Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells Chapter II.
KEN was now a bishop designate; but so indigent was he at the time of his nomination to the see of Bath and Wells, that he was wholly destitute of the means requisite to meet the expenses attendant on entering on the episcopate and providing an equipage suitable to the dignified position he was unexpectedly appointed to fill. The means of doing this were generously supplied by Francis Morley, the nephew of his early patron and friend, George Morley, the late Bishop of Winchester. Aware of the state of Dr. Ken's finances, Francis Morley voluntarily offered to assist him with a loan of the sum necessary for his present exigencies. This was the only debt Ken ever incurred, and he faithfully repaid it, obliging himself to the most rigorous course of self-denial till it was done, even abstaining from the exercise of his accustomed offices of charity; tellr ing his chaplain "that it behoved him to be just before he could enjoy the happiness of ministering to the necessities of others, for while he was in debt he had nothing of his own, and must himself be reckoned among the poor."
Ken was consecrated at Lambeth Palace on St. Paul's day, January 25. His early friend and schoolfellow, Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely, assisted at this solemnity, and was one of the prelates who, with Archbishop Sancroft, placed their hands upon his head to confer the blessing. The sermon was preached by another of his early friends and fellow students at Wykeham College, the Rev. Edward Young, who had become a prebendary of Salisbury. The text was from the Second Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, chapter i. verse 6:--" Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the laying on of hands."
Ken was eight-and-forty when thus raised to the important dignity of a bishop. It had been usual for every newly-consecrated bishop to give a splendid dinner to the nobility, privy councillors, and clergy who honoured him by accepting his invitation to become his guests on that occasion; but Ken, following the example of Dr. John Fell, Bishop of Oxford, devoted the sum it would have cost to honour this custom to the fund for the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral. The fact is thus recorded in Dugdale's 'History of St. Paul's Cathedral:'--"January 26th. Among the list of contributors, Dr. Thomas Ken, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, in lieu of his consecration dinner and gloves, 100l."
The sudden and alarming illness of the king, who was attacked with apoplexy on the 2nd of February, just eight days after Ken's consecration, caused an immediate delay in the new prelate's induction, into the temporalities of his see.
Intent only on the performance of his duty as a faithful chaplain, Ken permitted neither cares nor thoughts, connected with personal business, to divide his attention from the spiritual weal of his dying sovereign.
He took occasion, when the Duchess of Portsmouth entered the room, to offer a serious remonstrance to the king, and to represent so effectually his misconduct to the queen, that he succeeded in prevailing on his Majesty to dismiss the duchess, and send for his injured consort for the purpose of entreating her pardon. Nor did the bold bad woman again venture to cross the threshold of the chamber of death.
For upwards of three days and nights Ken watched with unremitting solicitude the fluctuations of the fatal malady, and finally took upon himself the solemn duty of informing the king of the awful change that awaited him, and warning him of the necessity of penitence and prayer. Even Burnet acknowledges that Ken "laboured to awaken the king's conscience, and spoke like a man inspired."
While reading the office for the sick and dying from the Book of Common Prayer, Ken paused, and asked the king if he repented of his sins; and on Charles declaring his contrition, proceeded to pronounce the absolution, but vainly entreated him to receive the sacrament. This the dying monarch evasively declined.
When the royal chamber was cleared by the order of the Duke of York, Ken was compelled to withdraw with the other prelates and nobles, and Father Huddlestone being privily introduced through the door leading from the back stairs into the alcove, where the royal bed stood, administered the last rites of the Church of Borne to the expiring king, whose hearing had already begun to fail.
As the demise of King Charles occurred before Ken had been legally inducted into his diocese, fresh instruments were required from the new sovereign to enable him to do so. These were granted by James II., who graciously observed--"Dr. Ken is by far the best preacher among the Protestant divines."
As a mark of his respect for Ken's principles and character, and also, perhaps, to conciliate his regard, James appointed him to the distinguished honour of being his right hand supporter at the royal solemnity of his coronation.
The king, when he took his oath, rose from his chair, and attended by the Lord Great Chamberlain, and supported by the two bishops (Ken and Crew), with the sword of state carried before him, went to the altar, and laying his hand on the Evangelists, he took the oath following: "The things which I have before promised I will perform and keep. So help me God and the contents of this book." And then he kissed the book.
Burnet, who never misses an opportunity of detracting from Ken, says "he had a very edifying way of preaching, but it was more apt to move the passions than to instruct, so that his sermons were rather beautiful than solid, yet his way in them was very taking."
In the winter of 1685, Ken delivered a series of Lent lectures on the Church catechism, in the chapel dedicated to St. Etheldreda attached to the episcopal palace of his friend, Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely, where his eloquence and persuasive manner attracted great crowds to attend his ministry. This series on the catechism afterwards expanded into one of his most admired prose works. So great an impression, indeed, was created by his eloquence, that the curiosity of the Princess Anne of Denmark was excited, and she addressed the following note to the Bishop of Ely, signifying her intention of coming privately to hear Dr. Ken, and requesting that some place might be provided where she might do so without being recognised. These are her words:--
"I hear the Bishop of Bath and Wells expounds this afternoon at your chapel, and I have a great mind to hear him; therefore I desire you to do me the favour to let some place be kept for me where I may hear and be the least taken notice of, for I shall bring but one lady with me, and desire I may not be known. I should not have given you the trouble, but I was afraid if I had sent anybody they might have made a mistake. Pray let me know when it begins."
From motives of Christian love, Ken avoided controversy as unprofitable, and tending to engender ill-will between persons of different ways of thinking, delighting rather in promoting peace and love between all members of the Church universal.
He now devoted himself to his pastoral duties, and was unremitting in his labours for the instruction of the children of the poor, by the establishment of parochial schools and lending libraries stocked with useful books. In the summer time he went often to some great parish, where he would preach twice, catechise, and confirm. When at home on Sundays he would have twelve poor men or women to dine with him in his hall; always endeavouring, while he refreshed them with a plentiful meal, to comfort their spirits with some cheerful discourse, in which he endeavoured to convey useful instruction. When his humble guests had dined, he had what was left divided among them to carry home to their families.
The poor at Wells being very numerous, he earnestly desired to improve their condition, for which he often tried to devise expedients. One of his favourite plans was the establishment of a workhouse; not the much abused parochial poorhouse of modern times, but an institution for providing the honest and industrious with employment, for which they were to be paid the full value of their work, and relieved from the oppression of the tradesmen, who took advantage of the necessities of the poor to pay them very scantily for their labour, and grew rich at their expense; but he was too short a time in possession of his benefice to carry out his wise and benevolent projects.
It was his practice, when any poor person begged of him on the highway, to pause and examine whether he or she could say the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, but found so much ignorance in regard to spiritual things, that he feared little good was to be done with the adults of his diocese; "but," said he, "I will try to lay a foundation to make the rising generation better." This was the origin of his zeal for the establishment of parochial schools, of which he was so great a founder.
In the Monmouth rebellion he was unwearied in his exertions for the relief of the poor prisoners, daily visiting those who were confined in Wells, and ministering to their necessities both with food and prayer; all which being reported to the king, his Majesty, far from harbouring any jealous thoughts of him in consequence of his humane attentions to those unfortunate sufferers, which he "rightly judged proceeded not from disaffection to his person or government, but from motives of compassion to so many distressed brethren whom he saw in danger of perishing both soul and body, thanked him for what he had done." As a proof of his full confidence in the loyalty of Ken, James appointed him to attend the Duke of Monmouth, with Turner, Bishop of Ely, and prepare him for death.
Burnet's invidious misrepresentations of Ken's behaviour on that painful occasion have been too fully disproved in 'Biographia Britannica,' 'Ken's Life by a Layman,' and other erudite and truthful works, to require entering into the subject in this necessarily brief biography.
The 'Exposition of the Church Catechism, or Practice of Divine Love,' composed by Bishop Ken for his diocese of Bath and Wells, was published this year, and in consequence of its being considered too favourable to the doctrine of Transubstantiation, it was altered by him, and republished with a declaration "that he willingly submitted to the censure of the Church of England, to whose Articles he desired all his writings to be conformable, and he had therefore changed those expressions that were considered objectionable, as liable to be misunderstood, this work not being intended for disputation but devotion." He also published a little 'Manual of Prayer,' for the use of the sick who resorted to Bath to drink the waters.
Ken's 'Seraphical Meditations' were recommended to Rachel Lady Russell, by their mutual friend Dr. Fitzwilliam, who offered to present her with a copy. She replied, "that she had not yet seen the 'Seraphical Meditations,' by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, but would be glad to do so," and thankfully accepted a copy of the book.
'Hymnotheo, or the Penitent,' Ken's great poem, though too abstruse and deep for modern readers, was much admired at the time; it contains many passages of great beauty, and is pervaded with the sweet spirit which characterizes all his writings.
At the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes he had just received a fine of four thousand pounds; the whole of this large sum he munificently devoted to the relief of the persecuted Protestant refugees who had been rendered homeless.
It is scarcely possible to imagine a more delicate situation than that in which the conscientious Protestant Bishop of Bath and Wells was placed by the visit of his zealous Roman Catholic sovereign, James II., to Bath, attended by his staff of priests and officers of state; on which occasion his Majesty caused a hasty notice to be published, "that he intended to exercise the royal gift of touching, for the cure of the evil, in the abbey on Sunday, after morning prayer."
The alleged gift of curing this distressing malady, by the imposition of the royal hand, had been claimed and practised by every sovereign of England, good or bad, from the days of Edward the Confessor, on whom this miraculous gift was supposed to have been first conferred, and from him transmitted to his successors in the regal office, although he left no posterity. It was a gift exercised after the Reformation by Queen Elizabeth, and in some of the old prayer-boohs may still be seen the service appointed to be used for that purpose, entitled "The Grace of Healing." King James, however, chose to have a new Office prepared and published for his use, which Office was in all probability only the restitution of the ancient form used by his predecessors prior to the Reformation.
Ken, who was then at Wells, was not only deeply annoyed but seriously perplexed when informed of what was about to take place in the abbey; but he had no means of stopping it without creating an uproar, as it was known that an immense concourse of people were coming in hopes of receiving a cure, or at least obtaining the angel of gold, which his Majesty was accustomed, hi imitation of his royal predecessors, to bind on the arm of every patient.
It has been erroneously related by Warner, in his 'History of Bath,' "that Ken was present on this occasion; that Father Huddlestone denounced all heretics; and that Ken, at the close of his fulmination, mounted the pulpit and exposed his fallacies in a strain of such impressive eloquence as delighted the congregation and confounded Huddlestone and the royal bigot."
There is no foundation for this statement, which if correct must have created a very great sensation throughout England, and would, of course, have been mentioned by Ken himself in the following letter, which he esteemed it his duty to write to his friend Sancroft, relating the use the king had made of the abbey, and observing that he had himself considered it most prudent under the circumstances to remain wholly passive. He says:--
"ALL GLORY BE TO GOD.
"MY VERY GOOD LORD,
"Though I have always been very tender of giving your grace any trouble, yet I think it my duty, having this opportunity of a safe conveyance, to acquaint you with one particular which happened at Bath, and to beg your advice for the future. When his Majesty was at Bath there was a great healing; and without any warning, unless by a flying report, the Office was performed in the church between the hours of prayer. I had not time to remonstrate, and if I had done so it would have had no effect but only to provoke; besides I found it had been in other churches before, and I know of no place but the church capable to receive so great a multitude as came for cure, upon which consideration I was wholly passive. But being well aware what advantage the Romanists take from the least seeming compliances, I took occasion, on Sunday, after the Gospel, the subject of which was the Samaritan, to discourse of charity; which I said' ought to be the religion of the whole world, wherein Samaritan and Jew were to agree; and though we could not open the church doors to a worship different from that we paid to God, yet we should always set them open to a common work of charity, because in performing mutual offices of charity one to another there ought to be an universal agreement.'
"This was the substance of what I said upon that action, which I humbly submit to your grace's judgment, and it was the best expedient I could think of to prevent giving scandal to our own people, and to obviate all the misrepresentations the Romanists might make of such a connivance.
"I am very sensible of your grace's burthen, and do beseech Almighty Goodness to support you under it. And I earnestly crave your blessing, being ambitious of nothing more than to be one of the meanest of your companions in the kingdom and patience of Jesus. My good lord,
"Most obedient son and humble servant,
"THO. BATH AND WELLS.
"Aug. 26, 1687."
From the whole tenor of this letter it is apparent that the circumstances described by Warner in his 'History of Bath,' as occurring immediately after the Office of Healing had been performed by the king, are apocryphal.
In the following spring, Ken was appointed to preach the afternoon sermon in the Chapel Royal at Whitehall, on Passion Sunday, April 1st, 1688.
The morning sermon was preached by Dr. Stilling-fleet, and Holy Communion followed, but was interrupted by the rude breaking in of multitudes eager to hear the sermon to be preached in the afternoon by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. "In the morning service," records Evelyn, in his diary, "the latter part of that Holy Office could hardly be heard, or the sacred elements be distributed without great trouble." Crowds pressed in to secure seats, so that the chapel was full to overflowing before the arrival of the Princess Anne, who came with her attendants at the proper time, and took their places in the royal gallery.
Her Royal Highness was seated on the left hand of the king's chair, which was empty. Prayers being over, the bishop ascended the pulpit, and took his text from the 7th chapter of Micah, verses 8, 9, 10, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise; when I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against Him, until He plead my cause and execute justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness."
The Church of England the bishop represented as Judah, the Roman Catholics as the Babylonians, and the dissenters as the Edomites; and lamented that "he had not, like Micah, the happiness of having the king himself for an auditor; therefore his discourse might possibly be misrepresented to him, since the very Scripture itself might be perverted by insidious men."
The thing foreseen by Ken literally came to pass. Distorted reports of his eloquent and forcible sermon were immediately carried to the king, who being much displeased, sent for him into his closet, and expressed both surprise and displeasure at his having presumed to inculcate seditious doctrines from the pulpit in the very Chapel Royal at Whitehall.
"If your Majesty had been happily present in your proper place, mine enemies would not have had the opportunity of bringing a false accusation against me," replied Ken, pointedly; which implied reproach put the king out of countenance, and he dismissed the uncompromising prelate without another word.
The misguided sovereign ran his reckless course, encouraged by the prospect of a child who, whether boy or girl, would be "born in the purple." He, not contented with the hope of the queen bringing forth a son, had the folly to declare it would be so, which provoked the partizans of his daughters Mary and Anne to circulate injurious doubts of the reality of the queen's alleged situation.
It was on the very eve of this event, so fondly and proudly anticipated by their Majesties, that James provoked that most perilous collision with his hierarchy, which has already been explained in the life of Sancroft, by endeavouring to compel them to read and promulgate his royal declaration of liberty of conscience throughout their dioceses; an act which, however liberal and proper it undoubtedly would have been on the monarch's part, if sanctioned by parliament, it was most unreasonable to expect the bishops to be the instruments of publishing. Ken, who was hastily summoned to Lambeth by Sancroft, to consult with him and other dignitaries and worthies of the Church of England in this emergency, courageously united with the primate and the bishops of Ely, Peterborough, Chichester, St. Asaph, and Bristol in signing the petition which was drawn up by the archbishop, requesting his Majesty to excuse them from reading and promulgating his royal act for liberty of conscience. He was one of the six by whom that petition was presented to King James at Whitehall. He was subsequently arrested and committed prisoner to the Tower with them, and shared in their trial and acquittal.
Ken endeavoured to escape from the excitement of the crisis by returning as usual to his diocese, and employing himself in the regulation of his parochial schools and other ecclesiastical business. At last the preparations of the Prince of Orange for the invasion of England roused the king from his vain dreams of effecting a reconciliation between his realm and the see of Rome. James remembered the good services he had received from the bishops when Duke of York, and that the intrigues of the exclu-sionist faction to deprive him of his just place in the royal succession had mainly been defeated by the firmness and integrity of the hierachy. He therefore made an ineffectual attempt to conciliate that wise and virtuous fraternity by applying to them for counsel. Sunderland, by the royal command, wrote to Ken, stating that the king wished to confer with some of his bishops, and therefore required his attendance on the 28th of September.
Ken yielded prompt obedience to the summons, and came up to London, and as Sancroft was ill, proceeded with five other prelates to Whitehall, where they had audience of the king. Unfortunately James had altered his mind, and confined himself to generalities, and reminding them of their duty and loyalty to his person.
Ken could not refrain from expressing his disappointment "that his Majesty should have required them to come so far in order to repeat to them what they so well understood before." James pleaded want of time to enter into any particulars, and dismissed them.
Sancroft waited on the king the next day, to request another audience for himself and the other prelates, that they might explain themselves on the present emergency. The 3rd of October was appointed by the king, who received them courteously; the archbishop read the paper containing the articles of advice they entreated Mm to adopt, and left it for his royal consideration.
Ken, perceiving no good could be expected from his remaining in London, returned once more to Wells to resume his spiritual duties there.
James having required the prayers of the Church of England, Ken read the form which the archbishop had prepared, "beseeching God to give His holy angejs charge over the king, to preserve his royal person in health and safety, to inspire him with wisdom and justice, and to fill his heart with a fatherly care of all his people." Also a prayer "for peace, and the prevention of bloodshed in the land, for the reconciliation of all differences and dissensions, and for the preservation of our holy religion, our ancient laws and government, and for universal charity in the same holy worship and communion."
When the Prince of Orange landed at Torbay, Ken, receiving intelligence that he was advancing to Wells, immediately left the town, and wrote the following earnest letter, explanatory of his conduct, to Sancroft:--
"ALL GLORY BE TO GOD,
"MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,
"Before I could return any answer to the letter with which your grace was pleased to favour me, I received intelligence that the Dutch were just coming to Wells; upon which I immediately left the town, and in obedience to his Majesty's general commands, took all my coach horses with me, and as many of my saddle horses as I well could, and took the shelter of a private village in Wiltshire, intending, if his Majesty had come into my country, to have waited on him and to have paid him my duty. But this morning we are told that his Majesty is gone back to London, so that I only wait till the Dutch have passed my diocese, and then resolve to return thither again, that being my proper station. I would not have left the diocese in this juncture, but that the Dutch had seized houses within ten miles of Wells before I went; and your grace knows that I, having been a servant to the princess, and well acquainted with many of the Dutch, I could not have staid without giving some occasion of suspicion, which I thought it more advisable to avoid; resolving, by God's grace, to con- . tinue in a firm loyalty to the king, whom God direct and preserve in this time of danger; and I beseech your grace to lay my most humble duty at his Majesty's feet, and to acquaint him with the reason of my retiring, that I may not be misunderstood. God of His infinite mercy deliver us from the calamities which now threaten us, and from the sins which have occasioned them.
"My very good lord,
"Your grace's very affectionate servant and brother,
"THO. BATH AND WELLS.
"Nov. 24, 1688."
When it was known King James had actually quitted the realm, his best friends were in great perplexity as to the line of conduct it would be best to adopt. Sancroft wrote to Ken and others of the bishops, to come to him at Lambeth with all convenient haste, that they might afford him their advice on the present emergency.
Ken had, however, given notice that he was about to hold an ordination in his cathedral, which he esteemed a paramount duty to any political movement; and he also determined to keep the Christmas holidays as religious festivals, according to his invariable custom, without any leaven of public business. He came up to London in the beginning of the new year, on being summoned to take his place in the House of Lords; and when at last the peers concurred with the small majority of the convention of the Commons in voting the crown to William and Mary, he joined with the minority in a protest against that resolution.
This was Ken's last appearance as a spiritual peer and legislator, and his final vote. He retired to his diocese, to avoid taking the oaths to the new sovereigns, and occupied himself diligently in the business ] of his episcopal character. But although Ken had declared himself firmly resolved never to depart from the fealty he had sworn to King James, his intentions were suspected, not merely by his time-serving foes, but also by persons who ought to have known him better. Even his oldest and dearest friend, Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely, dreaded that the influence of Dr. Hooper, the parson of Lambeth, with whom Ken was wont to take up his abode, might induce him to take the oaths to William and Mary. Turner expresses natural but causeless apprehensions to that effect, in the following letter to Sancroft:--
"MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,
"When I took my leave yesternight, I had no thought of waiting upon you till yesterday se'nnight. But when I came home I found a letter to Mrs. Grigg from the Bishop of Bath and Wells, with this advertisement in it for me; 'tell my friend that I will meet him at dinner at Lambeth upon Saturday' I suppose he does not know that your grace has left off dining publicly (as you have great reason to do). But since, my lord, you are pleased to give every one of your sons a day (as you obligingly express it), I must needs say the sooner we meet our brother of Bath and Wells the better; for I must no longer in duty conceal it from your grace (though I beseech you to keep it in terms of a secret) that this very good man is, I fear, warping from us and the true interest of the Church toward a compliance with the new government. I received an honest letter from him, and a friendly one, wherein he argues wrong, to my understanding, but promises and protests he will keep himself disengaged till he debates things over again with us, and that he was coming up for that purpose. My lord Bishop of Norwich has seen such another letter from him to my lord of Gloucester. And upon the whole matter, our brother of Norwich, if your grace thinks fit, will meet us on Saturday; and I must needs wish my lord of Chichester would be there to help us, if need be, for it would be extremely unhappy should we at this pinch lose one of our number. I apprehend your parson of Lambeth has superfined upon our brother of Bath and Wells, and if he lodges again at his house I doubt the consequence: for which reason I will come over on Saturday morning to invite him to my country house.
"Dated Ascension Day."
A report having been circulated that King James had executed a deed transferring Ireland to the King of France, Ken, in his first surprise and indignation. drew up a declaration of his intention, provided this were indeed true, to take the oaths to the new sovereigns, and enjoin the clergy in his diocese to do the same; but on his arrival in London he found he had been imposed on by a political falsehood, and burned the paper which, in the excitement of the moment, he had drawn up, and resolved to persevere in his determination to suffer deprivation rather than forfeit his allegiance.
Dr. Gilbert Burnet, who had recently been appointed to the bishopric of Salisbury, wrote an impertinent letter to him on his persevering refusal to take the oaths, in which he says:--
"I am the more surprised to find your lordship so positive, because some have told myself that you had advised them to take that which you refuse yourself, and others have told me that they read a pastoral letter which you had prepared for your diocese, and were resolved to send it when you went to London. Your lordship, it seems, changed your mind there, which gave great advantage to those who were so severe as to say that there was something else than conscience at the bottom. I take the liberty to write thus freely to your lordship, for I don't deny that I am in some pain till I know whether it is true or not."
Ken calmly replied "that he had declared his mind too fully in his diocese concerning the oath to be misunderstood; that the pastoral letter to which Burnet alluded had been prepared in consequence of a confident assurance that had been made to him of that which was not true; and that when, on his arrival in town, having discovered the incorrectness of the statement, he had burned the paper, and adhered to his original determination."
"If this," continues Ken, "is to be called a change of mind, and a change so criminal that people who are very discerning, and know my own heart better than I do myself, have pronounced sentence upon me, 'that there is something more than conscience at the bottom,' I am much afraid that some of those who censure me may be chargeable with more notorious charges than that; whether more conscientious or not, God only is the judge. If your lordship gives credit to the many misrepresentations which are made of me, and which I, being so used to, can easily disregard, you may, naturally enough, be in pain for me; for to see one of your brethren throwing himself headlong into a wilful deprivation, not only of honour and of income, but of a good conscience also, are particulars out of which may be framed an idea very deplorable. But though I do in many things betray great infirmity, I thank God I cannot accuse myself of any insincerity; so that deprivation will not reach my conscience, and I am in no pain at all for myself. I perceive that, after we have been sufficiently ridiculed, the last mortal stab designed to be given us is to expose us to the world for men of no conscience; and if God is pleased to permit it, His most holy will be done; though what particular passion of corrupt nature it is which lies at the bottom, and which we gratify in losing all we have, it will be hard to determine. God grant such reproaches as these may not revert on the authors."
This letter is dated October 5th, 1689. Ken was at that time sojourning in the house of his old friend the rector of Lambeth, Dr. Hooper, who had taken the oaths to the parliamentary sovereigns, and daily and hourly entreated him to condescend to the like compliance. Ken at length silenced him with these impressive words:--
"I question not but you and several others have taken the oaths with as good conscience as I shall refuse them, and sometimes you have almost persuaded me to comply by the arguments you have used; but I beg you to use them no further, for should I be persuaded to comply, and after see reason to repent, you would make me the most miserable man in the world."
As Ken persisted in his refusal to take the oaths, he was served with a writ of ejection on the 1st of February, 1689. Like his friend Turner, Bishop of Ely, he publicly protested against the legality of his deprivation, and expressed himself in severe tones on the conduct of the queen, who was at that time carrying on the government in the absence of her royal consort.
"You tell me," writes Ken to the Rev. Mr. Harbin, formerly chaplain to Francis Turner, the deprived Bishop of Ely, and now chaplain to Lord Weymouth, "that Mr. Pitts censures the deprived bishops for not asserting their rights in a public manner at their deprivation. If he puts me among the number he does me wrong; for I, at the time, in my cathedral, which was the proper place, from my pastoral chair, publicly asserted my canonical right; professing that I esteemed myself the canonical bishop of the diocese, and that I would be ready on all occasions to perform my pastoral duties. This I did when all were devoted to the Revolution, and waited for suggestions which they might inform of. Particularly it was then urged, 'that I said I was the lawful pastor,' insomuch that I was fain to appeal to some less biased, whether my word was not canonical, which I judged as most proper, and a word that the law was a stranger to. I professed, 'that not being able to make this declaration to the whole diocese, I made it virtually to all by making it in the market square."
Mary, who had probably flattered herself with the hope of submission from her old chaplain, sarcastically observed, "Dr. Ken is desirous of martyrdom in the nonjuring cause, but I shall disappoint him." She prudently took warning by her father's rash proceedings against the seven bishops, of whom Ken was one of the most justly honoured, and ventured not to touch his person, though she rigorously executed her threat of ejecting him from his benefice.
In a letter to Mrs. Grigg, Ken says, "My brother of Gloucester], Dr. Frampton, the nonjuring bishop, against whom a malevolent party had been got up, is, I hear, out of harm's way in Wales at the present, but I have heard nothing from him.
"My best respects to my good mother, Mrs. Turner," whom he was accustomed to call by that endearing title, "and to dear Miss (Margaret Turner), who, I doubt not, behaves herself with all decency, piety, and humility, as becomes not only the daughter of a bishop, but a bishop in affliction."
"Dr. Kidder is now said to be my successor, or rather supplanter. He is a person of whom I have no knowledge. God of His infinite goodness multiply His blessings on yourself, and on iny good friends with you, and enable us to do and suffer His most holy will."
The see of Bath and Wells was first offered to a faithful son of the Anglican Church, Dr. Beveridge, whose dialogue with his primate (Sancroft) has been recorded in the life of that great and good man. Dr. Beveridge truly followed the archbishop's advice, and refused that rich mitre, which was eagerly accepted by Dr. Kidder, in an evil hour for himself and his wife. [Beveridge died Bishop of St. Asaph, a comparatively humble benefice, in 1707.]
The whole of Ken's personal property at the time of his deprivation amounted only to seven hundred pounds, his beloved books, with which he never parted, a silver watch by Tompion, and a small silver coffee-pot. The coffee-pot and watch are still in existence, and are mentioned by one of his biographers, the Rev. W. L. Bowles, as being in the possession of the Rev. Dr. Hawes, of Salisbury, the grandson of Ken's nephew, Dr. William Hawkins.
Ken on his first deprivation retired to the house of his nephew, the Rev. Isaac Walton, residentiary prebend of Salisbury, where he found a temporary home, until a permanent asylum was offered to his acceptance by his former college companion, Thomas Thynne, whom Charles II. had raised to the peerage by the title of Viscount Weymouth. This nobleman, being possessed of a large fortune and liberal heart to use the blessed power which God had given him of doing good, prevailed on Ken to inhabit, and henceforth to consider his own, a suite of apartments in the upper storey of the stately mansion of Longleate, in Wiltshire, commanding a noble and extensive prospect, and far removed from the noise and bustle of the rest of the house.
Ken's room at Longleate is still shown. It is a spacious, airy apartment, and was in his days fitted up with book-shelves, on which his own library was arranged, and many of Lord Weymouth's books; for he had the use of the whole of the literary treasures there, to remove to his own sanctum at pleasure, and the society also of the Rev. Mr. Harbin, the friend, and formerly the chaplain, of Turner, Bishop of Ely, but now the family chaplain at Longleate.
Nothing could be more sweet and pleasant than Ken's abode at Longleate. In order to save him from pecuniary cares, and at the same time to relieve him from any sense of dependence, Lord Weymouth consented to receive his seven hundred pounds, and allow him eighty pounds per annum, in payments of twenty pounds every quarter, to preclude the deprived bishop from lavishing the whole at once on some case of distress among the nonjuving clergy, which haply he might deem more urgent than his own.
Longleate House was a congenial abode for a poet; it stands in a rich, picturesque valley, surrounded by lovely wood-crowned hills. The gardens are still arranged in the antique style of that period; probably the same walks still exist in which Ken and Harbin walked and spake of holy tilings, and exchanged tender recollections of departed friends.
Longleate was distant about twenty miles from Ken's episcopal palace at Wells, and he occasionally visited some of his poor old pensioners in that neighbourhood, and the village schools he had founded.
When his own slender resources failed, Ken was accustomed to travel through the country to collect subscriptions for the support of his distressed brethren and their destitute families. These expeditions were at first performed by the deprived bishop on the old white nag, which had been formerly accustomed to carry him when he made his unostentatious pastoral visits to the villages in his district, to observe how his clergy performed their respective duties. When that humble steed became from age unable to bear his venerable master, Ken travelled on foot, with his staff in his hand, making short stages, catechising and teaching in the schools he had established, and not unfrequently preaching to his old congregations on Sundays, by the wayside or on the village green.
It is a well-known fact that Dryden, in his modernized version of Chaucer's 'Pilgrims,' introduced the portrait of Ken into the description of the 'Good Parson.' The following lines have no place in the original, and were easily recognised as portraying the characteristics of the nonjuring Bishop of Bath and Wells:--
"Rich was his soul, tho' his attire was poor,
As God bad clothed his own ambassador,
For such on earth his blessed Redeemer bore.
Of sixty years he seemed, and well might last
To sixty more, but that he lived too fast;
Refin'd himself to soul, to curb the sense,
And made almost a sin of abstinence.
"With eloquence innate his tongue was armed,
Though harsh the precept, yet the preacher charmed:
For, letting down the golden chain from high,
He drew his audience upward to the sky.
And oft with holy hymns he charmed their ears,
A music more melodious than the spheres:
For David left him, when he went to rest,
His lyre, and after him he sang the best."
After this graceful compliment to Ken's sacred poetry, the deprived laureate enlarges on the loving doctrine preached by the ejected prelate, and the noble consistency of his conduct:--
"The proud he tamed, the penitent he cheered,
Nor to rebuke the rich offender feared;
His preaching much, but more his practice wrought,
A living sermon of the truths he taught."
The allusion to Ken's preferring his conscience to his bishopric is illustrated with such consummate skill, that persons unacquainted with Chaucer's original text have not detected the daring interpolation of these noble lines by the Jacobite poet:--
"The tempter saw him with invidious eye,
And, as on Job, demanded leave to try
He took the time when Richard was deposed,
And high and low with happy Harry closed;
This prince, though great in arms, the priest withstood,
Near though he was, yet not the next of blood.
Had Richard unconstrain'd resign'd the throne,
A king can give no more than is his own,
The title stood entail'd had Richard had a son.
"Conquest, an odious word, was laid aside:
Where all submitted, none the battle tried.
He joined not in their choice, because he knew
Worse might, and often did, from change ensue.
Much to himself he thought, but little spoke;
And undeprived his benefice forsook.
Now, through the land his cure of souls he stretched,
And like a primitive apostle preached;
With what he begged his brethren he relieved,
And gave the charities himself received--
Gave while he taught, and edified the more,
Because he showed, by proof, 'twas easy to be poor.
This brilliant is so spotless and so bright,
He needs no foil, but shines by his own proper light."
Ken's travels sometimes extended as far as London, where he occasionally visited his friend Francis Turner, the deprived Bishop of Ely, and Margaret Turner, in whom he took almost paternal interest. He writes to Sancroft the following record of his visit to Frampton, the nonjuring Bishop of Gloucester. "I made, as I told you I intended, a visit to our good brother of Gloucester, who was not a little joyed to see me. He is very cheerful, and being past eighty, does not only daily expect, but like St. Paul, longs for his dissolution. He has many infirmities of old age, but his eyes are very good, and he uses no spectacles. With all the tenderness imaginable he remembers your lordship.
"Dr. Bull being in my way, I called upon him, which he took the more kindly because he thought we had as much abandoned him as he seems to have abandoned us; and the respect I paid him I perceive surprised him, and the rather because he never has taken any notice of our deprived brethren; but he has reason to value his old friends, for his new have little regarded him."
This letter has no other date than September 17th, and is only signed "B. and W."
It is well known that James II., after the death of Archbishop Sancroft, was desirous of nominating Ken to the primacy, but Ken declined the shadowy honour.
Meek and mild as Ken was, and separate from all political excitement, his strong sense of moral justice impelled him to address a stern remonstrance to the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Tenison, in the form of a printed letter, on the eulogistic account of Queen Mary's death-bed contained in the courtly primate's funeral sermon for that princess; reproaching him with having acted the part of an unfaithful minister, by crying "Peace, peace," when there was no peace, instead of moving her to penitence for her sins and prayers for pardon.
"You knew her well," he says; "you had full opportunity of representing to her her need for repentance, and you were no stranger to her story. Did you know of no weighty matters which ought to have touched the princess's conscience? Were you assured that she was in charity with all the world? Did you know of no enmity between her and her father? no variance between her and her sister? Was the whole Revolution managed with that purity of intention, that perfect innocence and exact justice, that tender charity and that irreproachable equity, that there was nothing amiss in it, no remarkable failings that might deserve one penitent reflection? You cannot, you dare not say it; and if you should, out of your own mouth I can condemn you; for you yourself, in your serious intervals, have passed as severe a censure on the Revolution as any of those they call Jacobites could do. You have said more than once 'that it was all an unrighteous thing.' Why then did you not deal sincerely with this dying princess, and tell her so? when you must be sensible that in steering her conscience wrong you shipwrecked your own. What was it, sir, that moved you to act thus notoriously against your own conscience? Was it the fear of losing the favour of the Court which made you rather venture the indignation of Heaven, when that fear was vain? for it had been no offence against the government to have persuaded a dying daughter to have bestowed one compassionate prayer on her afflicted father, had he been ever so unnatural; though here the case was quite different, for he was one of the tenderest fathers in the world.....
"You tell us she was one whom you are well assured had all the duty in the world for other relations, which after long and laborious considerations she judged consistent with her duty to God and her country.....
"But what do you mean, sir, by other relations? Her royal father, her mother-in-law, and her brother? 'All the duty in the world' is a comprehensive term; but wherein, sir, did any part of her duty appear? Why are you not so just to her and to yourself as to give us some of those expressions of filial duty which flowed from her? Why do you not preserve some instances of her mildness and mercifulness to her enemies whom you know she treated as such, although their only crime was being her father's friends? It would have been much for her honour, and convinced the world that the manner of her death had been in all respects truly Christian; it would have been much for your reputation, and much for the credit of the Revolution, in which you are as great a zealot as a gainer."
The primate did not venture to reply to these home strokes; they were indeed unanswerable, and therefore silence in that case was wisdom.
The government looked with an evil eye on the deprived bishop, and watched for occasions against him; but the only pretext they could find for annoying him was on the score of his charitable collections for the ejected nonjuring clergy and their destitute families. They cited him to answer for this misdemeanour before the Privy Council.
Ken, who was at that time suffering under a severe and painful bodily complaint, was residing in the house of one of his sisters, in a secluded country Village, when the king's messenger arrived. Ken immediately surrendered himself, and notwithstanding the state of his health, which rendered travelling both painful and dangerous at that season, agreed to accompany him to London without the slightest hesitation. He presented himself at once at the door of the Privy Council Chamber without being admitted. On the second occasion he was served with a warrant citing him to appear on the 28th of April, 1696.
With the courageous firmness and moral dignity of a martyr, Ken appeared before the Privy Council at the appointed time, in his patched and threadbare episcopal dress, and answered all the interrogatories that were addressed to him by their lordships. The printed paper, called "A model of a fund of charity for the needy suffering," subscribed by the deprived bishops, being shown him, he was asked, "Did you subscribe that paper?"
"My lords, I thank God I did," replied Ken; "and it had a very happy effect, for the will of my blessed Redeemer was fulfilled by it, and what we were not able to do was done by others; the hungry were fed, and the naked were clothed; and to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to visit those who are sick or in prison, is that plea which all your lordships, as well as I, as far as you have had opportunity, must make for yourselves at the great day; and that which you must all plead at God's tribunal for your eternal absolution, shall not, I hope, be made my condemnation here."
"No one here condemns charity," said his accusers, "but the way you have taken to procure it. Your paper is illegal."
"My lords," returned Ken, "I can plead to the evangelical part. I am no lawyer, but I have been very well assured that it is legal. The first person who proposed it to me was Mr. Kettlewell, that holy man who is now with God. I subscribed it, and went into the country to my retirement in an obscure village, where I live above the suspicion of giving umbrage to the government. My lords, I was not active in making collections in the country, but good people of their own accord sent me towards fourscore pounds, of which about one half is still in my own hands.
"I beg your lordships to observe this clause in our paper, 'as far as in law we may;' and to receive such charity as in law we may, and to distribute it is a thing also, I presume, which in law we may."
It was then objected, that some persons of ill lives had been relieved from this money. To this charge Ken intrepidly rejoined:--
"My lords, in King James's time there were about a thousand or more imprisoned in my diocese who had been engaged in the rebellion of the Duke of Moumouth, and many of them were such as I had reason to believe were ill men and devoid of all religion, and yet for all that I thought it my duty to relieve them. It is well known in the diocese that I visited them night and day, and I thank God I supplied them with necessaries myself so far as I could, and encouraged others to do the same, and yet King James never found the least fault with me. If I am now charged with misapplying what was given, I beg of your lordships that St. Paul's apostolical rule may be observed, 'Against an elder receive not an accusation but before two or three witnesses,' for I am sure none can testify that against me. What I gave was in the country, and I gave to none but those who did both want and deserve it. The last that I gave was to two poor widows of deprived clergymen, one whereof was left with six, the other with seven small children."
It was then objected that the paper was of the nature of a brief calculated to supersede briefs issued by the king's authority; and that by promulgating the said paper he had usurped ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
"My lords," rejoined the deprived prelate, "I never heard that begging was a part of ecclesiastical jurisdiction; and in this paper we are only beggars, which privilege I hope may be allowed us.
"I doubt not," he added, "but your lordships may have had strange misinformation concerning this paper; but having sincerely told you what part I had in it, I humbly submit myself to your lordships' justice. I presume you will come to no immediate resolution concerning me, and having voluntarily surrendered myself--the warrant never having been served on me till I had twice attended here, this being the third time--and my health being infirm--I beg this favour of your lordships, that I may return to my sister's house, where I have hitherto lodged, which is a place the messenger knows well, and that I may be no otherwise confined till I have received your lordships' final resolution."
The council acceded to his request, and he withdrew; but they sent their messenger after him to tell him that they required him to send a copy of his answers in writing. Ken complied with their demand as well as he could, by writing down from memory a minute of what had passed in the council chamber, prefacing it, as he did all his letters and papers, with this sentence, "All glory be to God," and signing it, "Tho. Bath and Wells, deprived."
The government was ashamed, or more probably afraid, of offering him any further molestation, and he pursued his labours of love uninterrupted, save by the bodily sufferings to which his constitutional malady subjected him.
The Reverend John Kettlewell, to whom Ken alluded "as now with God," was one of the most celebrated of the nonjuring divines. He had drawn up the model of a charitable fund for the maintenance of the ejected clergy, and recommended the deprived bishops to issue a pastoral letter, inviting all good Christians to contribute to the support of those sufferers for conscience' sake. Kettlewell, who was then in declining health, died before his plan was acted upon. Ken attended him in his last illness, and administered the sacrament to him. After his decease, Ken read the burial service over him, wearing his lawn sleeves and episcopal robes. It was the last time he publicly performed any of the offices of the Church in this dress.
During his weary nights of agonizing unrest, Ken endeavoured to improve the time by the composition of poems, which he entitled 'Anodynes,' which bear affecting testimony to his patient endurance of the pains with which he was at times visited.
Ken composed an epistle dedicatory to his generous friend, Lord Weymouth, in which some bio graphical notices occur; for he draws a comparison between his own adverse fortunes and the sacred hymnist, Gregory, one of the earliest lyric poets of the Greek Church, who, forced to forsake his ministry by the furious and factious controversies that even then began to corrupt the primitive Christian Church, retired to his own paternal inheritance, and quietly employed himself in providing and organizing an hymnology, both words and music, for the Church he dearly loved.
Ken observes to his beneficent protector, that he had "no cottage "wherein to seek shelter. Perhaps he thought of his brother Sancroft's paternal ground in Suffolk--for Gregory's inheritance suggested no such words as these:--
"When I, my lord, crushed by prevailing might,
No cottage had where to direct my flight;
Kind Heaven me with a Mend illustrious blest,
Who gave me shelter, affluence, and rest.
In this alone I Gregory outdo;
That I much happier refuge have with you;
Where to my closet I to hymns retire,
And I on this side Heaven have nothing to desire.
"Two annual weeks it is, and more, since pain
Within my tender nerves began its reign;
Between my couch and chair my days I waste,
And of a book have but a vapid taste.
As thirsty deer at Nile's refreshing brink,
E'er they forsake his bed, by snatches drink;
Still rolling to and fro their tremulous eyes,
Lest the leviathan should them surprise;
Thus, I at author's sip can make no stay;
Pain from attention forces me away--
Pain hunting me--I seek the sacred muse--
Verse is the only laudanum I use."
This narcotic had, by the physicians of Louis XIV., been introduced contemporaneously with the youth of Ken, to still the tortures of patients in acute pain; but we think, by the foregoing observation, that Ken had found--what all invalids will sooner or later--that the reaction of opiates is worse than any disease.
He continues his biographical notices:--
"I, by a stranger from my fold exiled,
While my flock stray in the unguarded wild;
Still for my charge the tenderest care retain,
Exposed to latitudinarian bane.
Like Gregory of St. Paul, I'd learn to teach,
And warn in hymns all souls within my reach."
The prosperous bishops of the dominant Revolution are, under this autobiographical poem, figured in comparison with those who, in the throes and troubles of the primitive Christian Church, had tormented her early hymnologist, Gregory.
"Who, with proud, noisy prelates tired,
Whose antichristian spite his fall conspired;
Who had shook off their Master's badge of love,
Who chose the serpent and despised the dove;
These mitred traitors the Church exposed,
And with the world's time-serving factions closed;
Led the broad way to dire eternal fate.
* * * * *
Then Gregory prayed for Jesus to provide
For the dear flock he left a worthy guide;
A pilot learn'd, and wise, and faithful, grave,
And fit for steerage o'er the troubled wave."
The introduction to his grand and latest course of hymnology presents the lovely picture of a southern woodland chapel dressed with the flowers that grow in the healthful air and refresh the barren soil.
Eloquently, and with that sweet simplicity which is the great charm of sacred poetry, does Ken describe this humble flower-decked chapel in the woods of South Anglia. Pope need not have been ashamed of the lines--
"There is a vale which shady woods surround,
Where the sweet air perfumes the barren ground;
No savage man or beast that place infests--
No impious oath the conscience there molests;
To this a humble oratory joined,
With greens and fragrant flowers each morning lined;
A bible on a little altar lay,
Paten and chalice were of whitened clay."
There is nothing more touching in Ken's four volumes of devotional poetry than these four personal lines, written as it were on the brink of the grave:--
"I, the small dolorous remnant of my days,
Devote to hymn my great Redeemer's praise;
And nearer as I draw toward heavenly rest,
The more I love the employment of the blest."
[Works of the Right Reverend Learned and Pious Thomas Ken, D.D., late Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells. 4 vols. 1721.]