Gibson, Edmund

, bishop of London, son of Edward Gibson, of Knipe in Westmorland, was born at Bampton in the same county, in 1669; and, having laid the foundation of classical learning at a school in that county, entered a scholar of Queen’s-college, Oxford, in 1686. The study of the Northern languages being then particularly cultivated in this university, Gibson applied himself vigorously to that branch of literature, in which he was assisted by Dr. Hickes. The quick proficiency that he made appeared in a new edition of William Drummond’s “PolemoMiddiana,” and James V. of Scotland’s “Cantilena Rustica:” which he published at Oxford, 1691, in 4to, with notes. His observations on those facetious tracts afford proofs both of wit and learning. But his inclination led | him to more solid studies; and, in a short time after, he translated into Latin the “Chronicon Saxonicum,” and published it, together with the Saxoa original, and his own notes, at Oxford, 1692, in 4to. This work he undertook by the advice of Dr. Mill, the learned editor of the “Greek Testament,” in folio and it is allowed by the learned to be the best remains extant of Saxon antiquity. The same year appeared a treatise, entitled, “Librorum Manuscriptorum in duabus insignibus Bibliothecis, altera Tenisoniana Londoni, altera Dugdaliana Oxonii, Catalogus.” Edidit E. G. Oxon, 1692, 4to. The former part of this catalogue, consisting of some share of sir James Ware’s manuscript collection, was dedicated to Dr. Thomas Tenison, then bishop of Lincoln, as at that time placed in his library. He had an early and strong inclination to search into the antiquities of his country; and, having laid a necessary foundation in the knowledge of its original languages, he applied himself to them for some years with great diligence, which produced his edition of Camden’s “Britannia,” and other works, no-’ ticed hereafter and he concluded, in thisbranch of learning, with “Reliquiffi Spelmannianae, or the Posthumous works of sir Henry Spelman, relating to the laws and antiquities of England,” which, with a life of the author, he published at Oxford, 1698, folio. This he likewise dedicated to Dr. Tenison, then Abp. of Canterbury; and probably, about that time, he was taken as domestic chaplain into the archbishop’s family: nor was it long after, that we find him both rector of Lambeth, and archdeacon of Surrey. Tenison dying Dec. 14, 1715, Wake, bishop of Lincoln, succeeded him; and Gibson was appointed to the see of Lincoln. After this advancement, he went on indefatigably in defence of the government and discipline of the Church of England: and on the death of Robinson, in 1720, was promoted to the bishopric of London. Gibson’s talents seem to have been perfectly suited to the particular duties of this important station; upon the right management of which the peace and good order of the civil, as well as the ecclesiastical, state of the nation so much depend. He had a particular turn for business, which he happily transacted, by means of a most exact method that he used on all occasions: and this he pursued with great advantage, not only in the affairs of his own diocese in England, which he governed with the most | precise regularity, but in promoting the spiritual affairs of the church of England colonies, in the West-Indies. The ministry, at this time, were so sensible of his great abilities in transacting business, that there was committed to him a sort of ecclesiastical ministry for several years; and especially during the long illness of Abp. Wake, almost every thing that concerned the church was in a great measure left to his care.

The writer of his life, among many instances which he declares might be assigned of his making a proper use of that spiritual ministry he was honoured with, specifies some few of a more eminent kind. One was his occasional recommendation of several worthy and learned persons to the favour of the secular ministry, for preferments suited to their merits. Another, that of procuring an ample endowment from the crown, for the regular performance of divine service in the royal-chapel, at Whitehall, by a succession of ministers, selected out of both universities, with proper salaries, who are continued until this day, under the name of Whitehall preachers, in number twenty-four, who officiate each a fortnight. A third, that he constantly guarded against the repeated attempts to procure a repeal of the corporation and test acts. By baffling the attacks made on those fences of the church, he thought he secured the whole ecclesiastical institution; for, it was his fixed opinion, that it would be an unjustifiable piece of presumption to arm those hands with power, that might possibly employ it, as was done in the days of our fathers, against the ecclesiastical constitution itself. He was entirely persuaded, that there ought always to be a legal establishment of the church, to a conformity with which some peculiar advantages might be reasonably annexed: and at the same time, with great moderation and temper, he approved of a toleration of protestant dissenters; especially as long as they keep within the just limits of conscience, and attempt nothing that is highly prejudicial to, or destructive of, the rights of the establishment in the church. But he was as hearty an enemy to persecution, in matters of religion, as those that have most popularly declaimed against it.

Lastly, one more service to the church and clergy, performed by the bishop of London, was thought worthy of their grateful acknowledgements; namely, his distinguished zeal (after he had animated his brethren on the | bench to concur with him) in timely apprizing the clergy of the bold schemes that were formed by the Quakers, in order to deprive the clergy of their legal maintenance by tithes; and in advising them to avert so great a blow to religion, as well as so much injustice to themselves, by their early application to the legislature, to preserve them in the possession of their known rights and properties. But, though the designs of their adversaries were happily defeated, yet it ought ever to be remembered, in honour of the memory of the bishop of London, that such umbrage was taken by sir Robert Walpole, on occasion of the advice given by him and his brethren to the clergy in that critical juncture, as soon terminated in the visible diminution of his interest and authority.

The biographer of sir Robert Walpole allows that the inveteracy displayed against this eminent prelate for the conscientious discharge of his duty on this occasion, reflects no credit on the memory of that statesman. His esteem for Gibson had been so great, that when he was reproached with giving him the authority of a pope, he replied, “And a very good pope he is.” Even after theii; disagreement, he never failed to pay an eulogium to tha learning and integrity of his former friend. About this time, great pains were taken to fix upon this worthy prelate, the character of a haughty persecutor, and even of a Secret enemy to the civil establishment. To this end a passage in the introduction to his “Codex,” which suggested the groundlessness of the modern practice of sending prohibitions to the spiritual from the temporal courts, was severely handled, in a pamphlfet written by the recorder of Bristol, afterwards sir Michael Foster, as derogatory from the supreme power and superintendency of the court of king’s bench; and other writers, with less reason and no moderation, attacked our prelate in pamphlets and periodical journals. It is said also that he was obnoxious to the king, on a personal account, because he had censured, with a freedom becoming his character, the frequent recurrence of masquerades, of which his majesty was very fond. Bishop Gibson had preached against this diversion in the former reign: and he now procured an address to the king from several of the bishops, for the entire suppression of such pernicious amusements. In all this his zeal cannot be too highly commended; and to his honour be it recorded, that neither the enmity of statesmen, nor the frowns of princes, could divert his attention | from the duties of his pastoral office; some of which consisted in writing and printinrg pastoral letters to the clergy and laity, in opposition to infidelity and enthusiasm; in visitation-charges, as well as occasional sermons, besides less pieces of a mixt nature, and some particular tracts against the prevailing immoralities of the age.

He was very sensible of his decay for some time before his death, in which he complained of a languor that hung about him. As, indeed, he had made free with his constitution by incredible industry, in a long course of study and business of various kinds; he had well nigh exhausted his spirits, and worn out a constitution which was naturally so vigorous, that life might, otherwise, have probably been protracted. He died, however, on September 6, 1748, with true Christian fortitude, an apparent sense of his approaching dissolution, and in perfect tranquillity of mind, during the intervals of his last fatal indisposition at Bath, after a very short continuance there. His lordship was married, and left several children of each sex, who were all handsomely provided for by him. In private life he possessed the social virtues in an eminent degree, and hi beneficence was very extensive. Of this one remarkable instance is recorded by Whiston. Dr. Crow had left him 2500l. which our prelate freely gave to Dr. Crow’s relations, who were in indigent circumstances. Recording this story does Whiston more credit than his foolish ravings against the bishop’s “gross ignorance” of what he calls “primitive Christianity.

His works in the order of publication were: 1. An edition of Drummond’s “Polemo-middiana, &c. 1691,” 4to, already mentioned. 2. The “Chronicon Saxonicum,1692, 4to. 3. “Librorum Manuscriptorum Catalogus,” printed the same year at Oxford, 4to. 4. “Julii Caesaris Portus Iccius illustratus,” a tract of W. Somner, with a dissertation of his own, 1694. 5. An edition of “Quintilian de Arte Oratoria, with notes,” Oxon. 1693, 4to. 6. A translation of Camden’s “Britannia” into English, 1695, folio, and again with large additions in 1722, and 1772, two vols. folio. 7. “Vita Thomae Bodleii Equitis Aurati, & Historia Bibliothecae Bodleianae,” prefixed to “Catalog! Librorum Manuscriptorum in Anglia & Hibernia in unum collecti,” Oxon. 1697,“folio. 8.” Reliquiae Spelmannianae, &c.“1698, folio. 9.” Codex Juris Ecclesiastic! Anglicani, &c.“1713, folio. 10.A Short State of some | present Questions in Convocation,“1700, 4to. 11.A Letter to a Friend in the Country, concerning the Proceedings in Convocation, in the years 1700 and 1701,“1703, 4to. 12.” The Right of the Archbishop to continue or prorogue the whole Convocation. A Summary of the Arguments in favour of the said right.“13.” Synodus Anglicana, &c.“1702. 14.A Parallel between a Presbyterian Assembly, and the new Model of an English Provincial Synod,“4to. 15.” Reflections upon a paper entitled The Expedient proposed,'“4to. 16.” The Schedule of Prorogation reviewed,“4to. 17.” The pretended Independence of the Lower House upon the Upper House a groundless notion,“1703, 4to. 18.” The Marks of a defenceless Cause, in the proceedings and writings of the Lower House of Convocation,“4to. If.” An Account of the Proceedings in Convocation in a Cause of Contumacy, upon the Prolocutor’s going into the country without the leave of the archbishop, commenced April 10, 1707.“All these upon the disputes in convocation, except the” Synodus Anglicana,“&c. are printed without his name, but generally ascribed to him. 20.” Visitations parochial and general, with a Sermon, and some other Tracts,“1717, 8vo. 21. Five Pastoral Letters, &c. Directions to the Clergy, and Visitation Charges, &c. 8vo. To these may be added his lesser publications and. tracts, viz. Family Devotion; a Treatise against Intemperance; Admonition against Swearing; Advice to persons who have been sick; Trust in God; Sinfulness of neglecting the Lord’s Day; against Lukewarmness in Religion; several occasional Sermons. Remarks on part of a Bill brought into the house of lords by the earl of Nottingham, in 1721, entitledA Bill for the more effectual Suppression of Blasphemy and Profaneness,“is also ascribed to the bishop; as is also” The Case of addressing the Earl of Nottingham, for his treatise on the Trinity,“published about the same time. Lastly,A Collection of the principal Treatises against Popery, in the Papal Controversy, digested into proper heads and titles, with some Prefaces of his own," Lond. 1738, 3 vols. folio. 1


Biog. Brit. Suppl. vol. VII.—Whiston’s Life.—Coxe’s Life of Walpole.— Censura Literaria, vol. II.