JOHN LAKE was born at Halifax, in Yorkshire, and was baptized on the 5th of December, 1624. He was educated at the Grammar School of his native town, and made so rapid a progress in his studies that he was admitted into St. John's College, Cambridge, in his thirteenth year. His tutor at St. John's was the learned Mr. Cleveland, whose life he subsequently wrote, and whose works, in conjunction with Dr. Drake, Rector of Pontefract, he edited and published in 1687. He took his degree of B. A. at a very early age, and distinguished himself no less for loyalty than learning. He was arrested, together with a considerable party of ardent young royalists, by the Parliamentary Commissioners, for refusing to take the Covenant, and put into strict confinement--not being suffered to stir without the gates, or to take the slightest exercise or recreation.
During the time of his restraint young Lake sedulously pursued his studies. At last he escaped, and, repairing to Oxford, entered the king's service as a volunteer. He distinguished himself at Basing House by his intrepid conduct in several successful sallies, and became one of the undaunted defenders of that stronghold of loyalty. He was so fortunate, however, as to escape the sanguinary massacre inflicted by Cromwell on the valiant garrison, who were for the most part put to the sword, in revenge for their gallant defence and the contempt with which they had treated his summons to surrender. Unintimidated by the fate of his brave companions in arms, young Lake continued to fight gallantly for King Charles in the defence of Wallingford, and served four years, with dauntless courage in that hopeless cause, as a stripped and impoverished cavalier.
His love of learning induced him to return to his academic studies. He refused to take the Engagement with no less firmness than he had rejected the Covenant. He succeeded, however, in 1647, in obtaining ordination from one of the deprived prelates, and entered publicly and fearlessly on his interdicted vocation.
He preached his first sermon in his native town of Halifax, July 26, 1647. Not being suffered to remain there without taking the Engagement, he removed to Oldham, whence, after a warm, controversy, he was ejected by the Puritan party, and effectually silenced for a time.
To render his case the worse, our adventurous young cavalier divine, on leaving the army for the Church, had married, and in addition to his personal struggle for subsistence, had at this anxious crisis a wife and young helpless family to support.
On the death of the incumbent of Leeds he was presented to the vicarage of that town, but met with so much opposition from the Puritan party, who wished to introduce Mr. Bowles, that it was found necessary to call in a company of soldiers to secure his induction into the church, the doors having been barred against him by some of the more violent of his congregation. As this took place before the Restoration, Lake must have had some powerful and influential friends on the other side, notwithstanding his well-known affection to the royal cause.
At a post-Restoration entertainment given by Bishop Gunning to the members of St. John's College, Lake, over whose head the wear and tear of twenty years had not passed in vain, appeared as one of the guests without being recognised, but his agreeable conversation induced the bishop to inquire whether he belonged to that college.
"Yes," replied Lake; "I studied here very hard without once going out of the gates."
This led to the explanation that he was one of the young cavalier students who had suffered a long imprisonment there on account of their principles. Lake was recommended, in 1661, by the royal letter of Charles II., to have the degree of D.D. conferred on him by the University of Cambridge, which was accordingly done.
Lake preached his first synod sermon at York, with which the dean was so greatly pleased, that he sent a copy, without the author's knowledge, to Dr. Sheldon, Bishop of London. That prelate sent for Lake, and collated him to the rectory of St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, May 22, 1663. He was made prebend of Holbourn, June 11, 1667, and formed a friendship with Sancroft which lasted as long as he lived.
The following letter was addressed by Lake to Sancroft, when the latter requested him to preach as his substitute on Passion Sunday in one of the city churches, before the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral:--
"It was my unhappiness to be from home when you called upon so obliging an account this day. The favours which you have heaped upon me from time to time suffice not, unless you accumulate them with honours also, for it is the greatest to be your Lunodamonum. With such as I have, therefore, I shall appear in your place, not stead; not as your representative, but your foil. In earnest, sir, it will be a passion sermon to all that expected you, and find me there; and give me leave to say, in the words of truth and soberness, there can scarce be a greater disparity or disappointment. However, I accept it as a pledge of that undeserved value which you are pleased to set upon me, and that I may not too much reproach your judgment, I shall study the more to deserve it. It is almost enough to make me able that my lord of Hereford and yourself have considered me so; at least it is my duty to try.
"My lord, I would have attended you myself if you had thought fit, but that I am to preach at a solemn funeral on Wednesday. So soon as that is over I shall not fail to wait upon you if your journey prevent it not, or upon my lord of Hereford if it do, and then give him the assurance which I hereby give yourself, that I am,
"Your great honourer,
"And humbly devoted servant,
"March 15, 1668."
In the following autumn Lake obtained the rich living of Prestwich, in Lancashire. Soon after, his clerk falling dangerously ill caused a report of the death of that official; whereupon, as it was a place which included many advantages, a gentleman of the name of Clifford got a much-valued friend of Lake's to make interest with him for the appointment, which he did, sending various testimonials of Clifford's merit.
Lake, who was at that time enjoying a tour in Lancashire, did not receive the letter till long after date, which, together with the impossibility of complying with the request, elicited the following frank, yet complimentary letter of apology from him:--
"As you upon all occasions are ready to testify your undeserved respects to me, so I would not seem guilty of the least disrespect towards a person whom I so much and deservedly honour. It is, therefore, a double trouble to me, both that I make so slow a return to yours, on behalf of Mr. Clifford, which, through my ramblings up and down amongst several friends in Lancashire, came slowly to my hands, and that I cannot make a satisfactory one now; and it is a further circumstance of trouble to me that you should think there needed any testimony but your own. Your simple testimony, which did me so much service and reputation not long since, might, both in justice and gratitude, suffice with me. After all, it is my unhappiness to be somewhat entangled already. Not that I have made any promise of the place, for I would not seem to bury my clerk alive, but having buried about eleven or twelve weeks ago a prudent, sober, and faithful servant, who collected my tithes, and the clerk lying sick and weak as he still doth, I have retained one Mr. Hunt to do it, who was clerk of St. Antholin's before the fire, and now liveth within my parish, and I know hath the clerkship in his eye, and if he shall prove his fidelity to me I can scarcely look off him. This, sir, is the very truth of the case, and, therefore, I hope I shall have your excuse if I do not make Mr. Clifford a certain promise; but if the place become void in my time, and Mr. Hunt succeed not in it, I hereby assure it to Mr. Clifford, for the nomination, by the custom of the parish, as well as by canon, is wholly in myself, and I shall be glad of such an opportunity to testify myself--
"Your humbly devoted servant,
[Tanner MSS., vol. xliv. 61, Bodleian Library, Oxford.]
"November 16, 1668."
Lake was next made prebendary of Fridaythorpe, in the cathedral of York, and given other preferments, not one of which was of his own seeking.
His zeal for the restoration of good order and discipline in the church, especially his determination to abolish the irreverent custom into which the people had fallen, of walking about the aisles of the cathedral and talking during the celebration of divine service, excited great ill-will among the vulgar. This broke out with great violence in October, 1680, on his being installed archdeacon of Cleveland, when the most painful scene in his life occurred. The rabble forced themselves into the church in great numbers, wearing their hats, and raised a tumultuous riot.
Lake, whose courage was indomitable, rose from his seat, and taking off the hats of those who were within reach, admonished them on the sacrilegious nature of their proceedings in the house of God, bidding them either remain and join in the service, or leave the church. Awed by the impressiveness of his language they retired, but presently after a fresh crowd collected and burst open the south door, and defied him in the most brutal language, and endeavoured to provoke him to strife. Lake, however, preserved his temper, even when, without the church, they followed him home, and but for the courageous promptitude of Captain Honeywood, the deputy-governor, would have plundered and pulled down his house.
The following Shrove Tuesday a fresh outbreak took place, in consequence of Lake's determination to stop the heathenish license claimed on that day by the sturdy apprentices and young men of York. It had been their custom from very ancient times to ring one of the cathedral bells, which they called the Pancake bell. This practice obtained in other places in Yorkshire, for in Dr. Lake's native town there was a popular rhyme circulated as a proverb, in reference to the inauguration of Shrovetide festivities--
"When Pancake bell begins to ring,
All Halifax lads begin to sing."
But Lake was determined that in York Cathedral no singing should be tolerated, save to the glory of God. The dean and chapter advised him to wink at the saturnalia, and not to stir up the rabble by contesting the privilege which they had enjoyed from time immemorial, of having the minster, from crypt to tower, thrown open for the pleasure of themselves and their country cousins on Shrove Tuesday. Lake, however, courageously endeavoured to prevent the desecration of the minster, first by reproving the rabble, and then by taking steps for their expulsion. They assailed him, as before, with brutal ferocity, and would have torn him to pieces, if some of the more moderate had not interposed and advised him to retire, unless he wished to be slain on the spot. "I have faced death too often in the field," he replied, "to shrink from the danger of martyrdom in the performance of my duty: I should be sorry if any of your lives were to be endangered through your cruel and cowardly attack on me; but leave the ground at your bidding I will not." He was with difficulty rescued by the governor and his assistant force.
Though Dr. Lake might have retired to either of his livings, his high spirit would not cower before the storm; and he continued, at the imminent peril of his life, to reside in York till he had convinced his ferocious adversaries that they were not to convert the house of God into a place of idle riot. His firmness and courage finally conquered.
Through the friendship of the Earl of Derby, Lake was nominated to the bishopric of Sodor and Man, and consecrated in December, 1682. It was a very poor see, but he cheerfully undertook the office, though at no small self-sacrifice, as he had to give up much more lucrative preferment at York for the sake of this almost barren mitre. His enemies at York could not believe that he would actually resign the rich prebend he held in that city for the empty dignity of the Manx bishopric; and one of his great adversaries, Mr. Stainforth, who was making interest to obtain his house and preferment, promulgated an invidious report that Dr. Lake meant to retain his prebendal residence and living there. Lake frankly mentions this invidious rumour in a confidential letter to his friend Sancroft, to whom he thus writes in reference to the injurious rumour:--
"I am so far myself from the least thought of keeping my residentiary place at York, that a design hath been for some time driving on for Mr. Stainforth to succeed me in it, and he and I were discoursing of it at that very time when your grace's letter came to my hands; and on all hands it is submitted to my lord of York, and if I am capable of doing any other good office to Mr. Stainforth, I shall cheerfully requite the bad offices which I know he hath done to me with that also. I shall add no more to your trouble, save only to assure your grace that it is a very great satisfaction to me that I am coming under your more immediate conduct; and whatever cometh in my way, whilst I may have your advice and assistance, I can neither faint nor miscarry.
"I beseech God long to continue your grace an ornament and a blessing to His Church, and to return into your bosom all those undeserved favours which your grace hath reflected upon your most obedient and most humbly devoted servant,
Lake was much valued by the Archbishop of York, who considered his talents and learning deserved a more extensive sphere and a better reward than the bishopric of Sodor and Man, as we learn from his confidential letter to his friend Sancroft,--
"I intended your grace," he says, "the trouble of a few lines, to beg your prayers and blessing before I set out for the Isle of Man in May next; but am now engaged to give your grace trouble upon another occasion, to which I am invited and encouraged by my lord of York; otherwise the reverence which I have for your grace, and the consciousness of my own defects, would effectually have restrained the presumption.
"The occasion, may it please your grace, is this. The late Bishop of Carlisle being dead, my lord of York, ex mora motu, hath prompted me to put in for the bishopric, and hath promised all his favour and furtherance, which I took myself obliged to accept; but still with this difference, if your grace shall not only approve but please to promote it also; for as there is no hope of succeeding in it without such concurrence, so I can religiously profess that I affect not to be, or have anything which stands not with your good liking. I am, therefore, bold to offer this to your grace, but presume not to urge it at all; and may I but continue in your good opinion, it will abundantly suffice your grace's most humbly devoted and most obedient servant,
But higher preferment awaited Lake. Charles II., who, whatever were his own faults, seldom nominated any other than worthy men to his hierarchy, had once been deeply impressed by a sermon on the death of the good, pious, and loyal citizen, Deputy William Cade, which Lake preached before him at Whitehall, on the anniversary of his Restoration, so far back as May 29th, 1671. This sermon had been published subsequently, under the title of the "True Christian's Character and Crown;" and was so much approved by his Majesty, who had been previously much interested in the youthful adventures and loyal achievements of the preacher as an Oxford cavalier, that lie declared he would make an English bishop of him when a suitable opportunity occurred.
Thirteen long years had however passed away since the royal declaration was uttered, and it was not till Sancroft induced Dr. Turner, who was then Bishop of Rochester and chaplain to the Duke of York, to mention Dr. Lake to his Royal Highness, and solicit his influence with the king in his behalf, that he might be appointed to the bishopric of Bristol.
Turner wrote from Windsor to Sancroft that Charles remembered his promise:--
"April 20th, 1684.
"According to your grace's directions, I have moved his Royal Highness and the king in favour of the Bishop of Man for Bristol. His name is received by our princes with so much kindness as will facilitate his nomination. I have also performed your grace's commands in representing this business to the Earl of Rochester, who very readily meets your grace's motion for this worthy person, though I perceive his lordship's inclinations are leaning towards another. But my lord Duke of Beaufort not coming yesterday to Windsor, all I can do is to write my good Lord Clarendon such an account of the present design, for removing Dr. Lake to Bristol, as may be showed to his grace, which is but necessary;" the Duke of Beaufort having named a friend of his for the bishopric of Bristol, which see, small as its emoluments were, was just at that time eagerly sought.
"I shall take the bishopric of Bristol, if it falleth to my share, not only contentedly, but joyfully and thankfully," writes Lake to Dr. Paman, April 30th. 1684, "if it can be but so contrived that I may be entitled to another year's profits of the bishopric of Man, which I shall be perfectly at or before Michaelmas next, that is so soon as the harvest is cut down; but otherwise I shall be a great loser by the one, and I doubt a greater by the other. To make this appear more clear and reasonable, not only the small value of the bishopric of Bristol is to be considered, in respect whereof, for thirty-two years together, in Queen Elizabeth's time, it had no proper bishop of its own, but was held in commendam by the bishops of Gloucester; but that hitherto I am entitled but to the year's profits of the bishopric of Man, and these amounting but to 282l., whereof I have yet received but 4l. 5s., and I shall not receive the rest without much trouble and expense, and shall lose part of it after all, for the poverty of that island is very great, and not to be conceived by any but those who have been upon the place. I know my Lord of Derby may, if he pleaseth, favour me in this; but I cannot tell whether I may expect it in this case, and therefore would not be left to his courtesy, if either by dispensing with me to hold the bishopric of Man so long (and I am far from desiring to hold it any longer), or by deferring my translation to Bristol. As to the finishing acts of it, if it could be helped, sir, I would not insist at all, much less so far upon this, if my case and condition did not require it. But if this cannot fairly be obtained, or not without too much concern to my lord of Canterbury, I shall, nevertheless, go on with a cheerful freedom, and rely upon that Providence which hath carried this matter on so far against my own inclination, and ever be what you have made me,
"Your zealously devoted friend and servant,
A week after the date of this letter Lake, who was then at York, received a most kind and satisfactory letter from Sancroft, announcing his appointment to the bishopric of Bristol by the king's express desire, through the recommendation of his Royal Highness the Duke of York, to which Lake replied:--
"York, May 7th, 1684.
"I received your grace's (I know not whether more kind or condescending) letter, with the most grateful sentiments of which a soul no larger than mine was capable. Not that the bishopric of Bristol itself was so surprising and transporting, but the mediation of his Royal Highness, his Majesty's ready favour and grace, the cheerful and unanimous consent of all the other honourable persons present, and I had almost said, above all, your grace's peculiar respects, did affect me with equal wonder and delight, and it will be the engagement of my whole life to walk in some measure worthy of them. This would also inspire me with courage enough to encounter all the difficulties that lie in my way, if the greatest difficulty of all, the discharge of my duty and the consciousness of mine own defects, were not too just an alloy to it. However, I shall go on, cum bono Deo, and may the end be prosperous and happy, for which I shall humbly commit myself to that wise and gracious Providence which hath brought me on hitherto I matter not the way."
Unfortunately for Lake he had the ill-luck, on being consecrated Bishop of Bristol, to inherit a fierce quarrel which had been going on for several years in this very poor but stormy diocese, between his predecessor the late bishop and two very bellicose members of the chapter. One of these was the dean, Mr. Samuel Grossman, a person apparently well worthy of his name; the other, Mr. Prebendary Richard Thompson, who had almost tormented the late bishop out of his life. One of their annoyances to the late bishop was to let out the canon's little marsh, contiguous to the episcopal palace, as a dock for the repairing and building of ships; against which nuisance the bishop vainly protested, and finally petitioned the king, declaring "that the noise and evil smells occasioned by this proceeding was most injurious to his health, and that it would be impossible for him to continue to reside there, and the revenues of his see were too small to admit of his hiring another house; and that Mr. Grossman had refused to pay the customary dues; so that the Bishop of Bristol, having neither lands nor revenues to pay for servants, must be his own slave and wait upon himself."
All, however, was calm on Lake's first arrival, as we find from his letter to his friend the primate, dated Bristol, September 18th, 1684, in which he says, "I was so perfect a stranger to all persons and things at Bristol, that I found nothing to advertise your grace, save what was not worthy of your grace's notice, my safe arrival there, and my reception more civil and kind than I could expect." He then proceeds to lament the unhappy divisions and distractions he found in the city of Bristol, inflamed and distracted as they were by Sir John Knight, a most troublesome busybody, who was always stirring up strife, and had been the means of inducing one Mr. Roberts to take orders while lacking seven months of the canonical age. Mr. Roberts had imposed on the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and also on the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, by producing false testimonials of his age; and being supported by the Duke of Beaufort in person, ho obtained institution to the living against the wish of the parishioners, who had set their hearts on a different person. They proceeded against Roberts in the Court of Arches.
Matters were carried on stormily, and the poor bishop was rendered very uncomfortable amongst the contending parties. In the midst of the strife the bellicose dean died, but, unhappily for all lovers of peace and quiet, he was succeeded by the equally bellicose prebendary, Thompson, and the king declared in his favour, although he had treated Sancroft with personal disrespect. There were ecclesiastical irregularities in his institution to the deanery, to which the bishop and the more orthodox portion of the chapter objected; but his violence overbore every one. He was accustomed, when any difference of opinion occurred in the Chapter House, to strike his hand upon the table, and maintain his own, by crying in an authoritative voice, "I lay it down for a maxim. I am Dean of Bristol." He set his face against weekly communions in the cathedral, which Lake desired to establish; drove one of the minor canons out of Bristol by his injurious treatment, and persecuted another till he took to his bed with illness brought on by a series of insults and vexations.
Lake found himself less able to withstand this ruffianly dean than to cope with the pancake rabble of York. His letters to Sancroft are many and piteous on the subject of the annoyances to which he was constantly exposed by this person, whom neither concessions could mollify nor courage daunt.
To increase the difficulties of the bishop's position, the choir of the cathedral was in a dilapidated condition, and the chapter almost in a state of insolvency; so that, as Lake pithily observed, "there is much needed to be done, and very little to do it with."
In the midst of these disquiets Charles II. died. The ceremony of proclaiming his successor, James, Duke of York, king, is thus communicated to Archbishop Sancroft, by Lake:--
"February 8th, Bristol.
"MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,
"We received the news of the death of his late sacred Majesty this morning, with that regret which became our loyal duty. Immediately thereupon the mayor of this city called the magistracy together, and resolved upon proclaiming his present Majesty, James II., with all expedition; and it was accordingly performed about four of the clock this afternoon, with all the ceremony and solemnity which this place and the time admitted. The magistracy were all in their scarlet, I present with them in my robes, the militia of the city all drawn together; a vast crowd of people, drums beating, trumpets sounding, and as loud and hearty acclamations as could possibly be imagined. In this posture this leaveth the city full of peace and joy, and the magistracy, who are very zealous for his Majesty's honour and interest, I doubt not will from time to time give a good account of it. I presume, by an express which goeth to the Duke of Beaufort, to signify thus much (though in scribbling haste) to your grace.
"Begging your grace's blessing, I am,
"Your grace's most heartily devoted servant,
Matters proceeded more peacefully, even in stormy Bristol, during the first few days of the new reign; but, within the month, when Lake writes to Sancroft touching an exchange with the bishop of Durham in the duty of preaching at Whitehall, he says, "I shall not fail, cum bono Deo, to be in London upon Saturday, the 28th of this month, March, and shall then crave leave to lay before your grace the state of our cathedral. At present all things continue as I formerly represented them. The dean (if I may call him so) neither acts nor appears. Whatever applications are made to him, or the necessities of the church require, he will do nothing; and what he designeth, unless to decline my visitation, passeth all understanding but his own."
The dean at last thought proper to write a long letter of apology and explanation to Sancroft, in which he said: "The commencement of the differences between himself and the late Bishop of Bristol originated in their dispute on the case of one Mrs. Allis, who had been baptized at Glasgow by an unqualified layman, the butler of Sir John Home; and that she, having scruples as to the validity of baptism so administered, was desirous of being re-baptized, for she had felt herself sorely disquieted by three sermons preached by him, Richard Thompson, before his institution to the deanery, on the sacrament of baptism; that the late bishop had urged it, but he, Richard Thompson, considered it not only unnecessary, but profane, and had used very strong language against both the late bishop and the present, who had reiterated the opinion of his predecessor on the case of Mrs. Allis. But, in conclusion, he (the dean) signified his great regret that he had suffered himself to use such intemperate expressions towards the bishop, and declared his readiness to make any apology that should be required of him, and to submit to his visitations and such regulations in the cathedral as his lordship deemed necessary."
A truce being thus proclaimed by the belligerent dean, Sancroft gladly availed himself of the services of his friend, Dr. Lake, on whose stainless principles he well knew he could confide, for the purpose of restoring ecclesiastical order and discipline in the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, and afterwards in that of Salisbury, in which arduous commission he was associated with the Bishop of Rochester and other eminent dignitaries of the Church.
Lake was summoned to London in consequence of Monmouth's rebellion. King James considered the presence of this loyal prelate would be very serviceable in keeping so important a place as Bristol quiet, and requested him to proceed thither without loss of time. Lake, who was at that time confined to his bed with a severe fit of the gout, unable to move hand or foot, hesitated not to yield prompt obedience to his sovereign's command, though under the necessity of being carried to his coach. He was in great danger of falling into the hands of the insurgents by the way, but safely accomplished the hazardous and painful journey. He gives the following account of his arrival in a letter to Sancroft, dated July 8th, 1685:--
"I found the city in a great ferment," writes he, "the rebels being within five miles, on the Somersetshire side; and the next day the alarm, was still hotter, they being within four miles, on the Gloucestershire side, where the city seemed less defencible; ever since that we have been on our guard, being fully satisfied that their eye was mainly upon this city; and if the Duke of Beaufort had not been timely sent hither, and conducted himself with all prudence and diligence ever since, it had certainly become a cheap and easy prey to them.
"At present we are celebrating, with all expressions of joy and triumph, the late happy victory obtained against the rebels, who are now totally dispersed; and this, accumulated with the news that the late Monmouth and Grey are taken in Dorsetshire, which is newly brought to the Duke of Beaufort; but of this he waiteth a confirmation.
"And now may it please your grace," continues Lake, "I hope it will not be unseasonable to commend Mr. Heath to his Majesty for the vicarage of St. Nicholas; and the case seemeth to require dispatch, for the dean and chapter of Bristol, who are, indeed, the proper patrons, have presented already; but a lapse having occurred to the king, Mr. Heath is willing to try the king's title with the presenters at his own peril, and I shall take truce with the presentation until we know the result.
"If I durst take confidence, I would presume, with respect to myself, to tell your grace that I have been advertised this day that the Bishop of Chichester is dead, and if your grace could think fit to move for that bishopric for me, it would be more convenient than Peterborough; but in this, as in all other things, I must refer myself wholly to your grace."
Sancroft recommended his old friend earnestly to the king, who cordially acceded to his request, and appointed Lake to the vacant see of Chichester; in a happy hour for him, as the dean had just made a fresh break out, and even proceeded so far as to publish a virulent pamphlet of abuse against him.
Lake alludes to this attack in his grateful letter of thanks to the primate for the welcome appointment to the see of Chichester:--
"I shall hasten up with all convenient speed," writes he, "and reckon it amongst my deliverances to be freed from the impertinence and insolence of our dean; who, by way of further answer to my articles of visitation, hath exhibited such a rhapsody of libellous and scandalous matter as seemeth to emulate if not outvie the d[ean] of Sarum."
Lake's translation to the see of Chichester took place in October, 1685. After announcing his safe arrival in that city to Archbishop Sancroft, he proceeds to consult him on various important points connected with his episcopal arrangements:--
"The sermons," observes he, "in our cathedral were wont to be in the body of the church, until Bishop Carleton, for wise and just reasons, removed them into the quire, and I have hitherto continued them there, and was not prophet enough to foresee any occurrence which might incline me to a thought to the contrary. But as this city is singularly factious and fanatic, and may be very prone to set up their conventicles again, and the Quakers have set up for themselves already, and the great William Penn is expected to speak amongst them to-morrow, so I would prevent it in the more sober and moderate sort of them, if possible; and I think one proper expedient to that purpose is the returning of the sermons into the body of the church, where is both much more room and much better accommodation for hearing (wherein the religion of those men mainly consisteth) than the quire doth. I dare not be confident that this will attain the end; but it hath a tendency to it, and it will at least stop the mouth of a very plausible pretence, viz., that there is not a sermon in the whole city on Sunday forenoon, but only in the cathedral, and that the quire will not receive the third part of the people if they should generally come in; nor is there any sermon constantly in the afternoon, except in that part of the cathedral which is applied to the use of a particular parish, nor another living that is in any measure competent to maintain a constant preacher. All which is most undoubtedly true.
"I therefore humbly offer this to your grace's consideration, and shall wait your direction in it, but what we do we must do quickly. For mine own part I humbly conceive that it may not be amiss to try the experiment; and with, some other expedients that perhaps may be found out, I hope, that with some losses, we may prevent greater inconveniences. If it be thought advisable, I shall take it upon me as mine own act and deed."
In his next letter Lake notifies "that conventicles are set up in most of the great towns in the diocese, and that papists are very busy to make proselytes, but with little success. They have indeed gained four or five," continues he, "in one parish, but they are poor, mean persons, who bring neither credit nor advantage to their church; nor do I hear of so many in the whole diocese beside, and yet divers of the most considerable persons in our part of the country are zealous that way."
"One other little errand this hath, to introduce a son of mine, who, on his way to Cambridge," continues Lake, "is emulous to beg your grace's benediction, as I also do, in the name and behalf of
"Your grace's, in all humble duty and obedience,
In a letter, dated June 18th, 1686, Lake, after thanking Sancroft for conferring the living of All-hallows, Barking, on Mr. Gaskarth, a worthy clergyman in whose behalf he had interested himself, proceeds to give a very curious account of his first visitation, which he had extended as far as Rye, the utmost limit of his diocese, and apparently a sort of terra incognita, which none of his predecessors since the Reformation had ventured to enter, so completely was it considered out of the region of civilized beings. Lake himself, as he says, "did not proceed thither without some difficulty, by reason of the ways thither; where "continues he, "no man alive hath seen a bishop before. In my passage by the sea coast I saw some churches wholly destroyed, and the parishes depopulated; some others in great decay, almost all poor and mean, and in disorder enough, inasmuch that some parishes have never yet had surplice or service book since the happy Restoration. One, which hath indeed but one family, and that of quakers, belonging to it, though the parsonage is worth at least forty pounds per annum, hath nothing but naked walls, and these not in the best repair; and such lumber as the quaker hath no place in his house bad enough for, he layeth there.
"On my return, I thought to have passed through the wild, and to have confirmed East Grinstead, Horsham, and some other places; but there I was bid stand, though perhaps I went further than a wiser man would have done, and so must remit that until the ways are in better condition."
After this melancholy description of his episcopal progress in that decayed and desolate district of his bishopric, Lake concludes his letter by mentioning "that since his return to Chichester the mayor of Rye had sent him copies of some extraordinary passports which had been presented by foreign gentlemen coming to Rye, on their passage to France; the passports being sealed with a Benedictine seal, a bishop in his habit, with his crosier, and the pope's escutcheon." These were probably some of King James's foreign Roman Catholic friends, whose appearance and singular credentials caused so much astonishment, not only to the Mayor of Rye, but to the learned Bishop of Chichester.
Lake, during the three years he held the see of Chichester, succeeded in establishing weekly communion in the Cathedral, in restoring the sermons to the body of the church, and also in drawing great numbers of conscientious dissenters to the worship of the Church of England.
He was one of the seven bishops who, in June, 1688, incurred the royal displeasure for petitioning to be excused from reading the king's declaration of Liberty of Conscience; for which offence he also was committed as a prisoner to the Tower. The particulars of that event having already been related in the life of Archbishop Sancroft, need not be repeated here.
Lake continued to exercise his episcopal functions quietly in his diocese till the landing of the Prince of Orange brought him again on the arena of public life as a spiritual peer. He then united with the primate, and others of his faithful brethren, in endeavouring to persuade the king to take such measures for the security of the Church and constitution as would probably, if adopted in time, have preserved the crown to the male line of the Royal House of Stuart. The vacillation of James, and the treachery of some of his less conscientious advisers, rendered the judicious counsel of his prelates unavailing.
Lake was one of those who subsequently advocated a regency in behalf of James's son. The votes were so closely balanced that the crown was bestowed on William and Mary by only a majority of two. Lake gave his vote in favour of the regency; and then retired to his diocese, refusing to transfer his homage to the new sovereigns.
This refusal excited great animosity against the conscientious bishop. He was assured by his friends and well-wishers that, if he persisted in his determination, his suspension would take place on the 1st of August, and his deprivation would follow on the 1st of February.
"No matter," he replied. "I will not take oaths which my conscience condemns. The hour of death and the day of judgment are as certain as the 1st of August and the 1st of February."
The 1st of August came, and he was suspended; but his time on earth was now short. On the 27th of the same month he was seized with shivering fits, accompanied with convulsions: a malignant fever followed. When his physicians, who saw the alarming nature of his symptoms, administered very strong and painful remedies, the deprived prelate smiled at their solicitude. "And is life worth all this at threescore years and five?" asked he. Nothing, he knew, could arrest the fever, and he prepared for death with unruffled serenity. To the weeping friends who attended him he made a declaration of the principles which had governed his life in these impressive words:--
"Being called by a sick, and I think, a dying bed, and the good hand of God upon me in it, to take the last and best viaticum, the sacrament of my dear Lord's body and blood, I feel myself obliged to make this short recognition and profession. That whereas I was baptized into the religion of the Church of England, and sucked it in with my milk, I have constantly adhered to it through the whole course of my life, and now, if so be the will of God, I shall die in it. And whereas the doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience I take to be the distinguishing character of the Church of England, I have incurred, in consequence of my adherence to these principles, a suspension from the exercise of my office, and expect deprivation. I find in so doing much inward satisfaction, and if the oath had been tendered with peril of my life, I could only have obeyed by suffering. I desire you, my worthy friends and brethren, to bear witness of this on occasion, and to believe it as the words of a dying man, who is now engaged in the most sacred act of conversing with God in this world, and may, for aught he knows to the contrary, appear with these very words in his mouth at the dreadful tribunal."
Lake entered into his rest three days after this profession of his principles, departing this troublous life peacefully on the night of August 30, 1689. Thus he escaped deprivation, as he died in the interim between his suspension and the day appointed for his ejection.
Dr. Patrick, his successor in the see of Chichester, expressed lively satisfaction that he was not called upon to supersede any of the deprived bishops, but was nominated to a see that was vacated by the natural death of its last possessor. Dr. Lake was interred, in St. Botolph's Church, Bishopsgate, simply and without pomp.