Warner, John

, a learned and munificent prelate, was the son of Herman Warner, citizen of London, and was born in the parish of St. Clement Danes, Strand, about 1585. After some grammatical education, in which he made a very rapid progress, he was sent to Oxford in 1598, and the year following was elected demy of Magdalen college. Here he proceeded successfully in his studies, and taking the degree of B. A. in 1602, commenced M. A. in June 1G05, in which year he was elected to a fellowship. In 1610 he resigned this, probably in consequence of the fortune which came to him from his godmother. In 1614 he was presented to the rectory of St. Michael’s, Crookedlane, by archbishop Abbot, which he resigned in 1616, and remained without preferment until 1625, when the archbishop gave him the rectory of St. Dionis Backchurch in Fenchurch-street. In the interim he had taken both his degrees in divinity at Oxford; and Abbot, continuing his esteem, collated him to the prebend of the first stall in the cathedral of Canterbury. He was also appointed governor of Sion college, London, and was made chaplain to Charles I. In the second year of this monarch’s reign Dr. Warner preached before him while the parliament was sitting, during passion week, on Matt. xxi. 28, and took such liberties with the proceedings of that parliament as very highly provoked some of the members who happened to be present. Some measures appear to have been taken against him, but the dissolution of the parliament soon after protected him, yet vre are told that a pardon from the king was necessary, which pardon was extant at the time Dr. Zachary Pearce communicated some particulars of his life to the editors of the “Biographia Britannica.

In 1633 he attended the king on his coronation in Scotland, and the same year was collated by him to the deanery of Lichfield. In 1637 the king advanced him to the bishopric of Rochester, and notwithstanding the small revenue | attached to this see, Dr. Warner resigned his deanery and his prebend, besides a donative of 200l. per annum in Kent, probably Barham, or Bishops-bourne, of which, it is said, he was parson. In 1640 he assisted the king with 1500l. on the Scotch invasion of England, and gave his attendance, when there was only one prelate besides himself in the council at York. The same year he had the courage to oppose the praemunire in the House of Peers, and asserted the rights of the bishops sitting in parliament. With equal zeal he joined in the declaration made by some others of his brethren, May 14, 1641, to maintain and defend, as far as lawfully they might, with their life, power, and estate, the true reformed protestant religion, expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England, against all popery and popish innovation within this realm; and maintain and defend his majesty’s royal person, honour, and estate; also the power and privilege of parliaments, the lawful rights and liberties of the subjects, and endeavour to preserve the union and peace between the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

All this opposition to the changes then proposed soon appeared to be fruitless, and in August of the same year he was impeached with twelve other bishops, for acting in the convocation of 1640, making then canons and constitutions, and granting his majesty a benevolence. On this occasion his brethren unanimously relied on bishop Warner’s talents for their defence, which he undertook with spirit, but their total subversion being determined, nothing availed. He continued, however, inflexible in his adherence to the cause of his sovereign, at whose command, not long before his death, the bishop wrote a treatise against the ordinance of the sale of church lands, which was printed in 1646 and 1648, 4to, under the title “Church Lands not to be sold,” &c. After the death of Charles I. likewise, our prelate published several sermons against that illegal act. And having maintained his consistency so far as to refuse to pay any tax or loan to the parliament, his estate, ecclesiastical and temporal, was sequestered, his books seized, and by a singular refinement in robbery, all bonds due to him from any person whatever were released. He would probably also have been imprisoned, had he not escaped into Wales, where he led for three years a wandering and insecure life, but wherever he had opportunity, constantly performed the duties of his episcopal | function, which he also did wherever he might happen to be, tiU the restoration.

After his majesty’s garrisons were given up he was forced to compound for his temporal estate, now four years sequestered, at the rate of the tenth part real and personal; but all oaths to the usurping government he refused to the last; and having, although after a heavy deduction, saved a considerable part of his estate, he devoted it to the assistance of his suffering brethren, and was a great support to such of the sequestered clergy and their families as vver^ reduced to absolute poverty. Of this, bishop Rennet, in his life of Somner, affords the following proof and instance “When in the days of usurpation an honest friend paid a visit to him (Warner), and upon his lordship’s importunity told him freely the censures of the world, aJi being of a close and too thrifty a temper, the bishop produced a roll of distressed clergy, whom in their ejectments he had relieved with no less than eight thousand pounds; and inquirked of the same friend, whether he knew of any other like objects of charity; upon which motion the gentleman soon after by letter recommended a sequestered divine, to whom at the first address he gave 100l.

He sent 100l. to Charles II. in his exile, designing to continue remitting money as he could afford it, but he was betrayed by his servant, who discovered the matter to Cromwell, and he would have suffered for it, had he not prevailed on the treacherous informer, by money, to. go into Ireland. On the restoration, bishop Warner was replaced in the see of Rochester, and enjoyed it till his decease on Oct. 11, 1666. He was interred in Rochester cathedral, where a handsome monument was soon after erected to his memory in a small chapel, at the east end of the north aile.

He married the widow of Dr. Robert Abbot, bishop of Salisbury, and had issue by her one daughter, his heiress, who by her husband, Thomas Lee, of London, had a son, John, to whom and his sons bishop Warner bequeathed so considerable an estate as surprised those who knew the extent of his charities, and the small income arising from his bishopric. Nor will that surprise be much diminished by the fact, that when young he had 16,Oooz. left him by a relation, who was his god-mother, for if we take into account what he suffered by the usurpation, and what he gave to his distressed brethren during that period, it will yet appear surprising that he was enabled to exert his charity and | munificence to such a vast amount as appears was the case. To account for this, some have accused him of parsimony, but for this there is no proof, and the greater part of what he gave was given at various periods in his life-time; but others have with more probability supposed that he lived on the profits, small as they were, of his bishopric, while the produce of his estates was accumulating. Be this as it may, we have the following items of nearly twenty thousand pounds, which he expended or bequeathed to the following objects:

To the demies of Magdalen college, Oxford, in eleven

years - ^1,10O

repairing St. Paul’s, London i>% v 1,050

The redemption of captives, &c. - 2,5OO

Library of Magdalen college. 1,200

Cathedral of Canterbury, for fonts and library - 1,2OO

__ Rochester, towards a library - - 500

Repairs of that cathedral, and by his will - - 1,Ooo

For augmenting poor vicarages in the diocese of Rochester 2,Ooo

Paid by his executors for the building of Bromley college 8,50O

For repairs of the palace. 80O


Bromley college above-mentioned was founded by him for the residence and maintenance of twenty widows of loyal and orthodox clergymen. By his will he empowered his executors, sir Orlando Bridgman, and sir Philip Warwick, to raise a sum of money adequate to the purposes of such a building, out of his personal estate, and charged his manor of Swayton with the annual payment of 450l. viz. 50l. per ann. for the chaplain, and 20l. each for the widows. The founder had expressed a desire that this building should be erected as near to Rochester as conveniently might be; but as no healthy or convenient spot could be obtained near that town, the present site was chosen at the north end of the town of Bromley, under the sanction of an act of parliament passed in 1670; and by other subsequent benefactions the institution has been brought to its present useful state. Another of bishop Warner’s foundations was that of four scholarships in Baliol college, Oxford, for four young men of Scotland, to be chosen from time to time by the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of Rochester. Each was to have 2Ql. yearly until M. A. when they were to return to their own country in holy orders, “that there may never be wanting in Scotland some | who shall support the ecclesiastical establishment of England.” Owing to some demur on the part of this college, these scholars were first placed in Gloucester hall (now Worcester college), and there was a design to have made that a college for their use; but, in the mastership of Dr. Thomas Good, in 1672, they were removed to Baliol.

Bishop Warner is said to have been an accurate logician, philosopher, and well versed in the fathers and schoolmen. He was a man of a decided character, equally cheerful and undaunted. In his manner he had less of the courtier than of the kind friend, always performing more than he professed. Of his religious principles the only evidence we have is in a letter addressed to bishop Jeremy Taylor, in defence of the doctrine of original sin, which that prelate had endeavoured to explain away in a manner totally inconsistent with the tenets of the church, as laid down in her liturgy, articles, and homilies. Warner was of the school of Abbot, and less likely to adopt Arminianism, although he was personally attached to its great fnenc. archbishop Laud. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. II. Burnei’s Own Times. Biog. Brit. Fuller’s Worthies. Barwick’s Life. Lysons’s Environs, in which is the first engraved portrait of Warner. Chalmers’s ilist. of Oxford,- Bunney’s Life of bishop Taylor.