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the bishopric of Meath, which had become vacant during Dr. Usher's stay in England; observing at the same time that "Dr. Usher was a bishop of his own making; and that although, indeed, the knave puritan was a bad man, the knave's puritan was an honest man."
The lord deputy was delighted at this appointment, and wrote to the bishop elect, saying:—" I thank God for your preferment to the bishopric of Meath; his Majesty therein hath done a great favour to his poor church here; there is none here but is exceeding glad that you are called thereto; even some papists themselves have largely testified their gladness of it." From Gataker, also, and other distinguished friends, he received the warmest congratulations, mingled with prayers for his usefulness in his new charge.
Before his return to Ireland he preached before the House of Commons, on the 20th of February 1620, in St. Margaret's church, and the sermon was printed by desire of the House.
When he went back to Ireland, and had been consecrated to execute the sacred office of a bishop, he considered how he might best promote the interests of the protestant faith in his new capacity. Union, zeal, and knowledge, were the means of effecting this purpose, which he wished to combine in his clergy. His views of episcopacy were very moderate, and he studied to avoid giving offence to those who had been educated in the church of Scotland, allowing presbyters to participate with him in ordaining them, if they desired to have it so. Nay, he even carried this liberality so far, as not to eject from their benefices those who followed the Scottish system of public worship, and declined to adopt the liturgy of the church. If he had acted otherwise, he must have .declared many livings void, without being able to provide ministers to serve them; and even with such assistance his diocese was very unlike the rest of Ireland, if many parishes were not still unprovided with pastors. His views of episcopacy certainly were not so exalted as those embraced by most of his brethren; but he thought that the churches which have no bishops are defective in their government, and therefore desired by some concessions to render that system less obnoxious to those who had been brought up with other prejudices, and so to strengthen the protestant cause by union. He bitterly lamented the ill conduct alleged against some of the clergy, and used all his efforts to train up a virtuous, earnest, and learned body of ministers. He took pains to be acquainted with the characters of those who offered themselves for the ministry, and endeavoured to follow St. Paul's injunction to Timothy — "Lay hands suddenly on no man."
His opinions and advice were ever at the command of the students who were preparing for the sacred office. He recommended them to become acquainted with the early christian writers, and to read them, as he had done himself, in the order of time in which they were written, taking the Fathers and church-historians together, that they might trace the origin and growth of heresies, and judge correctly what doctrines, ceremonies, and opinions prevailed in the church in each age, and at what time, and by what means, errors and innovations were introduced. He thought that the authors of the middle ages, commonly termed schoolmen, need only be read so far as might show the state of the controversy between the Reformed and Romish churches; and warned his young scholars that the heathen philosophers ought not to be blindly followed, since they were much mistaken as to the true principles of morality, and ignorant of the means of substantial happiness, which were brought to light by the Holy Scriptures alone.
"I never heard," says Dr. Parr, "that he ordained more than one person who was not sufficiently qualified in respect of learning; and this was in so extraordinary a case, that I think it will not be amiss to give a short account of it. There was a certain English mechanic living in his diocese, who constantly frequented the public service of the church, and attained to a competent knowledge of the Scriptures, and gave himself to read what books of practical divinity he could get, and was reputed among protestants thereabouts a very honest and pious man. This man applied to Dr. Usher, and told him that he had a very earnest desire to be admitted to the ministry; but the bishop refused him, advising him to go home and follow his calling, and pray to God to remove this temptation. After some time he returned again, renewing his request, and saying that he could not be at rest in his mind, but that his desires towards that calling increased more and more. Whereupon the lord primate discoursed with him, and found, upon examination, that he gave a very good account of his faith and knowledge in all the main points of religion. He then questioned him further if he could speak Irish; for if not, his preaching would be of little use in a country where the greatest part of the people were Irish, who understood no English. The man replied, that indeed he could not speak Irish, but that, if his lordship thought fit, he would endeavour to learn it: which he bade him do; andas soonashe had attained the language, to come again, which he did about a twelvemonth after, telling my lord that he could now express himself tolerably well in Irish, and therefore desired ordination. Whereupon the lord primate, finding, upon examination, that he spake truth, ordained him accordingly, being satisfied that such an ordinary man was able to do more good than if he had Latin without any Irish at all. Nor was the bishop deceived in his expectation; for this man, as soon as he had a cure, employed his talents diligently and faithfully, and proved very successful in converting many of the Irish papists to our church, and continued labouring in that work until the rebellion and massacre, wherein he hardly escaped with life."
To those who were just about to engage in ministerial duty he gave most excellent advice; it was in substance as follows:
1. Read and study the Scriptures carefully, wherein is the best learning and only infallible truth. They can furnish you with the best materials for your sermons; the only rules for faith and practice; the most powerful motives to persuade and convince the conscience; and the strongest arguments to confute all errors, heresies, and schisms. Therefore, be sure, let all your sermons be congruous to them. And it is expedient that you understand them as well in the originals as in the translations.
2. Take not hastily up other men's opinions without due trial, nor vent your own conceits; but compare them first with the analogy of faith and rules of holiness recorded in the Scriptures, which are the proper tests of all opinions and doctrines.
3. Meddle with controversies and doubtful points as little as may be in your popular preaching, lest you puzzle your hearers or engage them in wrangling disputations, and so hinder their conversion, which is the main end of preaching.
4. Insist most on those points which tend to effect sound belief, sincere love to God, repentance for sin, and that may persuade to holiness of life. Press these things home to the consciences of your hearers, as of absolute necessity, leaving no gap for evasions; but bind them as closely as may be to their duty. And, as you ought to preach sound and orthodox doctrine, so ought you to deliver God's message as near as may be in God's words: that is, in such as are plain and intelligible, that the meanest of your auditors may understand. To which end it is necessary to back all the precepts and doctrines with apt proofs from Holy Scriptures; avoiding all exotic phrases, scholastic terms, unnecessary quotations of authors, and forced rhetorical figures; since it is not difficult to make easy things appear hard; but to render hard things easy is the hardest part. of a good orator as well as preacher.
5. Get your heart sincerely affected with the things you persuade others to embrace, that so you may preach experimentally, and your hearers may perceive that you are in good earnest; and press nothing upon them but what may tend to their advantage, and which you yourself would enter your own salvation on.
6. Study and consider well the subjects you intend to preach on, before you come into the pulpit, and then words will readily offer themselves. Yet think what you are about to say before you speak, avoiding all uncouth fantastical words or phrases, or nauseous, indecent, or ridiculous expressions, which will quickly bring your preaching into contempt, and make your sermons and person the subjects of sport and merriment.
7. Dissemble not the truths of God in any case, nor comply with the lusts of men, nor give any countenance to sin by word or deed.
8. But, above all, you must never forget to order your own conversation as becomes the gospel; that so you