Croft, Herbert

, an eminent prelate, and third son of the preceding, was born Oct. 18, 1603, at Great Milton near Thame, in Oxfordshire, in the house of sir William Green, his mother being then on a journey to London. In his thirteenth year he was sent to Oxford; but upon his father’s embracing the popish religion, and removing to Doway, he -was taken there, and after some time sent to the English college of Jesuits at St. Omer’s; where he was not only reconciled to the church of Rome, but persuaded also to enter into the order. Some time before his father’s death in 1622, he was sent back into England, to transact some family affairs; and becoming acquainted with Morton, bishop of Durham, he was by him brought back to the church of England. At the desire of Dr. Laud, he went a second time to Oxford, and was admitted a student of Christ-church; and the university generously allowing the time he had spent abroad to be included in his residence, he soon after took the degree of 13. D. entered into orders, and became minister of a church in Gloucestershire, and rector of Harding in Oxfordshire. August 1639 he was collated to a prebend in the church of Salisbury; and the year after took the degree of D. D. being then chaplain in ordinary to the king. The same year he was made a prebendary of Worcester, and the year after a canon of Windsor. In 1644 he was nominated dean of Hereford, where he married Mrs. Anne Brown, the daughter of his predecessor, though in constant peril | of his then small fortune, and sometimes of his life. He suffered extremely for his loyalty to Charles I; but at length, in 1659, by the successive deaths of his two elder brothers, became possessed of the family-estate. At the restoration he was reinstated in his preferments; and Dec. 2, 1661, promoted to the see of Hereford, which he never would quit, though he was offered a better see more than once. He became afterward^, about 1667, dean of the royal chapel, which he held to 1669, and then resigned it; being weary of a court life, and finding but small effects from his pious endeavours. He then retired to his diocese, where he lived an example of that discipline he was strict in recommending to others; and was much beloved for his constant preaching, hospitable temper, and extensive charity. He was very intent upon reforming some things in the church, which he thought abuses, and not tending to edification. He was very scrupulous in his manner of admitting persons into orders, and more especially to the priesthood; and he refused to admit any prebendaries into his cathedral church, except such as lived within his diocese, that the duty of the church might not be neglected, and that the addition of a prebend might be a comfortable addition to a small living. In all these resolutions, it is said, he continued inflexible.

In the mean time, he was not so intent upon his private concerns in his diocese, but that he shewed himself ready to serve the public as often as he thought it in his power. Accordingly, in 1675, when the quarrel with the non-conformists was at its height, and the breach so artfully widened that the Roman catholics entertained hopes of entering through it, he published a piece, entitled, “The Naked Truth; or, the true state of the primitive church,” 4to, which was printed at a private press, and addressed to the lords and commons assembled in parliament. This, though no more than a small pamphlet of four or five sheets, excited an uncommon degree of attention, and was read and studied by all people of sense and learning in the kingdom. The author’s design was to recommend to the legislature measures for reconciling the differences among protestants, and for securing the church against the attempts of papists. He begins with articles of faith; and having shewn the danger of imposing more than are necessary, especially as terms of communion, he proceeds next through all the great points in dispute between the church of England and | those that dissent from her: labouring to prove throughout, that protestants differ about nothing that can truly be styled essential to religion; and that, for the sake of union, compliances would be more becoming, as well as more effectual, than enforcing uniformity by penalties and persecution. 7'he whole is written with the best intentions, and with great force of argument: nevertheless it was attacked with great zeal by some of the clergy, particularly by Dr. Turner, master of St. John’s college in Cambridge, in his Animadversions on a pamphlet called “The Naked Truth;1676, 4to. This was answered by Andrew Marvell, in a piece, entitled, “Mr. Smirke, or the Divine in Mode;” in which after descending, as the title shows, to personal ridicule, he says, that bishop Croft’s work is a treatise, which, “if not for its opposer, needs no commendation, being writ with that evidence and demonstration of truth, that all sober men cannot but give their assent and consent to it unasked. It is a book of that kind, that no Christian can scarce peruse it, without wishing himself to have been the author, and almost imagining that he is so: the conceptions therein being of so eternal idea, that every man finds it to be but a copy of the original in his own mind.” Many other pamphlets were written against “The Naked Truth;” but the author did not vouchsafe them any reply, and it continued for a considerable time to be read and reprinted.

This was the first thing bishop Croft published, except two sermons: one on Isaiah xxvii. verse last, preached before the house of lords upon the fast-day, Feb. 4, 1673; the other before the king at Whitehall, April 12, 1674, on Philipp. i. 21. In 1678 he published a third sermon, preached Nov. 4, at the cathedral church in Hereford, and entitled, “A second call to a farther Humiliation.” The year after he published “A Letter written to a friend concerning popish idolatry:” and also a second impression, corrected, with additions, of his “Legacy to his diocese; or a short determination of all controversies we have with the papists by God’s holy word,” 4to. Besides the epistle to all the people within his diocese, especially those of the city of Hereford, and a preface, this work consists of three sermons upon John v. 39. “Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life;” and a supplement, together with a tract concerning the holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, promised in the preface. This work | was calculated by him to preserve the people of his diocese from the snares of popish missionaries, who were then very active all over the kingdom. In 1685 he published some animadversions on a book entitled “The Theory of the Earth;” and in 1688, “A Short Discourse concerning the reading his majesty’s late declaration in Churches.” This, which was the last employment of his pen, was shewn by a certain courtier to king James; who ordered so much of the discourse, as concerned the reading of the declaration, to be published to the world, and the rest to be suppressed, as being contrary to the views with which that declaration had been set forth. It is remarkable of this excellent prelate, that he had taken a resolution some years before his death, of resigning his bishopric; to which, it seems, he was moved by some scruples of conscience. His motives he expressed in a long letter to Dr. Stillingfleet; who, however, in an answer, persuaded him to continue his episcopal charge with his usual earnestness and vigour. He died at his palace at Hereford, May 18, 1691, and was buried in the cathedral there, with this short inscription over his grave-stone “Depositum Herbert! Croft de Croft, episcopi Herefordensis, qui obiit 18 die Maii A. D. 1691, DDtatis suae 88; in vita conjuncti” that is, “Here are deposited the remains of Herbert Croft of Croft, bishop of Hereford, who died May 18, 1691, in the 88th year of his age in life united.” The last words, “in life united,” allude to his lying next dean Benson, at the bottom of whose grave-stone are these, “in morte non divisi,” that is, “in death not divided:” the two gravestones having hands engraven on them, reaching from one to the other, and joined together, to signify the lasting and uninterrupted friendship which subsisted between these two reverend dignitaries.

As bishop Croft lived, so he died, without the least tincture of that popery which he had contracted in his youth, as appears clearly enough from the preamble to his will: “I do,” says he, “in all humble manner most heartily thank God, that he hath been most graciously pleased, by the light of his most holy gospel, to recall me from the darkness of gross errors and popish superstitions, into which I was seduced in my younger days, and to settle me again in the true ancient catholic and apostolic faith, professed by our church of England, in which I was born and baptized, and in which I joyfully die,” &c. He | had one only son, Herbert, who was educated in Magdalen college, Oxford, was created baronet by Charles II. Nov. 167 1, and was twice knight of the shire in the reign of king William. He died 1720, and was succeeded by his son Archer, and he by his son and namesake in 1761, who dying in 1792, without male issue, the title descended to the rev. Herbert Croft, a gentleman well known in the literary world. 1


Biog. Brit. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. Salmon’s Lives of the Bishops.