Cumberland, Richard

, a very learned divine, and bishop of Peterborough, the son of an honest citizen of London, who by his industry acquired a competent, though not a great fortune, was born in the parish of St. Anne, near Aldersgate, July 15th, 1632. He was educated at St. Paul’s school, under the care of Mr. John Langley, and was moved from thence to Magdalen-college, in Cambridge, probably in 1649, where he was contemporary with some very worthy and learned persons; such as Dr. Hezekiah Burton, his intimate friend and acquaintance, a very learned and pious divine; Dr. Hollings, an eminent physician at Shrewsbury; sir Samuel Moreland, admired for his skill in the mathematics; the celebrated Mr. Pepys, secretary to the admiralty; and the lord keeper Bridgeman, to whom himself, and his friend Dr. Burton, were chaplains at the same time. He was very remarkable, while fellow of his college, for his diligent application to his studies, as well as for the unaffected piety and unblemished probity of his life. He took his degree of B. A. in 1653, and in 1656 he became M. A. at which time he had thoughts of applying himself to physic, which he actually studied for some time. He was incorporated M. A. in the university of Oxford, July 14th, 1657, and went out B. D. at a public commencement at his own university, A. D. 1663, with universal applause. His first preferment was the rectory of Brampton, in the deanery of Haddon, in the archdeaconry and county of Northampton, which was given him by sir John Norwich, a gentleman who descended of a most ancient and noble family, and was advanced to the dignity of a baronet by king Charles the First. Mr. Cumberland was admitted December 3d, 1658, upon the demise of the reverend Mr. John Ward; and after the restoration, having never had the least scruple to the authority of the church, he had a legal institution, and read the Thirty-nine Articles, as directed by law, November 24th, 1661, and was the same year appointed one of the twelve preachers in the university of Cambridge. This, however, was a temporary avocation only, owing to the high character he had raised by the masterly manner in which he had performed all academical exercises, and from which he quickly returned to the duties of his parochial charge. In this rural retirement he minded little else than the duties of his function, and his studies. His relaxations from these were very few, besides his journies | to Cambridge, which he made frequently, to preserve a correspondence with his learned acquaintance in that place. Here he might probably have remained during the course of his whole life, if his intimate friend and kind benefactor, sir Orlando Bridgeman, upon his receiving the seals in 1667, had not sent for him up to London, made him his chaplain, and soon after bestowed upon him the living of Alhallows, in Stamford. He discharged the functions of his ministry in that great town with indefatigable diligence; for, besides the duties incumbent upon him by his parochial charge, he accepted of the weekly lecture, and then preached three times every week in the same church, and at the same time cultivated his philosophical, mathematical, and philological studies. He gave a noble proof of this, and one which equally demonstrated the soundness of his morals and the solidity of his parts, in publishing his work “De Legibus Naturae Disquisitio philosophica,” Lond. 1672, 4to, written while he was chaplain to sir Orlando Bridgeman, to whom it was dedicated, and there is prefixed to it a short preface to the reader, by the author’s friend and fellow chaplain to the lord-keeper, Dr. Hezekiah Burton. Dr. Cumberland being at a distance from the press when this book was published, it came into the world very incorrectly printed, and in subsequent editions these faults were multiplied in a very surprizing manner. We may hence form an idea of the excellency of a work that could, notwithstanding, support its author’s reputation both at home and abroad, and be constantly esteemed one of the best performances that ever appeared, and that too upon one of the nicest and most important subjects. Mr. Payne says very justly, that it was one of the first pieces written in a demonstrative way on a moral subject, and at the same time the most perfect. It is indeed on all hands admitted, that Hobbes was never so closely handled, or his notions so thoroughly sifted, as by Dr. Cumberland. He has, however, taken a new road, very different from Grotius, Puffendorff, and other writers, more difficult, and less entertaining indeed, but at the same time much more convincing. It was desired that a piece of such general utility should be made better known by being put into an easier method, and translated into the English language. This the author would not oppose, though he did not undertake it; being very sensible that the obscurity complained of by some, was really in the subject itself, | and would be found so by those who meddled with it. The project, however, was pursued by James Tyrrel, esq. grandson to the famous archbishop Usher, who published his performance under the following title: “A brief Disquisition of the Law of Nature, according to the principles and method laid down in the reverend Dr. Cumberland’s (now lord bishop of Peterburgh’s) Latin treatise on that subject, &c.London, 1692, 8vo. Mr. Payne had also an intention to have translated it, but was anticipated by the rev. John Maxwell, in a translation published at London, 1727, 4to; and in 1750 appeared a third translation by the rev. John Towers, D. D. prebendary of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, 4to, Dublin, with large explanatory notes, &c. In 1744, Barbeyrac published a French translation.

The high fame and repeated praises of this work did not divert the author from his studies or his duties; and in his station of a private clergyman, so great was his reputation, that he was importuned by the university, and by other acquaintance, to take upon him the weighty exercise of responding at the public commencement. Nothing but the earnest solicitation of his friends could have prevailed with a man void not only of ambition, but of even the desire of applause, to appear so publicly. This he did in 1680, in so masterly a manner, as to be remembered for many years after. The next specimen of his abilities was his “Essay on Jewish Measures and Weights,1686, 8vo, a work not only highly useful in its nature, but very much wanted, and was therefore received with the highest applause by the best judges, who were equally pleased with the method and matter, as well as the manner and conciseness, of the performance. It was afterwards reprinted, and will continue to support the reputation of its author, as long as this kind of literature is either en-, couraged or understood. His sincere attachment to the protestant religion made him very apprehensive of its danger; and the melancholy prospect of affairs in the reign of king James made so deep an impression on him as to affect his health. After the revolution he appears to have entertained no thoughts of soliciting for better preferment; and it was, therefore, a greater surprize to himself than to any body else, when walking after his usual manner, on a post-day, to the coffee-house, he read there in a newspaper, that one Dr. Cumberland, of Stamford, was named to the bishopric of Peterborough, This piece | of intelligence, however, proved true, and he had the singular satisfaction of finding himself raised to a bishopric, not only without pains or anxiety, but without having so much as sought for it; but at that time it was necessary to the establishment of the new government, that men who were to be raised to these high stations in the church, should be such only as had been most eminent for their learning, most exemplary in their lives, and firmest to the protestant interest; and whilst these qualifications were only considered, the king, who in two years’ time had appointed no less than fifteen bishops of the above character, was told that Dr. Cumberland was the fittest man he could nominate to the bishopric of Peterborough. He was elected in the room of Dr. Thomas White, who refused the new oaths May 15th; was consecrated with other bishops, July 5th, and enthroned September 12th, 1691, in the cathedral of Peterborough. He now applied himself to the work of a bishop, making no omissions to consult his own ease, or to spare his pains; and the desires of his mind, that all under him should do their duty, were earnest and sincere. His composition had no alloy of vain-glory. He never did any thing to court applause, or gain the praise of men. He never acted a part, never put on a mask. His tongue and heart always went together. If he ran into any extreme, it was the excess of humility; he lived with the simplicity and plainness of a primitive bishop, conversed and looked like a private man, hardly maintaining what the world calls the dignity of his character. He used hospitality without grudging; no man’s house was more open to his friends, and the ease and freedom with which they always found themselves entertained, was peculiar to it. The poor had substantial relief at his door, and his neighbours and acquaintance a hearty welcome to his table, after the plentiful and plain manner in which he lived. Every thing in his house served for friendly entertainment, nothing for luxury or pomp. His desire was to make every body easy, and to do them good. He dispensed with a liberal hand, and in the most private and delicate manner, to the necessities of others. His speeches to the clergy at his visitations, and his exhortations to the catechumens before his confirmations, though they had not the embellishments of oratory, yet they were fervent expressions of the inward desires of his soul to do what good he was able, and to excite others to be influenced by it; the pious breathings of a plain and good mind. | On all occasions he treated his clergy with singular ta and indulgence. An expression that often came from him, was, “I love always to make my clergy easy.” This was his rule in all applications made to him by them, and if he erred, it was always on this side. When the duties of his office required it, he never spared himself. To the last month of his life it was impossible to dissuade him from undertaking fatigues that every body about him feared were superior to his strength. He was inflexible to their intreaties, and his answer and resolution was, “I will do my duty as long as I can.” He had acted by a maxim like this in his vigour. When his friends represented to him, that by his studies and labours he would injure his health, his usual reply was, “A man had better wear out than rust out.” The last time he visited his diocese, he was in the eightieth year of his age; and at his next triennial, when he was in the eighty-third year of his age, it was with the utmost difficulty that he could be dissuaded from undertaking again the visitation of his diocese. To draw the clergy nearer than the usual decanal meetings, to make his visitations easier to himself, was a thing he would not hear of. Such were the public acts of this great prelate in the discharge of his duty as a father of the church. In respect to his temporal concerns, and his management of the revenue arising from his see, he was not less liberal and munificent. His natural parts were not quick, but strong and retentive. He was a perfect master of every subject he studied. Eyery thing he read staid with him. The impressions on his mind were some time in forming, but they were clear, distinct, and durable. The things he had chiefly studied, were researches into the most ancient times; mathematics in all its parts and the Scripture in its original languages but he was also thoroughly acquainted with all the branches of philosophy, medicine, and anatomy, and was a good classical scholar. He was so thoroughly conversant in Scripture, that no difficult passage ever occurred, either occasionally, or in reading, but he could readily give the meaning of it, and the several interpretations, without needing to consult his books. He sometimes had thoughts of writing an exposition of the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, with a view to set the doctrine of justification in a light very different from that in which it has been hitherto considered by most divines, but what that light was we are not told. One of | his chief objects was the examination of Sanchoniatho’s Phoenician History, about which the greatest men had been most mistaken, and in relation to which none had entered into so strict an examination as our learned prelate thought it deserved. He spent many years in these speculations; for he began to write several years before the revolution, and he continued improving his design down to 1702. Jt may be justly wondered, that, after taking so mnch pains, and carrying a work of such difficulty to so high a degree of perfection, he should never judge it expedient to publish it; for though his bookseller refused to print the first part at a critical season, yet afterwards both might have seen the light; and for this the most probable reason that can be assigned is, that thorough dislike he had to controversy. His son-in-law, however, the rev. Mr. Payne, has done justice to his memory, and published it under the title of“Sanchoniatho’s Phoenician History, translated from the first book of Eusebius de Preparatione Evangelica,” &c. Lond. 1720, 8vo. Mr. Payne observes, that our author had a quicker sense than many other men, of the advances popery was making upon us, and was affected with the apprehension of it to the last degree. This made him turn his thoughts to the inquiry, by what steps and methods idolatry got ground in the world. The oldest account of this he believed he found in Sanchoniathe’a fragment. This he saw was a professed apology for idolatry, and owned openly what other heathens would have made a secret of, that the gods of the Gentile world had been all mortal men. He studied this fragment with no other view than as it led to the discovery of the original of idolatry. He spent some time upon it, before ever he had a thought of extracting from it footsteps of the history of the world preceding the flood. While other divines of the church of England were engaged in the controversy with the papists, in which they gained over them so complete a victory, our author was endeavouring to strike at the root of their idolatrous religion. These fragments have exercised the talents of some of the ablest scholars that foreign nations have produced, and several of these, being able to make nothing clear or consistent out of them, incline to think they were forgeries, and consequently not worthy of notice. Our prelate was not only of a different sentiment, but with great knowledge and great labour, has made it | very evident that these fragments are genuine, and that he thoroughly understood them. He has proved that they contain the most ancient system of atheism and idolatry; that very system which took place in Egypt, and was set up against the true religion contained in the writings of Moses.

After bishop Cumberland had once engaged his thoughts upon this subject, fresh matter was continually rising, for the distribution of which into a proper method, so as to render a very perplexed subject intelligible, he found himself under the necessity of undertaking a yet more extensive work than the former, in which he made some progress in the space of above twenty years, during which it employed his thoughts. To this piece, when finished, he proposed to have given the title of “Origines Antiquissimae,” which were transcribed in his life-time, and, by his direction, by Mr. Payne. This treatise, which is properly a supplement to the first, was published in 1724, 8vo, under the title of “Origines Gentium Antiquissimae,” or Attempts for discovering the times of the first planting of nations, in several tracts. — In bishop Cumberland’s old age, he retained the easiness and sweetness of his temper, which continued to the last day of his life. His senses and bodily strength were more perfect than could well be expected, in a man whose course of life had been studious and sedentary. He remained a master of all the parts of learning he had studied when he was young. He ever loved the classics, and to the last week of his life would quote them readily and appositely. When Dr. Wilkins had published his Coptic Testament, he made a present of one of them to his lordship, who sat down to study this when he was past eighty-three. At this age he mastered the language, and went through great part of this version, and would often give excellent hints and remarks as he proceeded in reading it. At length, in the autumn of 1718, he was struck in an afternoon with a dead palsy, and breathed his last in his palace at Peterborough on October 9, in the same year, in the eighty-seventh year of his age. His corpse was interred in his own cathedral, where a plain tomb has been erected, with a modest inscription to his memory. His reputation at the time of his death was very great at home, and much greater abroad. He is mentioned in the highest terms of respect by many foreign writers, particularly Niceron, Morhoff, | Thomasius, Stollius, and Fourmont. His fame now rests chiefly on the works he published in his life-time. The Sanchoniatho and the Origines, although they afford ample demonstration of learned research, have not so well preserved their credit.

His great grandson, the subject of the next article, informs us upon the authority of his father, Dr. Denison Cumberland, that at the end of every year, whatever overplus bishop Cumberland found upon a minute inspection of his accounts, was by him distributed to the poor, reserving only one small deposit of 25l. in cash, found at his death in his bureau, with directions to employ it for the discharge of his funeral expences; a sum, in his modest calculation, fully sufficient to commit his body to the earth. The late Mr. Cumberland deposited in the library of Trinity-college, Cambridge, a copy of the bishop’s work “De Legibus Naturae,” interleaved and corrected throughout by Dr. Bentley. 1

1 Biog. Brit, principally from archdeacon Payne’s Account, prefixed to the Sanelioniatlio.