Bury, Arthur (DNB00)

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BURY, ARTHUR, D.D. (1624–1714?), theologian, was the son of the Rev. John Bury (1580-1667) [q. v.], and matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, on 5 April 1639, aged 15. He took his degree of B.A. on 29 Nov, 1642, was elected a Petreian fellow of his college on 30 June 1643, and become full fellow on 6 May 1645. When Oxford was garrisoned for the king. Bury laboured at the works of defence and took his turn among the guards who watched over its safety. Like most of his associates, he refused to submit to the parliamentary visitors of the university, and was driven from the city to take refuge with his sequestered father in Devonshire. At the Restoration he was restored to his fellowship, and was offered, according to his statement in after life, preferment 'more than eight times the value' of the mastership of his college, but declined the offer. In 1666 the rectorship at Exeter College became vacant, and Bury was elected (27 May), partly on the recommendation of Archbishop Sheldon and partly under instructions from Charles II (which were somewhat resented by the college) that he should be elected, 'notwithstanding any statute or custom thereof to the contrary, with which we are graciously pleased to dispense in this behalf.' On 22 June in the same year he took the degree of B.D. and five days later became D.D. Bury claimed to have introduced some improvements in the college rules, and to have expended over 700l. in the erection of college buildings and in the enlargement of the rector's lodgings; but there were disputes in 1669 over the election of fellows, when he suspended five of them at a stroke, and the visitor in 1675 complained of his management of the college property and of the laxity of the internal discipline. Against this it is only fair to state that Dean Prideaux, when speaking of the 'drinking and duncery' at Exeter College, referred to Bury as 'a man that very well understands businesse and is always very vigorous and diligent in it.' In 1689 a still more serious trouble arose. Bury had expelled one of the fellows on, as it seems, a groundless charge of incontinence, and the visitor ordered the restoration of the 'socius ejectus.' The rector was contumacious, and, when the bishop held a formal visitation, tried to shut the gates against him. Bury and his backers among the fellows were thereupon expelled, and a new rector was elected in his stead. The legality of Bury's deprivation was tried in the king's bench and carried to the House of Lords, with the result that on 10 Dec. 1694 the latter tribunal gave its decision against Bury. By his ejection his numerous family were reduced to great distress.

A treatise issued in 1690, under the title of 'The Naked Gospel, by a true son of the Church of England,' was discovered to be the work of Bury, and for some passages in it a charge of Socinianism was brought against him by his enemies. His object was to free the gospel from the additions and corruptions of later ages, and he sums up its doctrines 'in two precepts—believe and repent.' An answer to it was published in 1690 by William Nicholls, fellow of Merton College. Another reply came out in the next year from Thomas Long, B.D., and a third appeared in 1725, the latter being the work of Henry Felton, D.D. In spite of the publication by Le Clerc of 'An Historical Vindication of the Naked Gospel,' the treatise was condemned by a decree of convocation of Oxford (19 Aug. 1690) and was publicly burnt in the area of the schools. On 30 Aug. there was issued from the press a letter of fifteen pages, evidently the composition of Bury, with the title of 'The Fires continued at Oxford,' in defence of his conduct, and in 1691 he brought out, under his own name, a second edition of 'The Naked Gospel.' Twelve years later (1703) he published an enlarged work, 'The rational Deist satisfy'd by a just account of the Gospel. In two parts; second edition.' Bury was also the author of several sermons and of a tract called 'The Constant Communicant,' 1681. The titles of the pamphlets provoked by his controversies may be read in Boase and Courtney's 'Bibliotheca Cornubiensis,' ii. 772. He was one of the vicars of Bampton, Oxford, but resigned the charge in 1707. The date of his death is not known with certainty, but is believed to have been about 1714.

[Boase's Reg. of Exeter College, pp. xxxiii, lxv, 68-83, 212, 229; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs (1857), ii. 227. iii. 410-11 ; Hunt's Religious Thoughts, ii. 195-201; Account Examined, or a Vindication of Dr. Arthur Bury, 18-20; Prideaux Letters (Camden Soc.), p. 111 ; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. vii. 473, 502, 3rd ser. i. 264; Wood's Athenae Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 483; Visitation of Oxford (Camden Soc.) p. 13.]

W. P. C.