« הקודםהמשך »
JAMES USHER, D.D.
ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH.
VERY few men have been more the subject of universal admiration, and perhaps as few have deserved it more, than the excellent Man of whom we are now writing. His immense erudition, acknowledged by all the world, and his large measure of divine grace which employed that erudition to the most wise and beneficial purposes, rendered him, as a public man, the brightest example of his time. His character, as a private Christian, though not so conspicuous, was no less extraordinary, and made him at once the edification and delight of all who enjoyed his acquaintance.
His father, Arnold Usher, was one of the six clerks of the chancery in Ireland, and a man of parts and learning. His uncle, Henry Usher, was highly celebrated for wisdom and knowledge, and was raised to the archepiscopal see of Armagh. His mother's father, James Stanihurst, was three times Speaker of the House of Commons in Ireland, recorder of Dublin, and a master in chancery: He was much esteemed for his wisdom, abilities, and integrity, and had the honour to make the first motion for founding the University of Dublin, in which he was seconded by all the credit and influence of Dr. Henry Usher above mentioned. Queen Elizabeth acceded to the proposal, and our Author, James Usher, was the first student in that foundation. His mother's brother, Richard Stanihurst, was a philosopher, historian, and poet, and became a considerable correspondent with his nephew upon various subjects of learning. His own brother, Ambrose Usher, who died in the prime of life, was a very extraordinary man, and had made great proficiency in the oriental tongues. Dr. Parr says, that He left behind him, under his own hand, an elaborate translation of the Old Testament out of Hebrew into English, from the beginning to the book of Job, which might have been finished, had not the appearance of the new translation in King James's time withdrawn his hand.'
The subject of our present article, JAMES Usher, who was born at Dublin, January the fourth, 1580, discovered great parts, and an uncommon attachment to books from his very childhood. It is a most remarkable cirs cumstance, that his two aunts, who were born blind, taught him to read. They were persons of great piety, andOf such incomparable readiness in the divine oracles, that they were either of them able on a sudden ta repeat any part of the Bible.' They seem to have possessed the answer to ·Milton's celebrated prayer:
So much the rather thou, celestial LIGHT,
Par. Lost, Book III. Usher seems to have been under the tuition of these excellent women till he was eight years old, when he was sent to a school opened by Mr. James Fullerton and Mr. James Hamilton, two learned young gentlemen of Scots land, who were placed at Dublin by King James the First, then only King of Scotland, in order to maintain a correspondence with the protestant nobility and gentry there, for the security of his interest in that kingdom, when Queen Elizabeth should die. That great Queen, like most other great politicians, being very suspicious, and not at all attached to King James, it was thought expedient for them to assume some disguise : And, for this reason, they took up the profession of schoolmasters, who were then very much wanted in Ireland. Fullerton was afterwards knighted, then sent upon an embassy to France, and finally, (as is usual for those who have served well abroad) was appointed to a considerable office at home. Hamilton was also knighted, and afterwards created Viscount Olandebois. Under these extraordinary masters he continued five years, and was thoroughly grounded in the elements of learning, to which he applied himself with all that zeal and spirit which are usually the characteristics of genius, and which are commonly crowned with success, even where there is no genius.' He ever after mentioned these preceptors with honour, and used, to the end of his life, to mention this occurrence, as a signal and gracious providence of God for his education, which, as Ireland then stood, must otherwise have been very defective.
At the expiration of these five years, viz. in 1593, and in the thirteenth year of his age, he was admitted into the college of Dublin, which was then finished. He
was one of the three first students who were admit, ted; and his name stands to this day in the first line of the roll. Here Mr. Hamilton again became his tutor, under whom he studied logic and the Aristotelian philosophy, and by whom he was celebrated as the most extraordinary youth of his time. He had so much acuteness and proficiency, that he soon came up with his instructors. Here also he first began to study the Greek and Hebrew tongues, in both of which he afterwards excelled, and made excursions into the other walks of science. Though his love of poetry and cards retarded his studies for some time, he soon broke through these juvenile attachments, and applied to his severer studies with the closer application. He is said to have been wonderfully affected with that passage in Cicero, Nescare quid antea natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum ; ? To know nothing of what happened before you were born, is to be always a boy.' Sleidan's book, De quatuor imperiis, inspired him with a strong passion for the study of history, in which he afterwards became superlatively excellent. At fourteen years of age he began to make extracts from all the historical books he could meet with, in order to fix the facts more firmly in his memory ; and between fifteen and sixteen he had made such a proficiency in chronology, that he had drawn up in Latin an exact chronicle of the Bible, as far as the book of Kings, not much differing from his Annals, which have since been published, and received with the highest esteem,
The difference chiefly consists in the addition of observa. tions and the parallel chronology of the heathens. Before he was sixteen, he had entered upon theological studies, and perused the most able writers on both sides, upon the Romish controversy.
* Among the Romanists, he read Stapleton's - Fortress of Faith ;' and finding that author confident in asserting antiquity for the tenets of popery, and in taxing our church with novelty in what it dissented from the church of Rome, he kept his mind in sus, pense, till he could examine how the truth stood in that particular. He was persuaded, that the ancient doctrines bade fairest for the right, being nearer the fountain-head, concluding with Tertullian, that Ve rum quodcunque primum, adulterum quodcunque posterius :
Truth first appeared, and afterwards error.' But he might have spared himself the trouble in following the windings of the stream, when God's providence had
put put it in his power to recur to the fountain itself. The Bible is the only authority; and the fathers or any other writers, are valuable in proportion as they approach this rule, and are conducted by it. Not that there need no formularies and tests; for the corruptions of language and human chicane have made these of importance to the safety and being of any ecclesiastical establishment; and those persons are justly to be suspected who wish to throw them aside under pretence of the Bible being the only rule of faith : But these formularies are to be received alone, as they stand confirmed by, and agreeable to the Scriptures; and no man's conscience is forced in the subscribing to them. It is now become a fashion to treat the fathers with contempt, and to cry out upon all tests in religion. But it may be said with Dr. Cave, in his Life of Clemens Alexandrinus, that though. The good and pious men of (ancient) times, were continually engaged in fierce disputes, with Heathens on the one side, and Jews and Heretics on the other, did not always op Jolomely, divide the truth aright, in some nicer lines and strokes of it; yet their piety as much transcended the profession of this age, as this age can possibly go beyond them in learning. They did not consider religion as a set of notions, nor live upon it to feed their speculations; but they put on Christ, lived in Christ, walked with him, and, for his sake, loved not their lives unto death. They knew much of the power of godliness, and dwelt the less upon the form: And, in this way, they understood religion in fact much better than those, who consider it only as a machine for the splitting of hairs, without having any real enjoyment of its life and sweetness. Such men as these, growing too wise for the simplicity of the Gospel, are the persons who have made tests necessary for the keeping errors and heterodox opinions out of Christian churches. They would pretend to adopt the Bible, as some venture to do the articles of the Church of England, by imposing their own sense upon the words, which sense shall contradict the very terms, and strain them to a set of opinions, which the very terms directly condemn.
However, about the seventeenth year of his age, Usher had turned over several of the fathers, with other authors, both practical and polemical, upon the subject of divinity, and even at this early age became critically acquainted with the whole Romish controversy. He resolved to go through all the fathers by himself, and to trust no eyes but his own, if God spared his life and