Twiss, William

, a very learned nonconformist divine, was descended from German ancestors, of whom his grandfather is said to have been the first who settled in England. He was born about 1575. His father, who was a clothier at Newbury in Berkshire, perceiving this his sou to be weil qualified for a learned education, sent him to Winchester-school, whence he was in 1596 elected probationer fellow of New-college, Oxford, and two years after became actual fellow. According to Wood, he studied divinity for sixteen years together. In 1604 he proceeded in arts, and about that time taking orders, was a frequent and diligent preacher, “noted to the academicians for his subtile wit, exact judgment, exemplary life and conversation, and for the endowment of such qualities that were befitting men of his function.” He was not less esteemed as a logician and philosopher, and his learning appeared not only in his public lectures and disputations, but in the accuracy with which he corrected the works of the celebrated Bradwardine, published by sir Henry Savile. Besides his catechistical lectures, which he read every Thursday in term-time in the college chapel, he preached every Sunday at St. Aldate’s church; and at length his fame reaching the court, king James appointed him chaplain to his daughter Elizabeth, afterwards the unfortunate queen of Bohemia, who was then about to leave her native country and go to the Palatinate. On this he was admitted to his degree of D. D.

His stay abroad, however, was not long. In about two months he was called back to England, but on his arrival took a final leave of the court, and devoted himself to a learned retirement at Newbury, the place of his birth, of which he obtained the curacy. Here, such was his attachment to the quiet enjoyment of his studies, and the discharge of his parochial duties, that he refused some valuable preferments offered him entirely on the score of merit; among these were the wardenship of Winchester college, a prebend of Winchester, and a valuable living. This last he had some thoughts of accepting, provided the people of Newbury could be furnished with a suitable successor. With this view he waited upon the archbishop of Canterbury, who received him very kindly, granted his request, an’d added, that he would mention him to the king as a pious and learned divine, and no puritan. Twiss seems to have been alarmed at this last compliment, which he | knew he did not deserve, and upon more mature consideration, remained at Newbury. About the same time he refused a professor’s chair at Oxford, and another in the university of Franeker.

Upon the publication of the “Book of Sports,” which did so much mischief to the royal cause, Dr. Twiss decidedly declared his opinion against it, and refused to read it, yet he was still such a favourite with king James that he forbade his being molested on this account. During the rebellion he suffered considerably by the violence of the soldiery; but when prince Rupert came to Newbury he entertained Dr. Twiss very courteously, wishing him to forsake the parliamentary cause, and write in defence of the king, which he refused. In 1640 he was chosen one of the sub-committee, to assist the committee of accommodation appointed by the House of Lords to consider the innovations introduced into the church, and to promote a more pure reformation. In 1643 he was nominated, by an order of the parliament, prolocutor to the assembly of divines. This appointment he repeatedly declined, but having at length been prevailed upon to accept it, he preached (the assembly opening on July 1.) before both Houses of parliament, in Henry VIHth’s chapel. “In his sermon,” says Fuller, “he exhorted his auditory to a faithful discharge of their duty, and to promote the glory of God and the honour of his church; but he was sorry that they wanted the royal assent. He hoped, however, that in due time it might be obtained, and that a happy union would be obtained between the king and parliament.” He appears to have been dissatisfied with the conduct of both of the great contending parties: “whilst some would have nothing reformed, others would have all things changed, and turned upside down.” These melancholy prospects gradually impaired his health, and some time after he sunk down in the pulpit while preaching, and being carried home, languished until July 20, 1646, when he expired, in the seventieth year of his age. During his illness the parliament voted him lOOl. as he had lost all his property while at Newbury, and had in London only one of the lectureships of St. Andrew’s, Holborn; and after his death \000l. to his family; but this, it is said, they never received *. Respecting his

* Dr. Twhs was buried in Westmin- This, we presume, must have been in

ster-abbey, but at the restoration his consequence of a general order (by no remains, together with those of some means indeed to be vindicated), as there

others, were dug up and thrown into was nothing inDr.Twiss’s conduct to rena pit, in St. Margaret’s churchyard, derhis memory particularly obnoxious. | personal character, there seems no difference of opinion among historians. Fuller denominates him “a divine of great abilities, learning, piety, and moderation;” and Wood says, “his plain preaching was esteemed good; his solid disputations were accounted better; but his pious life was reckoned best of all.” Nor less favourably does bishop Sanderson speak of him, even while differing greatly from some of his opinions. Mr. Clark says, that he “had his infirmities, whereof the most visible was this: that he was of a facile nature, and too prone to be deceived by giving too much credit to those, whom, by information from others, or in his own opinion, he judged to be godly. Whence it came to pass that he was often imposed upon, especially by certain crafty heads, who solemnly professed that their chiefest care was the preservation of the purity of doctrine, and reformation of discipline, whereas, in deed and truth, they sought the utter subversion of both.

His writings are all controversial, and more or less directed against Arminianism, of which, it seems to be agreed, even by his adversaries, he was the ablest and most successful opponent of his time. The authors against whom he wrote were, principally, Dr. Thomas Jackson, Mr. Henry Mason, Dr. Thomas Godwin, Mr. John Godwin, Mr. John Cotton, Dr. Potter, Dr. Heylin, and Dr. Hammond. His works were, 1. “Vindiciae gratioe,” Amst. 1632 and 164S, fol. against Arminius. 2. “A discovery of Dr. Jackson’s Vanity,” &c. 1631, 4to, printed abroad. 3. “Dissertatio de scientia media tribus libris absoluta,” &c. Arnheim, 1639, fol. 4. “Of the Morality of the Fourth Commandment,” Lond. 1641, 4to. 5. “Treatise of Reprobation,” ibid. 1646, 4to, with some other works printed after his death. There are fifteen of his letters in Mr. Joseph Mede’s Works, and he, left many Mss. in the hands of his son, who, WoocJ says, was a minister, but these are probably lost. 1

1 Ath. Ox. vol. If. Clark’s Lires, 1684, fol. fuller’s Church History and Worthi. Wordsworth’s Eccl. Biography, vol. V. p.346.