Whitaker, William

, one of the most eminent divines of the sixteenth century, was born at Holme, in the parish of Burnley in Lancashire, in 1547, and was the descendant of an ancient family. His mother was Elizabeth Nowell, sister to the celebrated Dean of St. Paul’s, who married Thomas Whitaker, gentleman, in 1530, and sur* vived her marriage the wonderful period of seventy-six years. He acquired the elements of grammar at Burnley, where Mr. William Hargrave was at that time master, to whom in his declining years he was a kind benefactor. He was sent for, in his thirteenth year, by Dean Nowell, who maintained him in his own house, and placed him at St. Paul’s school, where he made snch rapid and satisfactory progress that, at the age of eighteen, his pious kinsman sent him to Trinity college, Cambridge, under the tuition of Mr. afterwards Dr. Robert West. His progress here being equally admired, he was first chosen scholar and then fellow. He soon procured high esteem and great fame by his learned disputations and other exercises, which afforded a proof both of his talents and application. It was his practice, and that of several other eminent persons of his time, to stand while employed in study. In 1569 he published the Prayers of the Church of England in Greek, a small volume printed by Reynold Wolf; a circumstance which requires to be mentioned, because most of his biographers assert that he was first known by his translation of Nowell’s catechism; but that translation was not printed till 1573, four years after this version of the Prayers. He had about | this time suffered long and severely by a quartan ague; and as he could not live without some literary employment, he made choice of this. The book contains the morning and evening prayers, the litany, the catechism, the collects, and, to fill a vacant page or two, the prayer after receiving the holy communion, accompanied with the Latin version, (the work, as is supposed, of Walter Haddon,) which had been published by the queen’s authority a fewyears before. It is dedicated, in a prefatory address in Latin, to his uncle and patron, the dean of St. Paul’s; from whom he had received, from his childhood, innumerable favours; to whom therefore, he says, of right belonged whatsoever he could perform; and he intreats him to protect his labours, and expresses a hope, that, if he is indulgent in this his first attempt, he may one day produce something not unworthy of his acceptance. The translation achieved under such circumstances, when the author, a bachelor of arts, had barely entered his twenty- first year, must have raised great hopes, which his future progress and celebrity did not disappoint.

He also, as just noticed, translated NowelPs Catechisms into Greek, the larger of which was printed in 1573, and dedicated to the lord treasurer, sir William Cecil, and the smaller in 1575, dedicated to Nowell. He also translated into Latin, bishop Jewel’s reply to Harding. These increased his reputation, extending it to Oxford, where he wa incorporated doctor of divinity. On the preferment of Dr. William Chaderton to the bishoprick of Chester, Dr. Whitaker succeeded him in 1579 in the office of regius professor at Cambridge. Although considered by many as rather too young for a place to which many of his seniors had pretensions, he proved, by his course of lectures, that he was deficient in none of the qualities of an able divine and accomplished professor. He soon displayed copious reading, sound judgment, and an eloquence and vigour which greatly increased the number as well as quality of his hearers. While in this office he remained the indefatigable student, making himself acquainted with the writings of the fathers, both Greek and Latin, and of the eminent divines and ecclesiastical historians. In his lectures, he began with various select parts of the New Testament, and then entered upon the controversies between the papists and protestants. The latter were matters of the first importance at that time, and Whitaker | accordingly took an ample share in confirming the protestant establishment, and carried on a successful controversy with some of the champions of the Romish church, particularly Campian, Dury, Saunders, &c. Cardinal Bellarmine, though often foiled by his pen, honoured his picture with a place in his library; aud said, he was the most learned heretic he had ever read.

In the same year (1579) the queen gave him the chancellorship of St. Paul’s, and he was afterwards preferred to the mastership of St. John’s college, Cambridge, by mandamus, although not without opposition from some of the members, whom he soon reconciled to his administration. He governed the college with great prudence and moderation, and sacrificed his own interest for the advantage of the public. He also greatly revived the reputation of the house, and increased the number of its members, which led to an increase in the buildings. He was now again involved in controversy with the popish writers, particularly Bellarmine and Stapieton; and some of his pieces on the subjects in dispute were printed. Having arrived at great celebrity, he is mentioned by Baker and other historians as being concerned in most of the public transactions of the university of Cambridge.

In 1587 he resigned the chancellorship of St. Paul’s, for what reason does not appear; but in 1591 Dr. Goad, provost of King’s college, presented a request to dean Nowell, in behalf of Dr. Whitaker, that he might be preferred tq some more valuable benefice. The venerable dean, anxious to serve his friend and kinsman, forwarded Dr. Goad’s letter, the day he received it, together with one of his own, to the lord treasurer; reminding his lordship of Dr. Whitaker’s great learning, well known at Cambridge by the productions of his pen in Greek and Latin; and not unknown to his lordship, to whom several of his works had been dedicated. His fitness for presiding over a learned society (Trinity college was in view, then about to be vacant) had partly appeared, from the quietness and good order which had been established in St. John’s college since he became master; and as to his circumstances, they were so far from bn no affluent, that the dean, in consideration of his poverty, had now for two years past taken upon him the maintenance of one of his sons. This application, however, lor whatever reason, proved unsuccessful.

In 1589, an assembly was held at his college, by the | celebrated puritan Cartwright and others, for the purpose of promoting a purer form of discipline in the church. Whitaker, as appears by a letter to Whitgift, was by no means a favourer of Cartwright‘ s opinions, many of which he thought intemperate and intemperateiy expressed; but when, in consequence of this meeting, some imperfections in the “Book of Discipline” were corrected, altered, and amended, he had no objection to join in subscribing the Book thus amended. The year following, he was charged with holding or forming a presbytery in his college, and with other accasations, which he appears to have repelled with success, although the particulars are not upon record. Some have doubted whether he was a puritan, or ought to be classed with those whto were hostile to the forms of the church. But upon the whole, although far more moderate than many of his contemporaries, he not only associated with, but countenanced the objections of some of the leaders of the puritans to certain points of church discipline and government. Beheld many meetings in the university with Fulke, Chaderton, Dod, and others; but the purpose of these was only to expound the scriptures. In 1595, however, there were some warm disputes about points of Christian doctrine; and when these began at Cambridge Dr. Whitaker had no inconsiderable share. Deeply rooted, says Mr. archdeacon Churton, in the principles of Calvinism, he is yet to be commended for his candour in acknowledging, at the very time when the predestinarian dispute ran high, that “these points were not concluded and defined by public authority in our church.

That controversy, however, appears to have cost him his life. For coming up to London with the five Lambeth articles, as they were called, and pursuing that business warmly, but withocrt success, and having paid what proved to be a farewell visit at the deanery of St. Paul’s, on his return to Cambridge, fatigued and disappointed, he fell sick, and within a fortnight died, in the forty-seventh year of his age, Dec. 4, 1595. Of the dignity of his person and eloquence of speech (besides innumerable allusions in the verses on his death) we have evidence in the pointed appeal of Bishop Hall, who knew him well, to his correspondent Mr. Bedell, who also knew him well: “Who,” says he, “ever saw him without reverence, or heard him without wonder?” Of his unwearied industry and profound learning his various works afford a pregnant proof; | nor were his charity and humility less conspicuous. When he lay on his death-bed, and was told of the symptoms of his approaching dissolution, he said, “Life or death is welcome to me; and I desire not to live, but so far as I may be serviceable to God and his church.” Gataker, who wrote his life, says, “He was a man very personable, of a goodly presence, tall of stature, and upright; of a grave aspect, with black hair, and a ruddy complexion; a solid judgment, a liberal mind, an affable disposition; a mild, yet not remiss governor; a contemner of money; of a moderate diet; a life generally unblameable, and (that which added a lustre to all the rest) amidst all these endowments, and the respects of others, even the greatest, thereby deservedly procured, of a most meek and lowly spirit.” Wood says, he “was one of the greatest men his college ever produced; and the desire and love of the present times, and the envy of posterity, that cannot bring forth a parallel.

Dr. Whitaker was twice married, to “women of good birth and note,” and had eight children by them. His surviving wife, described as ready to lie-in when he expired, caused her child to be baptized on Dec. 11, the day after her husband’s funeral, by the name of Jabez, doubtless for the scriptural reason, “because,” she said, “I bare him with sorrow.A few particulars of his family may be seen in our authorities. Mr. Churton, who has furnished much of the preceding information, in his excellent Life of dean Nowell, has also embellished that work with a fine portrait of Whitaker, and a view of the house in which he was born, now the property of the Rev. Thomas Dunham Whitaker, LL. D. Dr. Whitaker’ s corpse had a public funeral, and was interred in the chapel of St. John’s college.

His works, besides the translations already noticed, were, 1. “Answer to Edmund Campian his ten Reasons.” 2. “A defence of his answer against John Durye.” 3. “A refutation of Nicolas Sannders his Demonstration, whereby he would prove that the Pope is not Antichrist.” 4. “A collection thereto added of ancient heresies raked up again to make the popish apostacy.” 5. “A thesis propounded and defended at the commencement in 1582. that the Pope is the Antichrist spoken of in Scripture.” 6. “Answer to William Rainolds against the Preface to that against Saunders in English.” 7. “A disputation concerning the | Scripture against the Papists of these times, particularly Bellarminc and Stapleton.” 8. “A defence of the authority of the Scriptures, against Thomas Stapleton his defence of the authority of the Church.” 9. “Lectures on the Controversies concerning the Bishop of Rome/' 10” Lectures on the Controversie concerning the Church.“11.” Lectures on the Controversie concerning Councils.“12.A treatise of Original Sin, against Slapleton’s three former books of Justification.“The last four articles were published after the author’s death by John Allenson. 13.A lecture on 1 Tim. ii. 4. read on Feb. 27, 1594, before the earl of Essex, and other honourable persons.“14.” Lectures concerning the Sacraments in general, and the Eucharist and Baptism in particular." This last was taken down by John Allenson, and published by Dr. Samuel Ward. Whitaker’s works were afterwards collected and published in Latin, at Geneva, in 1610, 2 vols. fol. 1


Life by Gataker in Fuller’s Abel Redivivus. Clark’s Ecclesiastical Hislory. —Melchior Adam. Chimon’s Life of NowtH. —Strype’s Whitgift, p. 67, 238. 271, 353, 370, 434, 453. Fuller’s Worthies and Holy State. Brook’s Puritans.