Bull, George

, bishop of St. David’s, was born March 25, 1634, in the parish of St. Cuthbert, at Wells in Somersetshsre. He was descended from an ancient and genteel family, seated at Shapwick in that county. Our prelate’s father, Mr. George Bull, dedicated his son to the church from his infancy, having declared at the font, that he designed him for holy orders, but he died when George was but four years old, and left him under the care of guardians, with an estate of two hundred pounds per annum. When he was fit to receive the first rudiments of learning, he was placed in a grammar-school at Wells, from whence he was soon removed to the free-school of Tiverton, in Devonshire, where he made a very quick progress in classical learning, and became qualified for the university at fourteen years of age.

He was entered a commoner of Exeter-college, in Oxford, the 10th of July, 1648, under the tuition of Mr. Baldwin Ackland, and though he lost much time in the pursuit of pleasures and diversions, yet, by the help of logic, which he mastered with little labour, and a close way of reasoning, which was natural to. him, he soon gained the reputation of a smart disputant, and as, | such was taken notice of and encouraged by his superiors, particularly Dr. Conant, rector of the college, and Dr. Prideaux, bishop of Worcester, who at that time resided in Oxford. He continued in Exeter-college till January, 1649, at which time having refused to take the oath to the Commonwealth of England, he retired with his tutor, Mr. Ackland, who had set him the example, to North-Cadbury, in Somersetshire, where he continued under the care of that good and able man, till he was about nineteen years of age. This retreat gave him an opportunity of frequent converse with one of his sisters, whose good sense, and pious admonitions, weaned him entirely from all youthful vanities, and influenced him to a serious prosecution of his studies. And now, by the advice of his friends and guardians, he put himself under the care of Mr. William Thomas, rector of Ubley, in Somersetshire, a puritan divine, in whose house he boarded, with some of his sisters, for the space of two years. To this gentleman’s principles, however, he had no lasting attachment, and as he advanced in reading, he beg’an to study Hooker, Hammond, Taylor, Episcopius, &c. with which his friend Mr. Samuel Thomas, the son of his host, supplied him, much against the old gentleman’s will, who told his son that he would “corrupt Mr. Bull.” Soon after he had left Mr. Thomas, he entertained thoughts of entering into holy orders, and for that purpose applied himself to Dr. Skinner, the ejected bishop of Oxford, by whom he was ordained deacon and priest in the same day, being at that time but twenty-one years of age, and consequently under the age prescribed by the canons, with which, however, in times of such difficulty and distress, it was thought fit to dispense. Not long after, he accepted the small benefice of St. George’s, near Bristol, where, by his constant preaching twice every Sunday, the method he took in governing his parish, his manner of performing divine service, his exemplary life and great charities, he entirely gained the affections of his flock, and was very instrumental in reforming his parish, which he found overrun with quakers and other sectarists.

A little occurrence, soon after his coining to this living, contributed greatly to establish his reputation as a preacher. One Sunday, when he had begun his sermon, as he was turning over his Bible to explain some texts of scripUm which he had quoted, his notes, which were wrote on | several small pieces of paper, flew out of his Bible into the middle of the church: many of the congregation fell into laughter, concluding that their young preacher would be non-plussed for want of materials; but some of the more sober and better-natured sort, gathered up the scattered notes, and carried them to him in the pulpit. Mr. Bull took them; and perceiving that most of the audience, consisting chiefly of sea-faring persons, were rather inclined to triumph over him under that surprize, he clapped them into his book again, and shut it, and then, without referring any more to them, went on with the subject he had begun. Another time, while he was preaching, a quaker came into the church, and in the middle of the sermon, cried out “George, come down, thou art a false prophet, and a hireling;” whereupon the parishioners, who loved their minister exceedingly, fell upon the poor quaker with such fury, as obliged Mr. Bull to come down out of the pulpit to quiet them, and to save him from the effects of their resentment; after which he went up again, and finished his sermon. The prevailing spirit of those times would not admit of the public and regular use of the book of common-prayer; but Mr. Bull formed all his public devotions out of the book of common prayer, and was commended as a person who prayed by the spirit, by many who condemned the common-prayer as a beggarly element and carnal performance. A particular instance of. this v happened to him upon his being sent for to baptize the child of a dissenter in his parish. Upon this occasion, he made use of the office of baptism as prescribed by the church of England, which he had got entirely by heart, and which he went through with so much readiness, gravity, and devotion, that the whole company were extremely affected. After the ceremony, the father of the child returned him a great many thanks, intimating at the same time, with how much greater edification those prayed, who entirely depended upon the spirit of God for his assistance in their extempore effusions, than they did who tied themselves up to premeditated forms; and that, if he had not made the sign of the cross, the badge of popery, as he called it, nobody could have formed the least objection to his excellent prayers. Upon which Mr. Bull shewed him the office of baptism in the liturgy, wherein was contained every prayer he had used on that occasion; which, with other arguments offered by Mr. Bull in favour of the common prayer, wrought so | effectually upon the good old man, and his whole family, that from that time they became constant attendants on the public service of the church.

Whilst he remained minister of this parish, the providence of God wonderfully interposed for the preservation of his life; for his lodgings being near a powder-mill, Mr. Morgan, a gentleman of the parish, represented to him. the danger of his situation, and at the same time invited him to his own house. Mr. Bull, at first, modestly declined the offer, but after some importunity accepted it; and, not many days after his removal to Mr. Morgan’s, the mill was blown up, and his apartment with it. In this part of his life he took a journey once a year to Oxford, where he stayed about two months, to enjoy the benefit of the public libraries. In his way to and from Oxford, he always paid a visit to sir William Masters, of Cirencester, by which means he contracted an intimacy with Mr. Alexander pregory, the minister of the place, and after some time married Bridget, one of his daughters, on the 20th of May, 1658. The same year he was presented by the lady Pool, to the rectory of Suddington St. Mary, near Cirencester, in Gloucestershire. The next year, 1659, he was made privy to the design of a general insurrection in favour of king Charles II. and several gentlemen of that neighbourhood who were in the secret, chose his house at Suddington for one of the places of their meeting. Upon the restoration, Mr. Bull frequently preached for his father-in-law, Mr. Gregory, at Cirencester, where there was a large and populous congregation; and his sermons gave such general satisfaction, that, upon a vacancy, the people were very solicitous to have procured for him the presentation; but the largeness of the parish, and the great duty attending it, deterred him Trom consenting to the endeavours they were making for that purpose. In 1662, he was presented by the lord high-chancellor, the earl of Clarendon, to the vicarage of Suddington St. Peter, which lay contiguous to Suddington St. Mary, at the request of his diocesan Dr. Nicholson, bishop of Gloucester, both livings not exceeding 100l. a year. When Mr. Bull came first to the rectory of Suddington, he began to be more open in the use of the liturgy of the church of England, though it was not yet restored by the return of the king; for, being desired to marry a couple, he performed the ceremony, on a Sunday morning, in the face of the whole congregation, according | to the form prescribed by the book of common -prayer. He took the same method in governing these parishes, as in that of St. George’s, and with the same success; applying himself with great diligence to the discharge of his pastoral functions, and setting the people an admirable example in the government and œconomy of his own family.*


Every morning and evening the family were called to prayers, which were either those composed hy bishop Taylor, or taken out of “The Common Prayer book the best ”Companion.“A portion of Scripture was read at the same time, with the addition, on Sunday evenings, of a chapter out of the ”Whole Duty of Man." If any of his servants could not read, he would assign one of the family to be their teacher; and no neglect of duty in them offended him so much as their absence from the family devotions. The constant frame and temper qf his mind was so truly devout, that he would frequeutly in the day-time, as occasion offered, use short prayers and ejaculations; and when he was sitting in silence in his family, and they, as he thought, intent upon other matters, he would often with an inexpressible air of great seriousness, lift up his hands and eyes to heaven, and sometimes drop tears. He was very frequent and earnest in his private devotions, of which singing psalms always made a part.

During his residence here, he had an opportunity of confirming two ladies of quality in the protestant communion, who were reduced to a wavering state of mind by the arts and subtleties of the Romish missionaries. The only dissenters he had in his parish were quakers; whose extravagances often gave him no small uneasiness. In this part of his life, Mr. Bull prosecuted his studies with great application, and composed most of his works during the twenty-seven years that he was rector of Suddington. Several tracts, indeed, which cost him much pains, are entirely lost, through his own neglect in preserving them; particularly a treatise on the posture used by the ancient Christians in receiving the Eucharist; a letter to Dr. Pearson concerning the genuineness of St. Ignatius’ s epistles; a long one to Mr. Glanvil, formerly minister of Bath, concerning the eternity of future punishments; and another, on the subject of popery, to a person of very great quality. In 1669, he published his Apostolical Harmony, with a view to settle the peace of the church, upon a point of the utmost importance to all its members; and he dedicated it to Dn William Nicholson, bishop of Gloucester. This performance was greatly disliked, at first, by many of the clergy, and others, on account of the author’s departing therein from the private opinions of some doctors of the church, and his manner of reconciling the two apostles St. Paul and St. James, as to the doctrine of justification. It was particularly opposed by Dr. Morley, bishop of | WinChester; Dr. Barlow, Margaret-professor of divinity at Oxford; Mr. Charles Gataker, a presbyterian divine; Mr. Joseph Truman, a non-conformist minister; Dr. Tully, principal of St. Edmund’s-hall; Mr. John Tombes, a famous anabaptist preacher; Dr. Lewis Du Moulin, an independent; and by M. De Marets, a French writer, who tells us, “that the author, though a professed priest of the church of England, was more addicted to the papists, remonstrants, and Socinians, than to the orthodox party.” Towards the end of 1675, Mr. Bull published his “Examen Censuræ,” &c. in answer to Mr. Gataker, and his “Apologia pro Harmonia,” &c. in reply to Dr. Tully. Mr. Bull’s notion on this subject was “That good works, which proceed from faith, and are conjoined with faith, are a necessary condition required from us by God, to the end that by the new and evangelical covenant, obtained by and sealed in the blood of Christ the Mediator of it, we may be justified according to his free and unmerited grace.” In this doctrine, and throughout the whole book, Mr. Bull absolutely excludes all pretensions to merit on the part of men; but the work nevertheless excited the jealousy of many able divines both in the church and among the dissenters, as appears from the above list. About three years after, he was promoted by the earl of Nottingham, then lord chancellor, to a prebend in the church of Gloucester, in which he was installed the 9th of October, 1678. In 1680, he finished his “Defence of the Nicene Faith,” of which he had given a hint five years before in his Apology. This performance, which is levelled against the Arians and Socinians on one hand, and the Tritheists and Sabellians on the other, was received with universal applause, and its fame spread into foreign countries, where it was highly esteemed by the best judges of antiquity, though of different persuasions. Five years after its publication, the author was presented, by Philip Sheppard, esq. to the rectory of Avening in Gloucestershire, a very large parish, and worth two hundred pounds per annum. The people of this parish, being many of them very dissolute and immoral, and many more disaffected to the church of England, gave him for some time great trouble and uneasiness; but, by his prudent conduct and diligent discharge of his duty, he at last got the better of their prejudices, and converted their dislike iuto the most cordial love and affection towards him. He had not been | long at Avening, before he was promoted, by archbishop Sancroft, to the archdeaconry of Landaff, in which he was installed the 20th of June, 1686. He was invited soon after to Oxford, where the degree of doctor in divinity was conferred upon him by that university, without the payment of the usual fees, in consideration of the great and eminent services he had done the church. During the reign of James II. the doctor preached very warmly against popery, with which the nation was then threatened. Some time after the revolution, he was put into the commission of the peace, and continued in it, with some little interruption, till he was made a bishop. In 1694, whilst he continued rector of Avening, he published his “Judicium Ecclesia? Catholicse, &c.” in defence of the “Anathema,” as his former book had been of the Faith, decreed by the first council of Nice*. The last treatise which Dr. Bull wrote, was his “Primitive Apostolical Tradition,” &c. against Daniel Zwicker, a Prussian. All Dr. Bull’s Latin works, which he had published by himself at different times, were collected together, and printed in 1703, in one volume in folio, under the care and inspection of Dr. John Ernest Grabe, the author’s age and infirmities disabling him from undertaking this edition. The ingenious editor

Mr. Nelson, soon after the publication of this work, sent it as a present to Mr. Bossuet, bishop of Meaux. That prelate communicated it to several other French bishops, the result of which was, that Mr. Nelson was desired in a letter from the bishop of Meaux, not only to return )r. Bull his humble thanks, but the unfeigned congratulations also of the whole clergy of France, then assembled at St. Germain’s, for the great service he had done to the catholic church, in so well defending her determination, concerning the necessity of believing the divinity of the Son of Cod. In that letter the bishop of Meaux expresses himself in the fol lowing terms: “Dr. Bull’s performance is admirable, the matter he treats of could not be explained with greater learning and judgment; but there is one thing I wonder at, which is, that 80 great a man, who speaks so advantageously of the church, of salvation which is obtained only in unity with her, and of the infallible assistance of the Holy Ghost in the council of Nice, which infers the same assistance for all others assembled in the same church, can continue a moment without acknowledging her. Or, let him tell me, sir, what he means by the term catholic church? Is it the church of Rome, and those that adhere to her? Is it the church of England? Is it a confused heap of societies, separated the one from the other? And how can they be that kingdom of Christ, not divided against itself, and which shall never perish? It would be a great satisfaction to me to receive some answer upon this subject, that might explain the opinion of so weighty and solid an author.” Dr. Bull answered the queries proposed in this letter; but just as his answer came to Mr. Nelson’s hands, the bishop died. However, Dr. Bull’s answer was published, and a second edition printed at London, 1707, in 12mo, under the following title: “The corruptions of the church of Rome, in relation to ecclesiastical government, the rule of faith, and form of divine worship: In answer to the bishop of Meaux’s queries.

| illustrated the work with many learned annotations, and ushered it into the world with an excellent preface. Dr, Bull was in the seventy-first year of his age, when he was acquainted with her majesty’s gracious intention of conferring on him the bishopric of St. David’s; which promotion he at first declined, on account of his ill state of health and advanced years; but, by the importunity of his friends, and strong solicitations from the governors o*f the church, he was at last prevailed upon to accept it, and was accordingly consecrated in Lambeth-chapel, the 29th of April, 1705. Two years after, he lost his eldest son, Mr. George Bull, who died of the small-pox the 11th of May, 1707, in, the thirty-seventh year of his age. Our prelate took his seat in the house of lords in that memorable session, when the bill passed for the union of the two kingdoms, and spoke in a debate which happened upon that occasion, in favour of the church of England. About July after his consecration, he went into his diocese, and was received with all imaginable demonstrations of respect by the gentry and clergy. The episcopal palace at Aberguilly being much out of repair, he chose the town of Brecknock for the place of his residence; but was obliged, about half a year before his death, to remove from thence to Abermarless, for the benefit of a freer air. He resided constantly in his diocese, and carefully discharged all the episcopal functions. Though bishop Bull was a great admirer of our ecclesiastical constitution, yet he would often lament the distressed state of the church of England, chiefly owing to the decay of ancient discipline, and the great number of lay-impropriations, which he considered as a species of sacrilege, and insinuated that he had known instances of its being punished by the secret curse which hangs over sacrilegious persons. Some time before his last sickness, he entertained thoughts of addressing a circular letter to all his clergy; and, after his death, there was found among his papers one drawn up to that purpose. He had greatly impaired his health, by too intense and unseasonable an application to his studies, and, on the 27th of September, 1709, was taken with a violent fit of coughing, which brought on a spitting of blood. About the beginning of February following, he was seized with a distemper, supposed to be an ulcer, or what they call the inward piles; of which he died the 17th of the same month, and | was buried, about a week after his death, at Brecknock/ leaving behind him but two children out of eleven.

He was tall of stature, and in his younger years thin and pale, but fuller and more sanguine in the middle and latter part of his age; his sight quick and strong, and his constitution firm and vigorous, till indefatigable reading, and nocturnal studies, to which he was very much addicted, had first impaired, and at length quite extinguished the -one, and subjected the other to many infirmities; for his sight failed him entirely, and his strength to a great degree, some years before he died. But whatever other bodily indispositions he contracted, by intense thinking, and a sedentary life, his head was always free, and remained unaffected to the last. As to the temperature and complexion of his body, that of melancholy seemed to prevail, but never so far as to indispose his mind for study and conversation. The vivacity of his natural temper exposed him to sharp and sudden fits of anger, which were but of short continuance, and sufficiently atoned for by the goodness and tenderness of his nature towards all his domestics. He had a firmness and constancy of mind which made him not easily moved when he had once fixed his purposes and resolutions. He had early a true sense of religion; and though he made a short excursion into the paths of vanity, yet he was entirely recovered a considerable time before he entered into holy orders. His great learning was tempered with that modest and humble opinion of it, that it thereby shone with greater lustre. His actions were no less instructive than his conversation; for his exact knowledge of the holy scriptures, and of the writings of the primitive fathers of the church, had so effectual an influence upon his practice, that it was indeed a fair, entire, and beautiful image of the prudence and probity, simplicity and benignity, humility and charity, purity and piety, of the primitive Christians. During his sickness, his admirable patience under exquisite pains, and his continual prayers, made it evident that his mind was much fuller of God than of his illness; and he entertained those that attended him with such beautiful and lively descriptions of religion and another world, as if he had a much clearer view than ordinary of what he believed.

Bishop Bull’s Sermons and the larger discourses, were | published in 1713, 3 vols. 8vo, by Robert Nelson, esq. with a Life, occupying a fourth volume, which was also published separately. Some of the sermons are on curious subjects, and seem rather ingenious than edifying, but as an assertor of the doctrine of the Trinity, bishop Bull must be allowed to rank among the ablest divines of the last age. 1


Life, by Nelson.—Biog. Brit.