Cressey, Hugh-Paulin

, a celebrated popish writer, descended from an ancient and honourable family, seated formerly in Nottinghamshire, but before his time it had removed into Yorkshire, in which county he was born, at Wakefield, in 1605. His father was Hugh Cressey, esq. barrister of Lincoln’s-inn; his mother’s name was Margery, the daughter of Dr. Thomas Doylie, an eminent physician in London. He was educated at a grammar-school at Wakefield, and about the age of fourteen, in Lent term 1619, he was removed to Oxford, where he studied with great vigour and diligence, and in the year 1626 was admitted fellow of Merton college, in that university. After taking the degrees of B. A. and M. A. he entered into holy orders, and became chaplain to Thomas lord Wentworth, then lord president of the north, with whom he lived some years. About 1638, he went over to Ireland with Lucius Carey, lord viscount Falkland, to whom he was likewise chaplain; and by him, when he was secretary of state, Cressey was, in 1642, promoted to a canonry in the collegiate church of Windsor, and to the dignity of dean of Laughlin, in the kingdom of Ireland, but through the disturbances of the times, he never attained the possession of either of these preferments. After the unfortunate death of his patron, who was killed in the battle of Newbury, he found himself destitute of subsistence, and therefore readily accepted a proposal that was made him, of travelling with Charles Bertie, esq. afterwards created earl of Falmouth, a great favourite of king Charles II. who was unhappily killed in a battle at sea in the first Dutch war after the restoration. Cressey quitted England in 1644, and making the tour of Italy with his pupil, moved by the declining state of the church of England, he began to listen to the persuasion of the Romish divines, and in 1646 made a public profession at Rome of his being reconciled to that church. He went from thence to Paris, where he thought fit to publish what he was pleased to style the motives of his conversion, which work of his, as might reasonably be expected, was highly applauded by the Romanists, and was long considered by them as a very extraordinary performance. It is entitled, “Exomologesis, | or a faithfal narration of the occasions and motives of his conversion to Catholic Unity,Paris, 1647, and 1653, 8vo. To the last edition is an appendix, “In which are cleared certain misconstructions of his Exomologesis, published by J. P. author of the preface to the lord Falkland’s discourse of Infallibility.” As soon as this was finished, he sent it over to his friend Dr. Henry Hammond, as to one whose sincerity he had experienced, and for whose judgment he had a high esteem. That learned person wrote him a kind letter of thanks for his book, but at the same time told him there was a vein of fallacy ran through the whole contexture of it; adding, “we are friends, and I do not propose to be your antagonist.” At the close of this epistle, he invited him into England, assuring him that he should be provided with a convenient place to dwell in, and a sufficient subsistence to live comfortably, without being molested by any about his religion and conscience. This offer, though our author did not accept, yet he returned, as became him, an answer full of respect and gratitude to the kind friend who had made it.

After this, he was much inclined to become a monk of the Carthusian order, and had thoughts of entering into the monastery of English Carthusians at Newport, in Flanders, but from this he was dissuaded by some of his zealous countrymen, who were desirous that he should continue to employ his pen in defence of their religion, for which the severe discipline of that order would have allowed him but little time; and therefore by their advice he laid aside that design, and being recommended to Henrietta-Maria, queen-dowager of England, he was taken under her protection, and being invited by the Benedictine college of English monks at Douay, in Flanders, he at length resolved to retire thither, and for the expence of his journey received one hundred crowns as a bounty from that princess, who could but ill spare even so small a sura at that time. Some time after his arrival at Douay he entered into the Benedictine order, and upon that occasion changed the name he received at his baptism, of Hugh Paulin, for that of Serenus de Cressey, by which he was afterwards known to the learned world. He remained about seven years or more in that college, and during his residence tnere published a large work, of the mystical kind, entitled “Sancta Sophia, or directions for the prayers of contemplation, &c. extracted out of more than XL | treatises, written by the late reverend father Aug. Baker, a monk of the English congregation of the holy order of St. Benedict,Douay, 1657, 2 vols. 8vo. To which are added, “Certain patterns of devout exercises of immediate acts and affections of the will.” This father Augustine Baker, whose true name was David Baker, who had studied the law in the Middle temple, and who from being little better than an atheist, became a convert to popery, and a very zealous devotionist, had once, it seems, some intention of writing the Ecclesiastical History of England, for which he had made very copious collections, that were of great service to Cressey, when he entered upon the execution of the same project.

After the restoration, and the marriage of king Charles II. queen Catharine appointed our author, who was then become one of the mission in England, her chaplain, and from that time he resided in Somerset-house, in the Strand. The great regularity of his life, his sincere and unaffected piety, his modest and mild behaviour, his respectful deportment to persons of distinction, with whom he was formerly acquainted when a protestant, and the care he took to avoid all concern in political affairs or intrigues of state, preserved him in quiet and safety, even in the most troublesome times- He was, however, a very zealous champion in the cause of the church of Rome, and was continually writing in defence of her doctrines, or in answer to the books of controversy written by protestants of distinguished learning or figure; and as this engaged him in a variety of disputes, he had the good fortune to acquire great reputation with both parties, the papists looking upon him to be one of their ablest advocates, and the protestants allowing that he was a grave, a sensible, and a candid writer. Among the works he published after his return to England, were: 1. “A non est inventus returned to Mr. Edward Bagshaw’s enquiry and vainly boasted discovery of weakness in the Grounds of the Church’s Infallibility,1662, 8vo. 2. “A Letter to an English gentleman, dated July 6th, 1662, wherein bishop Morley is concerned, printed amongst some of the treatises of that reverend prelate,” 3. “Roman Catholic Doctrines no Novelties; or, an answer to Dr. Pierce’s court-sermon, miscalled The primitive rule of Reformation,1663, 8vo; answered by Dr. Daniel Whitby. But that which contributed to make him most known, was his large and copious | ecclesiastical history, entitled “The Church History of Britanny,” Roan, 1668, fol. which was indeed a work of great pains and labour, and executed with much accuracy and diligence. He had observed that nothing made a greater impression upon the people in general of his communion, than the reputation of the great antiquity of their church, and the fame of the old saints of both sexes, that had flourished in this island; and therefore he judged that nothing could be more serviceable in promoting what he styled the catholic interest, than to write such a history as might set these points in the fairest and fullest light possible. He had before him the example of a famous Jesuit, Michael Alford, alias Griffith, who had adjusted the same history under the years in which the principal events happened, in four large volumes, collected from our ancient historians; but, as this was written in Latin, he judged that it was less suited to the wants of common readers, and therefore he translated what suited his purpose into English, with such helps and improvements as he thought necessary. His history was very much approved by the most learned of his countrymen of the same religion, as appears by the testimonies prefixed to it. Much indeed may be said in favour of the order, regularity, and coherence of the facts, and the care and punctuality shewn in citing his authorities. On the other hand, he has too frequently adopted the superstitious notions of many of our old writers; transcribing from them such fabulous passages as have been long ago exploded by the inquisitive and impartial critics of his own faith. The book, however, long maintained its credit among the Romanists, as a most authentic ecclesiastical chronicle, and is frequently cited by their most considerable authors. He proposed to have published another volume of this history, which was to have carried it as low as the dissolution of monasteries by king Henry VIII. but he died before he had proceeded full three hundred years lower than the Norman conquest. Dodd, however, informs us that a considerable part of the second volume was preserved in ms. in the Benedictine monastery at Douay, and that it was never published “upon account of some nice controversies between the see of Rome, and some of our English kings, which might give offence.” While engaged on this work, he found leisure to interfere in all the controversies of the times, as will presently be noticed. His last dispute was in reference | to a book written by the learned Dr. Stillingfleet, afterwards bishop of Worcester, to which, though several answers were given by the ablest of the popish writers, there was none that seemed to merit reply, excepting that penned by father Cressey, and this procured him the honour of a very illustrious antagonist, his old friend and acquaintance at Oxford, Edward earl of Clarendon. Being now grown far in years, and having no very promising scene before his eyes, from the warm spirit that appeared against popery amongst all ranks of people, and the many excellent books written to confute it by the most learned of the clergy, he was the more willing to seek for peace in the silence of a country retirement; and accordingly withdrew for some time to the house of Richard Caryll, esq. a gentleman of an ancient family and affluent fortune, at East Grinstead, co. Sussex, and dying upon the 10th of August 1674, being then near the seventieth year of his age, was buried in the parish church there. His loss was much regretted by those of his communion, as being one of their ablest champions, ready to draw his pen in their defence on every occasion, and sure of having his pieces read with singular favour and attention. His memory also was revered by the protestants, as well on account of the purity of his manners, and his mild and humble deportment, as for the plainness, candour, and decency with which he had managed all the controversies that he had been engaged in, and which had procured him, in return, much more of kindness and respect, than almost any other of his party had met with, or indeed deserved. It is very remarkable, however, that he thought it necessary to apologize to his popish readers for the respectful mention he made of the prelates of our church. Why this should require an apology, we shall not Inquire, but that his candour and politeness deserve the highest commendation will appear from what he says of archbishop Usher: “As for B. Usher, his admirable abilities in ‘chronological and historical erudition,’ as also his faithfulness and ingenuous sincerity in delivering without any provoking reflection*, what with great labour he has observed, ought certainly at least to exempt him from being treated by any one rudely and contemptuously, especially by me, who am moreover always obliged to preserve a just remembrance of very many kind effects of friendship, which I received from, him.| We have already taken notice of his inclination to the mystic divinity, which led him to take so much pains about the works of father Baker, and from the same disposition he also published “Sixteen revelations of divine love, shewed to a devout servant of our Lord, called mother Juliana, an anchorete of Norwich, who lived in the days of king Edward Hi.” He left also in ms. “An Abridgment of the book called The cloud of unknowing, and of the counsel referring to the same.” His next performance, was in answer to a famous treatise, written by Dr. Stillingfleet, against the church of Rome, which made a very great noise in those days, and put for some time a stop to the encroachments their missionaries were daily making, which highly provoked those of the Roman communion. This was entitled “Answer to part of Dr. Stillingfleet’s book, entitled Idolatry practised in the church of Rome,1672, 8vo, and was followed by “Fanaticism fanatically imputed to the Catholic Church by Dr. Stillingfleet, and the imputation refuted and retorted,” &c. 1672, 8vo, and “Question, Why are you a Catholic? Question, Why are you a Protestant?1673, 8vo. In support of Dr. Stillingfleet, the earl of Clarendon wrote “Animadversions” upon our author’s answer; in which he very plainly tells him and the world, that it was not devotion, but necessity and want of a subsistence, which drove him first out of the church of England, and then into a monastery. As this noble peer knew him well at Oxford, it may be very easily imagined that what he said made a very strong impression, and it was to efface this, that our author thought tit to send abroad an answer under the title of “Epistle apologetical to a person of honour, touching his vindication of Dr. Stillingfleet,' 1 1674, 8vo. In this work he gives a large relation of the state and condition of his affairs, at the time of what he styles his conversion, in order to remove the imputation of quitting his faith to obtain bread. The last work that he published was entitled” Remarks upon the Oath of Supremacy." 1


Biog. Brit. Dodd’s Church Hist. vol. Iif.*-—Ath. Ox. vol. II.