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in Christ Jesus. I am, your Grace's in all dutiful acknowledgment, Th. Duresm. Jan. 20. 53."
About the year 1654, Cromwell saw fit to show favour to some of the suffering clergy, and amongst others, he invited the archbishop to visit'him. The primate at first determined to decline that honour; but on further reflections he considered that such a refusal would only provoke still greater hostility to the clergy, while a soft word might turn away the usurper's wrath.
Accordingly he went, and was received by Cromwell with great show of kindness and civility. They were reported to have conversed upon the best means of promoting the protestant interests at home and abroad. It was also said, that Oliver Cromwell, either then or at some other time, bestowed a pension upon him. Dr. Parr discredits this rumour, but says that he remembers to have heard from the lord primate that Cromwell had promised to give him a lease for twenty-one years of some part of the lands of the archbishopric of Armagh, "which," he says, "my lord primate thought it no harm to accept, considering it was but his own, and which he had been deprived of above half that time; especially, in consideration of his daughter and many grandchildren, for whom he had as yet been able to do nothing; and if the church did happen to be restored before that time, it could lose nothing by this grant; and if not, he thought his children might as well deserve to reap the benefit of it as others."
Dr. Parr asserts confidently that Cromwell delayed passing this grant as long as the archbishop lived, and then refused to perform the promise to Sir Timothy Tyrrell, on the ground of malignancy, that is, loyalty.
In the month of August that year, the archbishop was visited by Mr. Evelyn, as appears from the following compendious memorandum of their conversation, extracted from the Diary of the latter.
"1655. Aug. 21. I went to Rygate to visit Mrs. Cary at my Lady Peterboro's, in an antient monastery well in repaire, but the parke much defac'd; the house is nobly furnish'd. The chimney-piece in the greate chamber, carv'd in wood, was the property of Hen. 8, and was taken from an house of his in Blechinglee. At Rygate was now ye Archbishop of Armagh, the learned James Usher, whom I went to visite. He received me exceeding kindly. Jn discourse with him, he told me how greate the losse of time was to study much the Eastern languages; that excepting Hebrew, there was little fruite to be gather'd of exceeding labour; that besides some mathematical bookes, the Arabic itselfe had little considerable; that the best text was ye Hebrew Bible; that ye Septuagint was finish'd in 70 daies, but full of errors, about which he was then writing; but St. Hierom's was to be valued next the Hebrew; also that the 70 translated the Pentateuch only, the rest was finished by others; that the Italians understood but little Greeke, and Kircher was a mountebank; that Mr. Selden's best book was his ' Titles of Honour;' that the church would be destroyed by sectaries, who would in all likelihood bring in poperie. In conclusion, he recommended me to the study of philologie above all human studies; and so with his blessing I tooke my leave of this excellent person, and returned to Wooton."
The archbishop's friends and contemporaries were now falling around him, and a few months were to make up the sum of his own days. His wife was no more; and early in this winter he lost a friend, whom for many reasons he valued very highly, by the death of Mr. Selden. Being particularly requested to preach that distinguished person's funeral sermon, he performed the last sad office for his friend in the Temple Church, where he was buried, and upon that occasion declared, that "he looked upon the person deceased as so great a scholar, that himself was scarce worthy to carry his books after him."
That winter was notable for one of the most illiberal and tyrannical measures that was put in force even in those times. It was the Declaration of the Protector and his Council, issued Nov. 24, 1655, which made it penal for any persons to keep in their houses any of the sequestered or ejected ministers in the capacity of chaplains or tutors; it forbade any such ministers to keep either a public or private school; and likewise made it penal for them to preach to any others than the members of their own families, to perform any of the offices of religion, or to use the book of Common Prayer. The provisions of this declaration were to come in force on the first day of the approaching month of January.
By this act of wanton severity the cup of misery was filled to the brim for the poor persecuted clergy. Evelyn thus describes what he saw and felt on Christmas day: "Dec. 25. There was no more notice taken of Christmas-day in churches. I went to London, where Dr. Wild preached the funeral sermon of preaching, this being the last day, after which Cromwell's proclamation was to take place, that none of the church of England should dare to preach, or to administer sacraments, teach schools, &c, on paine of imprisonment or exile. So this was ye mournfullest day that in my life I had seene, or ye church of England herselfe since ye Reformation; to the great rejoicing of both papist and presbyter. So pathetic was his discourse, that it drew many tears from the auditory."
Destitution and wretchedness seemed to be advancing upon the clergy with the fatal first of January. The archbishop pronounced this proceeding to be "such a transcendent barbarism, impiety, and highway to extirpate religion, as the Pope and Jesuits themselves could not have invented the like; and exceeded all foreign persecutions against protestant ministers in Piedmont, Bohemia, and Silesia, by popish princes." And Prynne, who heard him so express himself, although no friend to the clergy, afterwards quoted his words with approbation.
The extremities to which they were now reduced compelled the distressed clergy to entreat some of their brethren to venture to intercede with Cromwell in their behalf; and, as he had professed some respect for the archbishop, they besought him to plead their cause, and obtain for them permission still to serve God in their private congregations, according to the liturgy of the church of England.
The venerable old man undertook their cause. He availed himself of many opportunities of mediating for them, for the space of more than a month; and, in company with Dr. Gauden and others, presented a petitionary remonstrance on the 4th of February.
At one of these interviews the archbishop obtained from Cromwell a promise that the clergy should not be molested, provided they meddled not with any matters relating to his government.
A second interview took place, in order that the promise might be ratified and put into writing. The archbishop found Cromwell in the hands of hissurgeon, who was dressing a great boil which he had on his breast; so the protector begged the lord primate to sit down awhile, adding, that when he was dressed he would speak with him.—"Whilst this was doing, Cromwell said to my lord primate,—' If this core (pointing to the boil) were once out, I should quickly be well.' To whom the good bishop replied;—' I doubt the core lies deeper; there is a core at the heart that must be taken out, or else it will not be well;'—' Ah!' replied he (seeming unconcerned), 'so there is indeed !'— and sighed. When they proceeded to speak of the business in hand, Cromwell stated, that he had further considered the matter, and that since the last interview he had advised with his council about it; and that they thought it not safe for him to grant liberty of conscience to those men whom he deemed restless implacable enemies to him and his government; and so he ended the conference."
The aged prelate, troubled and heartsick, returned sorrowfully to his home, and retired to his chamber. When his friends presented themselves to him, he complained of the defeat of his charitable mission, with tears in his eyes. He also declared his belief that God would not long prosper so unrighteous a cause. "This false man," he said, "hath broken his word with me, and refuses to perform what he promised ;' well, he will have little cause to glory in his wickedness, for he will not continue long. The King will return; though I shall not live to see it,— you may. The government both in church and state is in confusion; the papists are advancing their projects, and making such advantages as will not long be prevented."
Having thus failed of success, to his deep disappoint