughton. Towards the close of life, Mr. Gilpin went through his
support during their continuance
common laborious exercises with great difficulty. By extreme fatigue for many years, his constitution was worn down, and his health much impaired. He thus expressed himself in a letter to a friend: " To sustain all these travels and troubles, 1 have a very weak body, subject to many diseases; by the motions whereof, I am daily warned to remember death. My greatest grief of all is, that my memory is quite decayed: my sight faileth ; my hearing faileth; with other ailments, more than I can well express." While he was thus struggling with old age and an impaired constitution, as he was one day crossing the market-place at Durham, an ox ran at him, and pushed him down with such violence, that it was thought it would have occasioned his death. Though he survived the shock and bruises he received, he was long confined to his house, and continued lame as long as he lived.
During his last sickness, he made known his apprehensions to his friends, and spoke of death with happy composure of mind. A few clays previous to his departure, he requested that his friends, acquaintance, and dependents, might be called into his chamber; and being raised in his bed, he delivered to each of them the pathetic exhortation of a dying man. His remaining hours were employed in prayer, and broken conversation with select friends, speaking often of the sweet consolations of the gospel. He finished his laborious life, and entered upon his rest, March 4, 15S3, aged sixty-six years.
Such was the end of Mr. Bernard Gilpin, whose learning, piety, charity, labours, and usefulness, were almost unbounded. He possessed a quick imagination, a strong memory, and a solid judgment; and greatly excelled in the knowledge of languages, history, and divinity. He was so laborious for the good of souls, that he was usually called the Northern Apostle ; and he was so universally benevolent to the necessitous, that he was commonly styled the Father Of The Poor. He was a thorough puritan in principle, and a most conscientious nonconformist in practice, but against separation. Being full of faith and good works, he was accounted a saint by his very enemies; and was at last gathered in as a shock of corn fully ripe. By his last will and testament, he left half of his property to the poor of Houghton, and the other half to a number of poor scholars at the university.*
• Wood's Athene Oxon. To], i. p. 703.
Mr. Gilpin, from the earliest period, was inclined to serious thoughtfulness. This was discovered by the following circumstance. A begging friar coming on a Saturday evening to his father's house, was receiyed, according lo the custom of those times, in a very hospitable manner. The friar made too free with the bounty set before him, and became thoroughly intoxicated. The next morning, however, he ordered the bell to toll for public worship; and from the pulpit, expressed himself with great vehemence against the debauchery of the times, but particularly against drunkenness. Young Gilpin, then a child on bis mother's lap, seemed for some time exceedingly affected by the friar's discourse: and at lenglh, with the utmost indignation, cried out: "Oh, mamma, do you hear how this fellow " dares speak against drunkenness, and was drunk himself " last night!"
The disinterested pains which Mr. Gilpin took among the barbarous people in the north, and the great kindness he manifested towards them, excited in them the warmest gratitude and esteem. One instance is related, shewing now greally he was revered. Being once on his journey to Reads-dale and Tyne-dale, by the carelessness of his servant, he had his horses stolen. The news quickly spread through the country, and every one expressed the highest indignation against it. While the thief was rejoicing over his prize, he found, by the report of the country, whose horses he had stolen; and being exceedingly terrified at what he had done, he instantly came trembling back, confessed the fact, returned the horses, and declared he believed the devil would have seized him immediately, if he had taken them off, when he found they belonged to Mr. Gilpin.
The hospitality of this excellent person was not confined in its objects. Strangers and travellers found the kindest entertainment in his house. And even their beasts were so well taken care of, that it was humorously said, " If a horse was turned out in any part of the country, he would immediately make his way to the rectory of Houghton."—The following instance of his benevolent spirit, is preserved. As he was one day returning from a journey, he saw several persons crowding together in a field; and supposing some disaster had happened, he rode up to them, and found that one of the horses in a team had suddenly dropped down, and was dead. The owner bemoaning the greatness of his 1 ss, Mr. Gilpin said, " Honest man, be not discouraged; I'll let you have that horse of mine," pointing at his servant's." " Ah ! master," replied the countryman, " my pocket will not reach such a beast as that." " Come, come," said Mr. Gilpin, " take him, take him; and when I demand the money, then shalt thou pay me;" and so gave him his horse.
The celebrated Lord Burleigh being once sent into Scotland, embraced the opportunity on his return to visit his old acquaintance at Houghton. His visit was without previous notice ; yet the economy of Mr. Gilpin's house was not easily disconcerted. He received his noble guest with so much true politeness, and treated him and his whole retinue in so affluent and generous a manner, that the treasurer would often afterwards say, " he could hardly have expected more at Lambeth." During his stay, he took great pains to acquaint himself with the order and regularity of the house, which gave him uncommon pleasure and satisfaction. This noble lord, at parting, embraced his much respected friend with all the warmth of affection, and told him, he had heard great things in his commendation, but he had now seen what far exceeded all that he had heard. " If Mr. Gilpin," added he, " I can " ever be of any service to you at court or elsewhere, use " me with all freedom, as one on whom you may depend." When he had got upon Kainton-hill, which rises about a mile from Houghton, and commands the vale, he turned his horse to take one more view of the place, and having fixed his eye upon it for some time, he broke out into this exclamation : " There is the enjoyment of life indeed ! " Who can blame that man for refusing a bishopric ? What " doth he want, to make him greater, or happier, or more u useful to mankind ?"•
Dr. Richard Gilpin, an excellent and useful divine, ejected by the Act of Uniformity in 1662; and Mr. William Gilpin, author of " The Lives of eminent Reformers," were both descendants of Mr. Gilpin's family.t