Davenant, John

, bishop of Salisbury in the seventeenth century, was born in Watling-street, London, where his father was an eminent merchant, but originally descended from the ancient family of the Davenants of Sible-Heningham, in Essex. What school he was educated in, we cannot find. But, on the 4th of July, 1587, he was admitted pensioner of Queen’s college, in Cambridge. He regularly took his degrees in arts; that of master in 1594. A fellowship was offered him about the same time; but his father would not permit him to accept of it, on account of his plentiful fortune: however, after his father’s decease he accepted of one, into which he was admitted September 2, 1597. Being thus settled in the college, he distinguished himself, as before, by his learning and other excellent qualifications. Tn 1601-he took his degree of B. D. and that of D. D. in 1609. This same year last-mentioned he was elected lady Margaret’s professor, which place he enjoyed till 1621. He was also one of her preachers in 1609 and 1612. On the 20th of October 1614, he was admitted master of his college, and continued in that station till April 20, 1622. And so considerable did he become, that he was one of those eminent English divines sent by king James I. to the synod of Dovt, in 1618. He returned to England in May 1619, after having visited the principal cities in the Low Countries. Upon the death of his brother-in-law, Dr. Robert Townson, he was nominated bishop of Salisbury; and was elected June 11, 1621, confirmed November 17 following, and | consecrated the 18th of the same month. He continued in favour during the remainder of king James the First’s reign; but in Lent 1630-1, he incurred the displeasure of the court Cor meddling (in a sermon preached before the king at Whitehall) with the predestinarian controversy “all curious search” into which his majesty had strictly enjoined “to be laid aside.” In a letter to Dr. Ward, bishop Davenant gives the following account of this unpleasant affair. As soon as his sermon was ended, it was signified to him that his majesty was much displeased that he had stirred this question, which his majesty had forbidden to be meddled withal, one way or other: the bishop’s answer was, that he had delivered nothing but the received doctrine of our church, established in the 17th article, and that he was ready to justify the truth of what he had then taught. He was told, the doctrine was not gainsaid, but his majesty had given command these questions should not be debated, and therefore he took it more offensively that any should be so bold as in his own hearing to break his royal commands. To this he replied, that he never understood his majesty had forbidden the handling of any doctrine comprised in the articles of our church, but only raising of new questions, or adding of new sense thereunto, which he had not done, nor ever should do. Two days after, when he appeared before the privy-council, Dr. Sam. Harsnet, archbishop of York, made a speech nearly half an hour long, aggravating the boldness of bishop Davenant’s offence, and shewing many inconveniencies that it was likely to draw after it. When the archbishop had finished his speech, the bishop desired, that since he was called thither as an offender, he might not be put to answer a long speech upon the sudden; but that his grace would be pleased to charge him point by point, and so to receive his answer; for he did not yet understand wherein he had broken any commandment of his majesty’s, which was taken for granted. After some pause, the archbishop told him he knew well enough the point which was urged against him, namely, the breach of the king’s declaration. Then he stood upon this defence, that the doctrine of predestination, which he taught, was not forbidden by the declaration; 1st, Because in the declaration all the articles are established, amongst which, the article of predestination is one. 2. Because all ministers are urged to subscribe unto the truth of the article, and | all subjects to continue in the profession of that as well as of the rest. Upon these and such like grounds, he gathered that it could not be esteemed amongst forbidden, curious, or needless doctrines; and here he desired that out of any clause in the declaration it might be shewed him, that keeping himself within the bounds of the article, he had transgressed his majesty’s command; but the declaration was not produced, nor any particular words in it; only this was urged, that the king’s will was, that for the peace of the church these high questions should be forborne. He added, that he was sorry he understood not his majesty’s intention; which if he had done before, he should have made choice of some other matter to treat of, which might have given no offence; and that for the time to come, he should conform himself as readily as any other to his majesty’s command; whereupon he was dismissed. At his departure he entreated the lords of the council to let his majesty understand that he had not boldly, or wilfully and wittingly, against his declaration, meddled with the fore-named point; and that now, understanding fully his majesty’s mind and intention, he should humbly yield obedience thereunto. But although he was dismissed without farther censure, and was even admitted to kiss the king’s hand, yet he was never afterwards in favour at court. He died of a consumption April 20, 1641, to which a sense of the melancholy event approaching did not a little contribute. Among other benefactions, he gave to Queen’scollege, in Cambridge, the perpetual advowsons of the rectories of Cheverel Magna, and Newton Tony, in Wiltshire, and a rent-charge of 3 1l. 10s. per annum, for the founding of two Bible-clerks, and buying books for the library in the same college. His character was that of a man humble and hospitable; painful in preaching and writing; and behaving in every station with exemplary gravity and moderation. He was a man of great learning, and an eminent divine; but strictly attached to Calvinism in the article of unconditionate predestination, &c. Whilst he was at the synod of Dort, he inclined to the doctrine of universal redemption; and was for a middle way between the two extremes, maintaining the certainty of the salvation of a certain number of the elect; and that offers of pardon were sent not only to all that should believe and repent, but to all that heard the Gospel; that grace sufficient to convince and persuade the impenitent (so as to lay the blame of | their condemnation upon themselves) went along with these offers; that the redemption of Christ and his merits were applicable to these; and consequently there was a possibility of their salvation. He was buried in Salisbury cathedral.

He published: 1. A Latin Exposition on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. “Kxpositio Epistolcc D. Pauli ud Colossenses,” fol. The third edition was printed at Cambridge, in 1639. It is the substance of lectures read by our author as lady Margaret professor. So was also the following. 2. “Praelectiones de duobus in Theologia controversis capitibus; de Judice Controversiarum, primo; de Justitia habituali & actuali, altero,” Cantab. 1631, fol. 3. In 1634 he published the questions which he had disputed upon in the schools, 49 in number, under this title “Determinationes Qusestionum quarundaniTheologicarum, per reverendissimum virum Joannem Davenantium,” &c. fol. 4. The last thing he published, was, “Animadversions upon a treatise lately published, and entitled, God’s Love to Mankind, manifested by disproving his absolute decree for their damnation,” Camb. 1641, 8vo. This treatise was written by S. Hoard. 1


Biog. Brit. fuller’s Worthies.