Williams, Griffith

, bishop of Ossory, in Ireland, was born at Caernarvon, in North Wales, about 1589. In 1603 he was sent to Oxford by his uncle but this relation failing to support him, he was, after two years, received at Cambridge by the kindness of a friend, and admitted of Jesus college, where he took his degrees in arts, and after entering into holy orders, was appointed curate of Hanwell, in Middlesex. Afterwards the earl of Southampton gave him the rectory of Foscot, in Buckinghamshire; and he was for some years lecturer of St. Peter’s, Cheapside, | London. While in this situation, he informs us, “his persecutions began from the puritans,” who took offence at something he had preached and printed; and it was now he published his first book, called “The Resolution of Pilate,” which neither Harris nor Wood mention among his works; and another called “The Delight of the Saints. A most comfortable treatise of grace and peace, and many other excellent points, whereby men may live like saints on earth, and become true saints in heaven,” Lond. 1622, /di. reprinted 1635. His boldness in the pulpit raised him many enemies, but their persecutions were for some time of no avail, until at length they prevailed on the bishop of London to suspend him. This appears to have been in his twenty-seventh year, when, notwithstanding, he went back, to Cambridge and took his degree of B. D. On his return to London he found friends in Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, and in the chancellor Egerton, who gave him the Jiving of Llan-Lechyd, in the diocese of Bangor, worth lOQl. and a better rectory than what he was suspended from by the bishop of London. He now found a new enemy. Refusing another living in exchange for what -he had just got, the bishop of Bangor presented certain articles against him ex officio, and he was again obliged to appeal to the Arches. The bishop of Bangor being in town, the archbishop of Canterbury sent for them both, and checked the bishop for his prosecution, and gave Mr. Williams a licence to preach through several dioceses of his province.

After remaining four years in the diocese of Bangor, in which the bishop’s conduct made him uneasy, he went to Cambridge, and took his degree of D. D. and returning to London became domestic chaplain to the earl of Montgomery (afterwards earl of Pembroke) and tutor to his children, and was promoted to be chaplain to the king, prebendary of Westminster, and dean of Bangor, to the last of which preferments he was instituted March 28, 1634; and he held this deanery in commendam till his death. He says that, “before he was forty years old, he narrowly escaped being elected bishop of St. Asaph.” He remained in the enjoyment of these preferments about twelve years y and in 1641 was advanced to the bishopric of Ossory, but the Irish rebellion breaking out in less than a month after his consecration, he was forced to take refuge in England, and joined the court, being in attendance on his majesty, as one of his chaplains, at the battle of Edge-hill, Oct. 23, | 1642. He remained also with the king during the greater part of the winter at Oxford, and then retired to Wales to be at more leisure to write his “Discovery of Mysteries, or the plots of the parliament to overthrow both church and state,” published at Oxford, 1643, 4to. In the following year he published his “Jura majestatis; the rights of kings both in church and state, granted, first by God, secondly, violated by rebels, and thirdly, vindicated by the truth,Oxford, 4to. He had also published in 1643, at the same place, “Vindiciae regum, or the Grand Rebellion,” c.

In the mean time he was employed to go to London to try to bring over the earl of Pembroke to the royal cause (two of whose sons were with the king at Oxford, and had been the bishop’s pupils). This task he undertook, surrounded as it was with danger, and obnoxious as he knew himself to be by his publications. The negociation failed, and the earl was so incensed, that Dr. Williams had reason to think he would deliver him up to parliament, who had recently ordered his last mentioned publication to be burnt. He contrived, therefore, and not without some difficulty, to obtain a pass from the lord mayor of London, “as a poor pillaged preacher of Ireland,” and by this means got to Northampton, and thence to Oxford, whence he went first to Wales, and then to Ireland, where he remained until after the battle of Naseby, in 1645.

After this he underwent a series of hardships for his loyalty, and lived sometimes in Wales and sometimes in Ireland, in a very precarious way, until the restoration. As soon as he heard the first news of that event he went to Dublin, and preaching on the day of his arrival at St. Bride’s, was the first man in Ireland who publicly prayed for the king. He then repaired to his diocese, and finding his palace as well as his cathedral in ruins, set himself to repair both, but found many difficulties, and was involved in many law-suits before he could recover the revenues belonging to the see. He appears to have been perfectly disinterested, for, besides what he laid out on these repairs, he devoted the greater part of his income to charitable purposes. He died at Kilkenny, March 29, 1672, in the eightv-third year of his age, and was buried on the south-side oV the chancel of the cathedral.

Bishop Williams’ s other works were, 1. “Seven golden Candlesticks, holding the seven greatest lights of Christian | Religion,” Lond. 1627, 4to. 2. “The True Church shewed to all men that desire to be members of the same in six books, containing the whole body of divinity,” ibid. 1629, fol. 3. “The right way to the best Religion; wherein is largely explainecUne sum and principal heads of the Gospel, in certain sermons and treatises,” ibid. 1636, fol. 4. “The great Antichrist revealed,” ibid. 1660, fol. In this he attempted to prove that Antichrist was neither pope, nor Turk, nor any one person, but the party which overthrew the church and state. He published also some other treatises arising from the circumstances of the timers, and many sermons afterwards published collectively, in 1662, fol. and 1666, 4to. His most curious production, and from which the preceding circumstances of his life are taken, is entitled “The persecution and oppression of John Bale, and Griffith Williams, bishops of Ossory,” Lond. 1664, 4to. In this he institutes a parallel between bishop Bale and himself, as promoted to the same see at the mere motion of kings, without any interest or application; both violently expelled from the same house; both their persecutions occasioned by their pulpit performances; the one by popish, the other by puritan adversaries; both their dangers by sea were great; both persecuted by false accusers; to which Mr. Harris adds, “the same licentious spirit of railing appears in their writings, which no apology can excuse.1


Ath. Ox. vol. II. Harris’s edition of Ware’s Works.