Pearson, John

, a very learned English bishop, was born Feb. 12, 1612, at Snoring in Norfolk; of which place his father was rector. In 1623 he was sent to Eton school; whence he was elected to King’s college, Cambridge, in 1632. He took the degree of B. A. in 1635, and that of master in 1639; in which year he resigned his fellowship of the college, and lived afterwards a fellow-commoner in it. The same year he entered into orders, and was collated to a prebend in the church of Sarum. In 1640 he was appointed chaplain to Finch, lord-keeper of the great seal; by whom in that year he was presented to the living of Torrington, in Suffolk. Upon the breaking out of the civil war he became chaplain to the lord Goring, whom he attended in the army, and afterwards to sir Robert Cook in London. In 1650 he was made minister of St. Clement’s, Eastcheap, in London. In 1657 he and Gunning, afterwards bishop of Ely, had a dispute with two Roman catholics upon the subject of schism. This conference was managed iivwriting, and by mutual agreement nothing was to be made public without the consent of both parties; yet a partial account of it was published in 1658, by one of the Romish disputants, cum privilegw, at Paris, with this title, “Schism unmasked a late conference,” &c.*


To the piece is, “A Preface of the Catholic disputants, containing the proceedings of both parties on matter of fact.” There is an account of this publication in a piece entitled “A Gagg for the Quakers; with an Answer to Mr. Den’s Quaker no Papist, by Mr. Thomas Smith, of Christ’s-college in Cambridge,” Lond. 1659. The conference was reprinted at Oxford during the reign of king James II. under this title, "The Schism of the Churuh of


England demonstrated in four Arguments,“”&c. which was soon after animadverted upon by William Saywell, D. D. master of Jesus-college, Cambridge, in a pamphlet printed at Cam­ bridge in 1688, 4to, under this title, “The Reformation of the Church of England justified, &c. being an Answer to a paper reprinted at Oxford, called, The Schisme,” &c.

In 1659 | he published “An Exposition of the Creed,” at London, in 4to; dedicated to his parishioners of St. Clement’s, Eastcheap, to whom the substance of that excellent work had betn preached several years before, and by whom he had been desired to nnake it public. This “Exposition,” which has gone through twelve or thirteen editions, is accounted one of the most finished pieces of theology in our language. It is itself a body of divinity, the style of which is just; the periods, for the most part, well turned the method very exact; and it is, upon the whole, free from those errors which are too often found in theological systems. There is a translation of it into Latin by a foreign divine, who styles himself “Simon Joannes Arnoldus, Ecclesiarum ballivise, sive praefecturae Sonnenburgensis Inspector;” and a very valuable and judicious abridgment was in 1810 published by the rev. Charles Burney, LL. D. F. R. S. In the same year (1659) bishop Pearson published “The Golden Remains of the ever-memorable Mr. John Hales, of Eton;” to which he wrote a preface, containing the character of that great man, with whom he had been acquainted for many years, drawn with great elegance and force. Soon after the restoration he was presented by Juxon, then bishop of London, to the rectory of St. Christopher’s, iri that city; created D. D. at Cambridge, in pursuance of the king’s letters mandatory; installed prebendary of Ely, archdeacon of Surrey, and made master of Jesus college, Cambridge; all before the end of 1660. March 25, 1661, he succeeded Dr. Lore in the Margaret professorship of that university; and, the first day of the ensuing year, was nominated one of the commissioners for the review of the liturgy in the conference at the Savoy, where the nonconformists allow he was the first of their opponents for candour and ability. In April 1662, he was admitted master of Trinity college, Cambridge; and, in August resigned his rectory of St. Christopher’s, and prebend of Sarum. In 1667 he was admitted a fellow of the royal society. Jn 1672 he published, at Cambridge, in 4to, “Vindiciae F.pistolarum S. Ignatii,” in answer to mons. Dailie; to which is subjoined, “Isaaci Vossii | epistolas duæ adversus Davidem Blondellum.” Upon the death of Wilkins, bishop of Chester, Pearson was promoted to that see, to which he was consecrated Feb. 9, 1673. In 1684- his “Annales Cynrianici, sive tredecim annorum, quibus S. Cyprian, inter Christianos versatus est, historia chronologica,” was published at Oxford, with Fell’s edition. of that father’s works. Dr. Pearson was disabled from all public service by ill health, having entirely lost his memory, a considerable time before his death, which happened at Chester, July 16, 1686. Two years after, his posthumous works were published by Dodweli at London, “Cl. Jaannis Pearsoni Cestriensis nuper Episcopi opera posthuma, &c. &c.” There are extant two sermons published by him, 1. “No Necessity for a Reformation,' 7 1661, 4to. 2.A Sermon preached before the King, on Eccles. vii. 14, published by his majesty’s special command," 1671, 4to. An anonymous writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine (1789 p. 493) speaks of some unpublished Mss. by bishop Pearson in his possession. His ms notes on Suidas are in. the library of Trinity college, Cambridge, and were used by Kuster in his edition.

Our prelate was reckoned an excellent preacher, very judicious and learned, particularly accurate and exact in chronology, and well versed in the fathers and the ecclesiastical historians. Dr. Bentley used to say that bishop Pearson’s “very dross was gold.” In bishop Burnet’s opinion he “was in all respects the greatest divine of his age.Bishop Huet also, to whom he communicated various readings on some parts of Origen’s works, gives him a high character. But, as Burnet reminds us, he was an affecting instance “of what a great man can fall to; for his memory went from him so entirely, that he became a child some years before he died.” He had a younger brother Richard, professor of civil law in Gresham college, and under-keeper of the royal library at St. James’s, of whom Ward gives some account, but there is nothing very interesting in his history. 1

1 Biog. Brit. Cole’s ms Athens ia Brit. Museum. Ward’s Gresham Professors. —Burnet’s Own Times.