He was born at London, in 1565. He was trained chiefly at Merchant Taylor's school, in his native city, till he was appointed to one of the first Greek Scholarships of Pembroke Hall, in the University of Cambridge. Once a year, at Easter, he used to pass a month with his parents. During this vacation, he would find a master, from whom he learned some language to which he was before a stranger. In this way after a few years, he acquired most of the modern languages of Europe. At the University, he gave himself chiefly to the Oriental tongues and to divinity. When he became candidate for a fellowship, there was but one vacancy; and he had a powerful competitor in Dr. Dove, who was afterwards Bishop of Peterborough. After long and severe examination, the matter was decided in favor of Andrews. But Dove, though vanquished, proved himself in this trial so fine a scholar, that the College, unwilling to lose him, appointed him as a sort of supernumerary Fellow. Andrews also received a complimentary appointment as Fellow of Jesus College, in the University of Oxford. In his own College, he was made a catechist; that is to say, a lecturer in divinity.
His conspicuous talents soon gained him powerful patrons. Henry, Earl of Huntingdon, took him into the North of England; where he was the means of converting many papists by his preaching and disputations. He was also warmly befriended by Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth. He was made parson of Alton, in Hampshire; and then Vicar of St. Giles, in London. He was afterwards made Prebendary and Canon Residentiary of St. Paul's, and also of the Collegiate Church of Southwark. He lectured on divinity at St. Paul's three times each week. On the death of Dr. Fulke, in 1589, Dr. Andrews, though so young, was chosen Master of Pembroke Hall, where he had received his education. While at the head of this College, he was one of its principal benefactors. It was rather poor at that time, but by his efforts its endowments were much increased; and at his death, many years later, he bequeathed to it, besides some plate, three hundred folio volumes, and a thousand pounds to found two fellowships.
He gave up his Mastership to become chaplain in Queen Elizabeth, who delighted in his preaching, and made him Prebendary of Westminster, afterwards Dean of that famous church. In the matter of Church dignities and preferments, he was highly favored. It was while he held the office of Dean of Westminster, that Dr. Andrews was made director, or president, of the first company of Translators, composed of ten members, who held their meetings at Westminster. The portion assigned to them was the five books of Moses, and the historical books to the end of the Second Book of Kings. Perhaps no part of the work is better executed than this.
With King James, Dr. Andrews stood in still higher favor than he had done with Elizabeth. The "royal pedant" had published a "Defence of the Rights of Kings," in opposition to the arrogant claims of the Popes. He was answered most bitterly by the celebrated Cardinal Bellarmine. The King set Dr. Andrews to refute the Cardinal; which he did in a learned and spirited quarto, highly commended by Casaubon. To that quarto, the Cardinal made no reply. For this service, the King rewarded his champion, by making him Bishop of Chichester; to which office Dr. Andrews was consecrated, November 3rd, 1605. This was soon after his appointment to be one of the Translators of the Bible. He accepted the bishopric with great humility, having already refused that dignity more than once. The motto graven on his episcopal seal was the solemn exclamation, "And who is sufficient for these things!" At this time he was also made Lord Almoner to the King, a place of great trust, in which he proved himself faithful and uncorrupt. In September, 1609, he was transferred to the bishopric of Ely; and was called to his Majesty's privy council. In February, 1618, he was translated to the bishopric of Winchester; which if less dignified than the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury, was then much more richly endowed; so that it used to be said,
"Canterbury is the higher rack, but Winchester is the better manger." At the time of this last preferment Dr. Andrews was appointed Dean of the King's chapel; and these stations he retained till his death.
In the high offices Bishop Andrews filled, he conducted himself with great ability and integrity. The crack-brained king, who scarce knew how to restrain his profanity and levity under the most serious circumstances, was overawed by the gravity of this prelate, and desisted from mirth and frivolity in his presence. And yet the good bishop knew how to be facetious on occasion. Edmund Wailer, the poet, tells of being once at court, and overhearing a conversation held by the king with Bishop Andrews, and Bishop Neile, of Durham. The monarch, who was always a jealous stickler for his prerogatives, and something more, was in those days trying to raise a revenue without parliamentary authority. In these measures, so clearly unconstitutional, he was opposed by Bishop Andrews with dignity and decision. Wailer says, the king asked this brace of bishops," My lords, cannot I take my subject's money when I want it, without all this formality in parliament?" The Bishop of Durham, one of the meanest of sycophants to his prince, and a harsh and haughty oppressor of his puritan clergy, made ready answer," God forbid, Sir, but you should; you are the breath of our nostrils!" Upon this the king looked at the Bishop of Winchester; "Well my lord, what say you?" Dr. Andrews replied evasively, "Sir, I have no skill to judge of parliamentary matters." But the king persisted, "No put offs, my lord, answer me presently? "Then, Sir," said the shrewd Bishop, "I think it lawful for you to take my brother Neile's money, for he offers it." Even the petulant king was hugely pleased with this piece of pleasantry, which gave great amusement to his cringing courtiers.
"For the benefit of the afflicted," as the advertisements have it, we give a little incident which may afford a useful hint to some that need it. While Dr. Andrews was one of the divines at Cambridge, he was applied to by a worthy alderman of that drowsy city, who was beset by the sorry habit of sleeping under the afternoon sermon; and who, to his great mortification, had been publicly rebuked by the minister of the parish. As snuff had not then came into vogue, Dr. Andrews did not advise, as some matter-of-fact persons have done in such cases to titillate the "sneezer" with a rousing pinch. He seems to have been of the opinion of the famous Dr. Romaine, who once told his full-fed congregation in London, that it was hard work to preach to two pounds of beef and a pot of porter. So Dr. Andrews advised his civic friend to help his wakefulness by dining very sparingly. The advice was followed; but without avail. Again the rotund dignitary slumbered and slept in his pew; and again was he roused by the harsh rebukes of the irritated preacher. With tears in those too sleepy eyes of his, the mortified alderman repaired to Dr. Andrews, begging for further counsel. The considerate divine, pitying his infirmity, recommended to him to dine as usual, and then to take his nap before repairing to his pew. This plan was adopted; and to the next discourse, which was a violent invective prepared for the very purpose of castigating the alderman's somnolent habit, he listened with unwinking eyes, and his uncommon vigilance gave quite a ridiculous air to the whole business. The unhappy parson was nearly as much vexed at his huge-waisted parishioner's unwonted wakeful-ness, as before at his unseemly dozing.
Bishop Andrews continued in high esteem with Charles I; and that most culpable of monarchs, whose only redeeming quality was the strength and tenderness of his domestic affections, in his dying advice to his children, advised them to study the writings of three divines, of whom our Translator was one.
Lancelot Andrews died at Winchester House, in Southwark, London, September 25th, 1626, aged sixty-one years. He was buried in the Church of St. Saviour, where a fair monument marks the spot. Having never married, he bequeathed his property to benevolent uses. John Milton, then but a youth, wrote a glowing Latin elegy on his death.
As a preacher, Bishop Andrews was right famous in his day. He was called the "star of preachers." Thomas Fuller says that he was "an inimitable preacher in his way; and such plagiarists as have stolen his sermons could never steal his preaching, and could make nothing of that, whereof he made all things as he desired." Pious and pleasant Bishop Fei-ton, his contemporary and colleague, endeavored in vain in his sermons to assimilate to his style, and therefore said merrily of himself, "I had almost marred my own natural trot by endeavoring to imitate his artificial amble." Let this be a warning to all who would fain play the monkey, and especially to such as would ape the eccentricities of genius. Nor is it desirable that Bishop Andrews' style should be imitated even successfully; for it abounds in quips, quirks, and puns, according to the false taste of his time. Few writers are" so happy as to treat on matters which must always interest, and to do it in a manner which shall for ever please." To build up a solid literary reputation, taste and judgment in composition are as necessary as learning and strength of thought. The once admired folios of Bishop Andrews have long been doomed to the dusty dignity of the lower shelf in the library.
Many hours he spent each day in private and family devotions; and there were some who used to desire that "they might end their days in Bishop Andrews's chapel." He was one in whom was proved the truth of Luther's saying, that "to have prayed well, is to have studied well." His manual for his private devotions, prepared by himself, is wholly in the Greek language. It has been translated and printed. This praying prelate also abounded in alms-giving; usually sending his benefactions in private, as from a friend who chose to remain unknown. He was exceedingly liberal in his gifts to poor and deserving scholars. His own instructors he held in the highest reverence. His old schoolmaster Mulcaster always sat at the upper end of the Episcopal table; and when the venerable pedagogue was dead, his portrait was placed over the bishop's study door. These were just tokens of respect "For if the scholar to such height did reach, Then what was he who did that scholar teach ?"
This worthy diocesan was much "given to hospitality,'' and especially to literary strangers. So bountiful was his cheer, that it used to be said, "My lord of Winchester keeps Christmas all the year round." He once spent three thousand pounds in three days, though "in this we praise him not," in entertaining King James at Farnham Castle. His society was as much sought, however, for the charm of his rich and instructive conversation, as for his liberal housekeeping and his exalted stations.
But we are chiefly concerned to know what were his qualifications as a Translator of the Bible. He ever bore the character of "a right godly man," and "a prodigious student." One competent judge speaks of him as "that great gulf of learning!" It was also said, that "the world wanted learning to know how learned this man was." And a brave old chronicler remarks, that, such was his skill in all languages, especially the Oriental, that, had he been present at the confusion of tongues at Babel, he might have served as Interpreter-General! In his funeral sermon by Dr. Buckeridge, Bishop of Rochester, it is said that Dr. Andrews was conversant with fifteen languages.
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