« НазадПродовжити »
having received ordination. His manner, however, of performing the duty thus imposed upon him, and his lectures as catechist-reader, seemed to hold out such promise of his usefulness as a divine, and his character as a christian seemed now to be so well established, that his friends importuned him to defer no longer to offer himself a candidate for holy orders. He appears to have hesitated at first to comply with their wishes, on account of his youth. But after a while he determined to devote himself to the service of his Master and Saviour, and was set apart for that sacred purpose by his uncle, the archbishop of Armagh.
He did not, however, undertake a parochial charge, to which his avocations in the college would not have permitted him to attend sufficiently ; but resumed his former course at Christ Church, or, according to Dr. Bernard, at St. Catherine's; and, as the papists were about that time constrained to attend protestant places of worship, (from a notion that the people might thus be made of one heart and one mind,) he is said to have handled the subject with so much force and prudence as to settle the faith of many waverers and to convert several papists from superstition to the truth.
Mr. Usher's reputation as a scholar and a divine was now well established; and his general knowledge of literature was so highly appreciated, that when, in 1603, the English army in Ireland subscribed 18001. towards the library of the University, he was appointed to accompany Dr. Chaloner, another of the fellows, to London, and in conjunction with him to lay out that sum to the best advantage. It is singular enough that, while executing this commission in the English metropolis, they chanced to meet sir Thomas Bodley, who was also in search of scarce and valuable books for his newly erected library in the University of Oxford. Mr. Usher's character and merits prepared the way for still further advancement. Dr. Loftus, the archbishop of Dublin, and formerly Provost of the College, made him Chancellor of St. Patrick's Cathedral; and, as the emoluments of this preferment were derived from the parish of Finglas, Mr. Usher thought fit to endow the vicarage, and made a point of preaching there every Sunday, as well as in his course at the cathedral. This addition to his income enabled him to increase his library.
In 1607, Camden the antiquary was in Dublin, gathering materials for the description of that city, which he afterwards printed in the last edition of his Britannia. He concludes that account by stating, that he owes most of his information to " the diligence and labour of James Usher, Chancellor of St. Patrick's, who in various learn-; ing and judgment far exceeds his years."
In the same year he took the degree of bachelor of divinity, and soon afterwards at the early age of twentysix, was chosen professor of divinity in the University, the duties of which important office he discharged with zeal and usefulness during thirteen years.
Surrounded as he was by popery, and now holding a conspicuous place in the front ranks of protestantism, we need not be surprised to learn that the professor's efforts were mainly directed to give stability to the reformed religion, which he successfully identified with the faith originally delivered to the saints.
His literary tastes induced him to visit England in the year 1609, for the purchase of books and the conversation of learned men. This visit he afterwards repeated about once in three years, when he usually passed a month at Oxford, another at Cambridge, and the remainder of his time in London; and wherever he went, he obtained access to the best public and private collections.
As he possessed an income adequate to his wants, and was unwilling to admit of any encroachments being made upon his hours of study, he declined to accept the provostship of the college, fearing that the duties of that situation would expose him to many interruptions.
In 1613, the thirty-second year of his age, he took the degree of D.D. and amongst, the preparatory exercises read two lectures, one on Dan. ix. 24, the other on Rev. xx. 4; and in these he took occasion to explain those texts, "so misapplied by the Millenaries, both in elder and later times."
Among the memorials which remain to us we look in vain for any particulars relative to this period of his life, except such as are connected with his learned occupations. On that point, however, we find sufficient evidence that he was engaged in investigations of material importance to the Church of Christ. In the year 1614, being in London, he published his first Treatise on the State and Succession of the Christian Churches. This work was distinguished by being prefaced with laudatory verses by the learned Casaubon and Scultetus, and was presented by archbishop Abbot to King James, as the first fruits of the university of Dublin.
The design of this work was to answer the objection of the papists implied in their enquiry, 'Where our religion was before Luther.' And he proves from authors of undoubted credit, that even in the darkest and most ignorant times, Christ has always had a visible Church, untainted with the errors and corruptions of Romanism, and that these islands do not owe their christianity to Rome. This learned disquisition has been of great service to all later writers; its main positions have never been refuted; and further investigation has confirmed many of his opinions, particularly that there exist several Christian Churches, which have always rejected the doctrines of popery, refused submission to its authority, and escaped extermination or apostasy under its persecutions.
Dr. Usher's work was carried down only to the latter part of the fourteenth century. In a letter written a few years after its publication, he speaks of his intention of filling up what is wanting to complete the work. "I purpose," he says, " to publish the whole work together, much augmented, but do first expect the publication of my uncle Stainhurst's answer to the former, which I hear, since his death, is sent to Paris to be printed." The remaining period, however, was never completed, owing in some measure to the loss of his papers, during the unhappy disorders which rent society in the latter part of his life.
About the same time he married the orphan daughter of his friend Dr. Chaloner. That gentleman was descended from an ancient family in Yorkshire, and was a learned and pious man. He had been a great benefactor to the college, and took a deep interest in all that concerned its welfare; and therefore he watched with pleasure the honour that accrued to it from the fame of one of its earliest members. He also entertained a very high opinion of the private worth of Dr. Usher, and as he lay upon his death-bed he spoke to his daughter of a hope very near his heart, that she might one day become the wife of his friend. Not long afterwards, the good man's wishes were accomplished; but of his daughter's character we have scarcely any intimation. Dr. Parr, who must have known her well towards the close of her life, scarcely mentions her at all, and no family letters are found in that portion of Dr. Usher's correspondence which was published. For forty years, however, they participated in many vicissitudes of fortune, and in their deaths they were not long divided, since her husband survived her only about eighteen months. They had one child, a daughter, who was married to sir Timothy Tyrrel, and will be mentioned again in these pages.
Dr. Usher now passed several years in the enjoyment of a growing reputation. His fame had reached the Continent, and the most eminent persons at home and abroad consulted him on doubtful points of learning and theology, and were ambitious of his acquaintance and correspondence.
His character as a scholar, a divine, and a christian, marked him as a fit person to fill some distinguished office in the church; and his advancement to a bishopric, and his conduct in that distinguished situation, will be the subject of the ensuing chapter.
I venerate the man whose heart is warm,
Whose hands are pure, whose doctrine and whose life
Coincident, exhibit lucid proof
That he is honest in the sacred cause.
The dawning of the Reformation was hailed with joy in England by multitudes of every class; but, "in Ireland," as Leland remarks, "it was tendered to a prejudiced and a reluctant people." Perpetual domestic warfare had left them little time for any kind of improvement, and they were in a state of extreme rudeness and igno