Aylmer, John

, an eminent English prelate, descended from a very ancient and honourable family, seated at Aylmer-hall, in Norfolk, was born in 1521, and being a younger brother, was either recommended by his relations, or recommended himself by his pregnant parts, to the marquis of Dorset (Henry Grey), afterwards duke of Suffolk, who honoured him with the title of his Scholar, and gave him an exhibition at the university of Cambridge. When he had there attained competent learning, the marquis took him home, where he became tutor to his children, amongst whom was the lady Jane, who for some days was styled queen, and who, under Aylmer’s tuition, acquired the Latin and Greek tongues, reading and writing in the latter with ease and elegance, By his care also, she received right principles of religion, as he imbibed the opinions of the primitive reformers and having for his patrons the duke of Suffolk and the carl of Huntingdon, in the reign of Edward VI., was for some time the only preacherin Leicestershire; where he had great success in inculcating the, Protestant religion. When the | celebrated Ascliam, in a visit to lady Jane in 1550, asked her how so young a lady (not then ahove fourteen) could have arrived at such perfection both in philosophy and the Greek language, she bore the following testimony to the merit of her tutor “1 will tell you,” said she, “and tell you truth, which, perchance, you will marvel at. One of the greatest benefits which ever God gave me, is that he sent so sharp and severe parents, and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go eat, drink, be merry or sad be sewing, placing, dancing, or doing any thing else, I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, and even so perfectly, as God made the world, or else, I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea, presently sometimes with pinches, nips, and bobs (or other ways, which I will not name, for the honour I bear them), so without measure misordereo”, that I think myself in hell, till time come that I must go to Mr. Elmer, who teachfeth me so gently, so pleasantly, with fair allurements to learning, that I think all the time nothing while I am with him and when I am called from him, 1 fall a weeping, because whatsoever I do else but learning, is full of grief, trouble, fear, and wholly misliking unto me and this my book hath been so much my pleasure, and bringeth daily to me more pleasure, and more yet, in respect to it, all other pleasures, in very deed, be but trifles and troubles unto me." Mr. Ascharn was so affected with this interview, that in a letter to lady Jane, dated the eighteenth of January, 1551, he speaks of it in rapture, and by a beautiful apostrophe, addressing himself to Mr. Ay liner, felicitates him on his having so ingenious a scholar, in a strain of compliment, which he says the great Sturmius made use of to him, speaking of his happiness, in having the lady Elizabeth for his pupil. In this letter it is, that he desires Mr. Aylmer, to whom be foresaw it would be shewn, to engage the lady Jane, to write a letter in Greek to himself, and another to Sturmius, and also desires they might continue to live in the same learned friendship and intercourse, which they had hitherto done.

The first preferment bestowed upon Aylmer, was the archdeaconry of Stow, in the diocese of Lincoln, which giving him a seat in the convocation, held in the first year of queen Mary, he boldly opposed that return to Popery, | which he saw approaching. He was one of six$ who, in the midst of all the violence of that assembly, offered to dispute all the controverted points in religion, against the most learned champions, of the Papists. But when the supreme power began to employ force, archdeacon Aylmer withdrew^ and escaped abroad in almost a miraculous manner*. He resided first at Strasbourg, afterwards at Zurick in Switzerland, and there in peace followed his studies, employing all his time in acquiring knowledge, or in assist^ ing other men of study. His thoughts, though in a distant country, were continually employed in the service of England, and of Englishmen. He published (as Strype supposes) lady Jane Grey’s letter to Harding, who had been her father’s chaplain, and who apostatized. He assisted Fox in translating the History of English Martyrs into Latin, and also in the version of archbishop Cranmer’s Vindication of the book on the Sacrament, against Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, which, however, was never printed. During these employments he found leisure to visit most of the universities of Italy and Germany, and had an offer from the duke of Saxony, of the Hebrew professorship of Jena, which he refused, on the prospect of speedily returning home* It was during his exile likewise that he wrote the only work of consequence which he ever published, in answer to the famous Scotch reformer, John Knox. In 1556, John Knox printed, at Geneva, a treatise under this title “The first Blast against the monstrous regiment and empire of Women,” to shew that, by the laws of God, women could not exercise sovereign authority. The objects of this attack were the two queens, Mary of Lorrain, then regent of Scotland, and Mary queen of England. It was violent, but not unargumentative, and he could appeal with effect to the laws of France, and to the recent proposal of Edward VI. to adopt the same laWi He intended a second, and a third part; but finding it gave offence to many of his brethren, and being desirous to strengthen rather than invalidate the authority of Elizabeth, he relinquished his design. Still as this first tended to injure the Protestant religion in the minds of Princes, and those in authority, Mr. Aylmer resolved to employ his

* Fuller says that the ship in which and that Aylmer, who was a man of

he embarked was searched, and that he low stature, sat on one side of it, while

was concealed in a very large wine ves- the searchers drank wine out of th

sel, with a partition in the middle other. | pen in the performance of a duty incumbent upon him, as a Christian divine, and a good subject. His piece was entitled, “An Harborowe for faithfull and trewe subjects, against the late blowne Blaste, concerning the government of Women. Wherein bee confuted al such reasons as a straunger of late made in that behalfe. With a briefe Exhortation to obedience.” Strasbourg, April 26, 1559, dedicated to the earl of Bedford, and lord Robert Dudley (afterwards earl of Leicester, then) master of the queen’s horse. This book is written with great vivacity, and at the same time discovers its author’s deep and general learning. It contains, however, some sentiments rather more in favour of the Puritan* than he afterwards held, a circumstance which was objected to him by some of that party, when in discharge of his episcopal duty he found it necessary to repress their endeavours to assimilate the church of England with that of Geneva.

After the accession of queen Elizabeth, Aylmer returned home, and was one of the eight divines appointed to dispute with as many popish bishops at Westminster, in the presence of a great assembly. In 1562, he obtained the archdeaconry of Lincoln, by the favour of Mr. secretary Cecil and in right of this dignity, sat in the famous synod held the same year, wherein the doctrine and discipline of the church, and its reformation from the abuses of popery, were carefully examined and settled. In this situation he continued for many years, and discharged the duty of a good subject to the government under which he lived, in church and state being one of the -queen’s justices of the peace, as also an ecclesiastical commissioner. In October, 1573, he accumulated the degrees of bachelor and doctor in divinity, in the university of Oxford. The next year the archbishop of Canterbury made choice of him, to answer a book written in Latin against the government of the church of England but after thoroughly considering it, Dr. Aylmer declined the task, which some in those days (perhaps unjustly) attributed to discontent, because he was not made a bishop. To this dignity he had been often named by Parker, then archbishop of Canterbury, but always prevented either by the interest of the archbishop’s enemies, or his own, the latter never failing to suggest, that in the same book where Aylmer had made his court to the queen, he had also shewn his spleen against episcopacy. At last, in the year 1576, on Dr. | Edwin Sandys being promoted to the archbishopric of York/ Dr. Ayltner was made bishop of London, not without the furtherance of his predecessor, who was his intimate friend, and had beeii his fellow-exile. Yet, immediately after his promotion, bishop Aylmer found, or thought he found, cause to complain of the archbishop and although his grace assisted at his consecration, on the 24th of March, 3576, bishop Aylmer sued him for dilapidations, which after some years prosecution he recovered. In 1577, our bishop began his first visitation, wherein he urged subscriptions, which some ministers refused, and reviled such as complied, calling them dissemblers, and comparing them to Arians and Anabaptists, he was also extremely assiduous in public preaching, took much pains in examining such as came to him for ordination, and kept a strict eye over the Papists and Puritans in which he acted not only to the extent of episcopal authority, but wrote freely to the treasurer Burleigh, as to what he thought farther necessary. When the plague rage<4 in London, in the year 1578, our bishop shewed a paternal care of his clergy and people, and without exposing the former to needless perils, took care that these last should not be without spiritual comforts. In 1581 came out Campion’s book, shewing the reasons why he had deserted the reformed, and returned to the popish communion. It was written in very elegant Latin, and dedicated to the scholars of both universities and the treasurer Burleigh thought that it should be answered, and referred the care thereof to our bishop, who though he gave his opinion freely upon the subject, as to the mode in which it should be done, yet declined the task himself on account of the great business he had upon his hands, and it was undertaken and ably executed by Dr. Whitaker. Aylmer was indeed no great friend to controversy, which he thought turned the minds of the people too much from the essence of religion, made them quarrelsome and captious, indifferent subjects, and not very good Christians. On this account, he was more severe with the Puritans than the Papists, imprison ing one Woodcock, a stationer or bookseller, for vending a treatise, entitled “An Admonition to Parliament,” which tended to subvert the church as it was then constituted. He had likewise some disputes with one Mr. Welden, a person of a good estate and interest, in Berkshire, whom he procured to be committed by the ecclesiastical | imssioners. These proceedings roused the Puritans, who treated him as a persecutor, and an enemy to true religion but this did not discourage the bishop, who thought the peace of the church was to be secured by the authority of its fathers, and therefore he executed his episcopal power, as far and as often as he thought necessary. Thus he suddenly summoned the clergy of London to his palace on Sunday, September 27, 1579, at one o’clock. On this summons forty appeared and the dean being likewise present, the bishop cautioned them of two things, one was, not to meddle with the Ubiquitarian controversy the other, to avoid meddling with the points treated in Stubb’s book, entitled “The Dfscovery of a gaping Gulph,” &c. written against the queen’s marriage with Monsieur, the French king’s brother, and in which it was suggested, that the queen wavered in her religion. This method being found very effectual, he summoned his clergy often, and made strict inquiries into their conduct, a practice as much approved by some, as censured by others and his unpopularity, perhaps, might occasion, in some measure, that violence with which he was prosecuted before the council, in May 1579, for cutting down his woods, when he was severely checked by the lord treasurer but notwithstanding his angry letters to that great nobleman, and his long and laboured defence of himself, he was, at length, by the queen’s command, forbidden to fell any more.

On the 6th of April, in the same year, there was a dreadful earthquake and in the dead of the night of the 1 st of May, it was felt again, which, as it exceedingly terrified the people, so the bishop, that he might turn their concern to a proper object, and at the same time exhibit to them reasonable grounds of comfort, composed certain prayers to be made use of in the public service. In 1581, the bishop had an angry contest with the lord Rich, who kept one Wright a puritan minister in his house, and would have compelled the bishop to license him to preach in his diocese but on a hearing before the ecclesiastical commissioners, Wright was committed to the Fleet, and others who had interfered in this affair, to other prisons. This increased the number of his enemies, of whom he had not a few before, who daily suggested that he was a violent man, and sought to vest too great a power in churchmen and these representations had such effect, that sometimes | messages were sent to him, to abate somewhat of the rigour of his proceedings. His lordship, however, still supported the ecclesiastical commission, by his presence and authority; and though a milder course might have made him more popular, yet he thought it better to suffer himself, than that the church should. He began, however, to have many doubts concerning the treasurer, from whose hands his reproofs usually came but upqn the winding up of his cause before the council about felling of woods, he saw clearly, that he had no friend equal to the treasurer, who, though he endeavoured by his admonitions to prevent his falling into difficulties, yet generously exerted his utmost power to help him out of them, so far as was consistent with equity, and the good of the common weal. From this time forward, therefore, thebishop applied chiefly to the treasurer, for any favours he expected from court, particularly with regard to the business of his translation. He became exceedingly solicitous to be removed from London, either to Winchester or Ely; but, though he had many fair promises, his interest was insufficient, and in the mean time new informations, some with little, many with no cause at all, were exhibited against him, and gave him not a little uneasiness, although, on a thorough examination, his conduct escaped the censure of his superiors. In 1583 he performed his triennial visitation, and having discovered many scandalous corruptions in the ecclesiastical courts, especially in the business of commuting penances, he honestly represented what came to his knowledge to the privy council. About this time also he suspended certain ministers, accused of nonconformity and it appears, that upon a thorough examination of the matter, his lordship did impartial justice, in restoring one Mr. Giffard, whom he had twice suspended, when those who had charged him were able to make nothing out. In this year also he committed Mr. Thomas Cartwright, the celebrated Puritan minister, who had written against the hierarchy. Yet for this his lordship incurred the queen’s displeasure and a little after was informed that he stood accused to her majesty, for impairing the revenues of his bishopric, of which he purged himself, by exhibiting a state of the bishopric as it then stood, compared with the condition it was in when he became bishop. Other difficulties. he met with, on account of the share he had in executing her majesty’s ecclesiastical commission, from which there were | Continual appeals to the privy council, where the lords who favoured the Puritans, did not fail to object to the bishop’s conduct, which contributed not a little to irritate his warm temper. In 1585 he composed a prayer to be used on account of the rainy unseasonable weather, which he recommended to private families, as well as directed to be read with the public prayers. He also used his interest to quiet the murmurs of the common people in London, against the crowds of strangers who fled hither, to avoid the persecutions raised against them, for embracing the Protestant religion. In the summer of the year 1586, the, bishop went his next triennial visitation, and at Maiden in Essex, narrowly escaped an outrageous insult, intended against him by some disaffected persons. In 1587, the bishop entered into a new scene of trouble, on account of one Mr. Robert Cawdry, schoolmaster, whom the lord Burleigh had presented to the living of South LufFenhara in Rutlandshire, where, after preaching sixteen years, he was convened before the ecclesiastical commission, and at length, the bishop sitting as judge, deprived. Cawdry would not submit to the sentence upon which the matter was re-examined by the ecclesiastical commission, at Lambeth, where to deprivation, degradation was added. Cawdry, however, still refusing to submit, made new and warm representations to the lord Burleigh, who favoured him as much as with justice he could but after near five years contest, the bishop’s and archbishop’s sentences were supported, both by the civil and common lawyers. In 1588, his lordship restored one Mr. Henry Smith, a very eloquent and much admired preacher, whom he had suspended for contemptuous expressions against the book of Common Prayer, which Smith denied. In 1589, he expressed his dislike of certain libels against the king of Spain, giving it as his reason, that on so glorious a victory, it was better to thank God, than insult men, especially princes. That year also he visited his diocese, though he was grown old and very infirm, and suspended one Dyke at St. Alban’s, though he had been recommended by the lord treasurer. In 1591 he caused the above-mentioned Mr. Cartwright to be brought before him out of the Fleet, and expostulated with him roundly, on the disturbance he had given the church. In 1592, he strongly solicited in favour of Dr. Bullingham, and Dr. Cole, that they might be preferred to bishoprics, but without success, which his | lordship foresaw. For he observed when he applied for them, that he was not so happy as to do rmieh good for his friends yet he added, he would never be wanting in shewing his good will, both to them and to the church. About this time, casting his eye on Dr. Bancroft, a rising and very active man, he endeavoured to obtain leave to resign his bishopric to him, as a man every way fit for such a charge but in this also he was disappointed, which it seems lay heavy at his heart for even on his death-bed, he expressed his earnest desire that Bancroft might succeed him. In 1592, the bishop assisted at his son’s visitation, as archdeacon of London, and exerted himself with as much zeal and spirit as he had ever shewn in his life. His great age, and great labours, however, weighed him down by degrees, and he died June 3, 1594, and his body being brought from his palace at Fulham, was interred in St. Paul’s cathedral before St. George’s chapel, under a fair stone of grey marble, with an inscription which was demolished by the republicans in Cromwell’s time. Bishop Aylmer married Judith Bure&, or Buers, of a very good family in Suffolk, by whom he had a very numerous offspring, viz. seven sons, and two or three daughters. As to the personal qualities of the bishop, they were, as those of most men are, good and bad, the former, perhaps, too much magnified by his friends, as the latter were by his enemies. He was solidly and extensively learned in all things that became either a great churchman, or a polite man, to know. He was very well versed in the three learned languages, had read much history, was a good logician, and very well skilled in the civil law. As a divine, he had studied, and understood the scripture thoroughly could preach, not only rhetorically but pathetically and in the course of his life-time, never buried his talent *. He was in his heart,

*

The bishop was not only well versed in Hebrew literature himself, but also a great friend of all such as applied themselves to the study of that tongue. Among others, he was remarkably kind to the celebrated Mr. Broughton, and warmly espoused his interpretation of that article in the Creed, which respects Christ’s descent into hell, a point in those days very warmly disputed. Broughton’s interpretation, to which the bishop adhered, was this: That the descent spoken of, was not a local descent into the prison of the damned; but Christ’s passing into Paradise, agreeable to the Greek word Hades, and the Hebrew Schoel $ which are often rendered into English by the grave, and do not strictly, or properly, signify hell. When he observed the thoughts of the congregation to wander while he was preaching, he would take a Hebrew Bible out of his breast, and read a chapter out of it, at which when the people naturally gaped and looked astonished, "he putting it up again, shewed them the folly of listening greedily to new and

| from the conviction of his head, a Protestant, and opposed Popery warmly, from a just sense of its errors, which he had the courage to combat openly in the days of queen Mary, and the honesty to suppress in the reign of queen Elizabeth. With all this, and indeed with a temper occasionally soured and irritable, he was a good-natured, facetious man, one extremely diligent and painful in the several employments he went through of too generous a temper to be corrupted, and of much too stout a one to be brow-beaten. He was a magnificent man in his house, as appears by his household, which consisted of fourscore persons, to whom he was a liberal and kind master. After his fatigues he was wot to refresh himself, either with conversation or at bowls. As to his failings, his temper was without doubt warm, his expressions sometimes too blunt, and his zeal not guided by wisdom. His enemies charged him with an exorbitant love of power, which displayed itself in various extraordinary acts of severity, with covetousness, which prompted him to spoil his see, and injure a private man; with intemperate heat against Puritans, with a slight regard of the Lord’s day, and with indecencies in ordinary speech some of which charges must be allowed a foundation, while on the other hand they appear to have been greatly exaggerated. But upon the whole there must have been many errors in a conduct which his superiors so often reproved. At the time of his decease he left seven sons, and either two or three daughters. His sons were, first, Samuel, who was bred to the law. He was stiled, of Claydon-hall in the county of Suffolk, and was high-sheriff of that county in the reign of king Charles I. and by two wives left a numerous posterity. His second, Theophilus, a most worthy divine, archdeacon of London, rector of Much-Hadham in Hertfordshire, and doctor of divinity. He was chaplain to king James, an able and zealous preacher, and, like his father, zealous against the Puritans, but so charitable, that he left his own family in indifferent circumstances. He lived a true pattern of Christian piety, and died heroically, closing his own eyelids, and with these words in his mouth, “Let my people know that their pastor died undaunted, and not afraid of death I bless my God, I have no fear, no doubt, no | reluctancy, but a sure confidence in the sin-overcoming itierits of Jesus Christ.” This happened January 1625. He was buried in his own parish church, and the excellent primate Usher preached his funeral sermon, no inconsiderable proof of his merit. His third, John, who for some eminent service was knighted, and styled sir John Aylmer, of Rigby in the county of Lincoln, knt. Fourth, fifth, and sixth, Zachary, Nathaniel, and Edmund, of whom we know nothing particularly, except that Zachary and Edmund were the warmest friends that age produced. When Edmund lay sick, Zachary continued with him night and day till his death, and when a person came to measure the body, in order to make a coffin, Zachary would be measured also, and in a very short space took possession of the coffin made for him at the same time with that of his deceased brother. These gentlemen seem to have been divines. His seventh, Tobel, i.e. God is good. Archbishop Whitgift was his godfather, and the reason he was thus named, was his mother’s being overturned in a coach, without receiving any hurt, when she was big with child. He wrote himself Tobel Aylmer, of Writtle, in the county of Essex, gentleman. He married a gentleman’s daughter in that county, and had by her several children. As to the bishop’s daughters, Judith, the eldest, married William Lynch, of the county of Kent, esq. the second, Elizabeth, married sir John Foliot of Perton, in the county of Worcester, knt. Either a third daughter, or else lady Foliot, took for her second husband Mr. Squire, a clergyman, a man of wit, but very debauched, and a great spendthrift, though he had large preferments. He made a very unkind husband to his wife, which her father, the bishop, so much resented, that, as Martin MarPrelate phrasss it, “He went to buffets with his son-inlaw, for a bloody-nose .*
*

It is reported, that when he conceived himself very ill-treated by his son-in-law, Squire, who by a base contrivance would have tarnished the reputation of his wife, the bishop’s daughter; the old man took him into a privateroom, and having reproached him for his wickedness and ingratitude, afterwards disciplined him stoutly with il cudgel. Another instance of his courage Mr. —Strype gives us a long account of, which, in few words, amounts to this. Queen Elizabeth was once grievously tormented with the toothache, and though it was absolutely necessary, was yet afraid to have her tooth drawn; bishop Aylmer being by, to encourage her majesty, sat down in a chair, and calling the tooth-drawer, “Come,” said he, “though I am an old man, and have but few teeth to spare, draw me this;” which was accordingly done, and the queen, seeing him make so slight a matter of it, sat down and had hers drawn also.

This Squire died poor, lerving a son named John, who was well educated, and provided | for as a clergyman, at the ex pence, and by the procurement of his uncle, Dr. Theophilus Aylmer, which he repaid with the utmost gratitude. To all his children our bishop, by his will, bearing date the 22d of April, 1594, bequeathed large legacies, as also some to his grand-children, appointing his two sons, Samuel and Theophilus, his executors, with Dr. Richard Vaughan, who was also his relation. 1
1

Strype’s Life of Aylmer, 8vo, 1701. —Strype’s Cranmer, pp. 314, 322. —Strype’s Annals, see index. —Strype’s Parker, pp. 257, 346. Bio^. Britannica. Fuller’s Worthies. Neate’s Puritans. Harrington’s Brief View in Nugoe Antiqua?. —Ath. Ox. vol. I. and Fasti, vol. II. M’Rie’s Life of Knox.