Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Barlow, Thomas (1607-1691)
BARLOW, THOMAS (1607–1691), bishop of Lincoln, was descended from an ancient family seated at Barlow Moor near Manchester. His father, Richard Barlow, resided at Long-gill in the parish of Orton, Westmoreland, where the future bishop was born in 1607 (Barlow's Genuine Remains, p. 182). He was educated at the grammar school at Appleby, under Mr. W. Pickering. In his seventeenth year he entered Queen's College, Oxford, as a servitor, rising to be a tabarder, taking his degree of B.A. in 1630, and M.A. in 1633, in which year he was elected fellow of his college. In 1635 he was appointed metaphysical reader to the university, in which capacity he delivered lectures which were more than once published under the title 'Exercitationes aliquot Metaphysicae de Deo.' His father dying in 1637, Barlow printed a small volume of elegies in his honour, written by himself and other members of his college, entitled 'Pietas in Patrem.' Barlow was regarded as a master of casuistry, logic, and philosophy, in which subjects he had as his pupil the celebrated independent, John Owen, who, as dean of Christ Church and perpetual vice-chancellor, was the ruling power at Oxford during the Protectorate. Among other distinguished associates of Barlow may be mentioned Sanderson, then regius professor of divinity (1642-8), and Robert Boyle, who made Oxford his chief residence (1654-68), whose 'esteem and friendship' he 'gained in the highest degree,' being 'consulted by him in cases of conscience' (Birch's Life of Boyle, p. 113). Barlow's 'prodigious reading and proportionable memory' rendered him one of the chief authorities of the university on points of controversial divinity and cases of casuistry. He was regarded as 'a great master of the whole controversy between the protestants and the papists,' being the uncompromising opponent of the latter, whose salvation he could only allow on the plea of 'invincible ignorance' (Barlow, Genuine Remains, pp. 190-205, 224-31, ed. 1693). He was a decided Calvinist, strongly opposed to the Arminian tenets of Jeremy Taylor and Bull and their school. During this period he was one of the chief champions of what were then considered orthodox views at Oxford, uniting, together with Dr. Tully, a much higher Calvinist than himself, in 'keeping the university from being poisoned with Pelagianism, Socinianism, popery, &c.' (Wood, Athen. Oxon. iii. 1058). Kippis says of him that he was 'an universal lover and favourer of learned men of what country or denomination soever.' Thus we find him 'offering an assisting hand' and showing 'publick favours' to Anthony à Wood, afterwards his ill-natured maligner (Wood, Life, xxiii, lix); patronising the learned German, Anthony Horneck, and appointing him to the chaplaincy of Queen's soon after his entrance at that college in 1663 (Kidder's Life of Horneck, p. 4); helping Fuller in the compilation of his 'Church History,' particularly with regard to the university of Oxford (Fuller, Ch. Hist. ii. 293, ed. Brewer); and even 'receiving' at the Bodleian 'with great humanity' the celebrated chaplain and confessor of Henrietta Maria, Davenport, otherwise a Sancta Clara, when visiting Oxford 'in his troubled obscurity' (Wood, Athen. Oxon. iii. 1223). Barlow was by constitution what was contemptuously called a 'trimmer.' Naturally timid, his casuistical training provided him on each occasion with arguments for compliance which always leant to the side of his own self-interest. The freedom with which he regarded some important tenets of the Anglican church is shown by the somewhat depreciating tone in which he spoke of infant baptism in a letter written to Tombes, the anabaptist divine, a letter which, to his honour, he is said to have refused to withdraw when, after the Restoration, it affected his position at the university and damaged his prospect of preferment in the church (Birch, Life of Boyle, p. 299).
On the surrender of Oxford to Fairfax in 1646, Barlow accommodated himself to his changed circumstances without any apparent difficulty. Two years later, when the university was purged of malignants, Barlow was one of the fortunate few who escaped ejection. We may safely set aside Anthony à Wood's spiteful story that he secured the favour of Colonel Kelsey, the deputy-governor of the garrison, by making presents to his wife, and accept the statement of Walker (Sufferings of the Clergy, pt. ii. p. 132) that the retention of his fellowship was due to Selden and his former pupil Owen, then all-powerful in the university, by whom Barlow's learning and intellectual power were justly appreciated. It is certainly surprising, considering his caution against committing himself, except on the winning side, to find him contributing anonymously to the flood of scurrilous tracts issuing from the press on the parliamentary visitation of Oxford in 1648 a pamphlet entitled 'Pegasus, or the Flying Horse from Oxford, bringing the Proceedings of the Visitors and other Bedlamites,' in which, with a heavy lumbering attempt at wit, he endeavoured to hold up the proceedings of the visitors to ridicule. In spite of this indiscretion Barlow retained his fellowship all through the Protectorate, rising from one dignity to another, and finally becoming provost of his college in 1657. He occupied the rooms over the old gateway of the college, now pulled down, which tradition pointed out as those once tenanted by Henry V. On the death of John Rouse, Barlow, then in his forty-sixth year, was elected to the librarianship of the Bodleian on 6 April 1642, a post which he held until he succeeded to the Lady Margaret professorship in 1660, being 'a library in himself and the keeper of another,' 'than whom,' writes Dr. Bliss, 'no person was more conversant in the books and literary history of his period' (Wood, Athen. Oxon. iii. 64). Barlow proved a careful guardian of the literary treasures committed to his charge, opposing 'both on statute and on principle the lax habit of lending books, which had been the cause of serious losses.' He is, however, charged with carelessness in keeping the register of new acquisitions to the library (Macray, Annals of the Bodl. Lib. pp. 79, 84, 100).
On the death of Dr. Langbaine in 1657 Barlow became head of his college. The next year, 1658, we find Robert Boyle employing his 'dear friend' Barlow to communicate to Sanderson, then living in extreme poverty with his wife and family on his plundered benefice, his request that he would review his lectures 'De Conscientia,' accompanied with the gift of 50l., professedly to pay an amanuensis, with the promise of the same sum yearly. Barlow was a frequent correspondent of Sanderson's, who 'resolved his doubts on casuistical points by his letters.' Two of these on 'original sin,' against Jeremy Taylor, are published in Jacobson's edition of Sanderson's Works (vi. 384, 389).
On the Restoration, Barlow at once adapted himself to the change of rulers. He was one of the commissioners for restoring the members of the university who had been ejected in 1648, and for the expulsion of the intruders. He repaid the kindness shown him by Owen under similar circumstances, by mediating with the lord chancellor on his behalf after his expulsion from the deanery of Christ Church, when he was molested for preaching in his own house.
Among those who were now called to suffer by the turn of the wheel was Dr. Wilkinson, Lady Margaret professor of divinity, into whose place Barlow stepped, together with the stall at Worcester annexed to the chair, on 25 Sept. 1660. A few days before, 1 Sept., he had taken his degree of D.D., one of a batch, Wood spitefully remarks, created by royal mandate 'as loyalists, though none of them save one had suffered for their loyalty in the times of rebellion and usurpation' (Fasti, ii. 238). The following year, 1661, on the death of Dr. Barton Holiday, Barlow was appointed archdeacon of Oxford; but through a dispute between him and Dr. Thomas Lamplugh, ultimately decided in Barlow's favour, he was not installed till 13 June 1664.
At this epoch Barlow, at the request of Robert Boyle, wrote an elaborate treatise on 'Toleration in Matters of Religion.' What he wrote was, however, not published till after his death (in his 'Cases of Conscience,' 1692), Boyle 'fearing on the one hand that it would not be strong enough to restrain the violent measures against the nonconformists, so, on the other, it might expose the writer to the resentment of his brethren.' Barlow's reasoning is based rather on expediency than on principle. He is careful to show that the toleration in religion he advocates does not extend to atheists, papists, or quakers. At an earlier period, on the Jews making application to Cromwell for readmission into England, Barlow, 'at the request of a person of quality,' had composed a tract on the 'Toleration of the Jews in a Christian State,' published in the same collection of 'Cases of Conscience.'
Barlow was a declared enemy of the 'new philosophy' propounded by the leading members of the Royal Society, which he absurdly stigmatised as 'impious if not plainly atheistical, set on foot and carried on by the arts of Rome,' designing thereby to ruin the protestant faith by disabling men to defend the truth (see Barlow's Censure of a Lecture before the Royal Society, 1674, by Sir William Petty; and his second letter, Gen. Mem. pp. 151–159). His 'Directions to a young Divine for his Study of Divinity' belong to this period. They contain a carefully compiled catalogue of theological works classified according to subjects, with remarks on their value and character.
Barlow is accused by Wood of underhand meddling in the election of Dr. Clayton to the wardenship of Merton in 1661 (Wood, Life, vii, xlii). When pro-vice-chancellor in 1673 he called in question one Richards, chaplain of All Souls, for Arminian doctrine in a sermon at St. Mary's (ibid. lxxi). On the publication of Bull's 'Harmonia Apostolica,' Barlow pronounced a severe censure on his doctrine, and applied very scurrilous epithets to the author. Bull, hearing of Barlow's opprobrious treatment of his work, came to Oxford and offered to clear himself by a public disputation. Barlow is said to have endeavoured at first to deny or extenuate the charge, and altogether declined Bull's challenge, showing that 'the person who had been so forward to defame him in his absence durst not make good the charge to his face' (Nelson's Life of Bull, pp. 90, 181, 211). During this period Barlow wrote much, but published little. He added a preface to an edition of Ussher's 'Chronologia Sacra,' Oxon, 1660, and also to Holyoke's 'Latin Dictionary,' 1677. 'Mr. Cottington's Divorce Case,' on which Barlow's reputation as an ecclesiastical lawyer and casuistical divine mainly rests, was written in 1671. It displays a very extensive acquaintance with the writings of the chief authorities on canon law, and a complete command of their writings. The curious may read the whole in Barlow's 'Cases of Conscience' (No. iv.) In 1673, having as archdeacon of Oxford received from his bishop, the weak and courtly Crewe, the archbishop's orders concerning catechising, revived by royal authority, to communicate to the clergy of the diocese, Barlow, with covert malice, teazed the bishop, who was suspected of secretly favouring the Romish faith, by inquiries whether the 'sects' complained of in the archbishop's letter included ' papists,' and if their children were to be summoned to be catechised. Crewe resented being catechised in his turn, and a correspondence ensued which may be found in Barlow's 'Remains' (pp. 141-150).
Barlow took a prominent part in the two abortive schemes of comprehension which were set on foot in October 1667, and February 1668. The 'Comprehensive Bill,' as it was styled, was based on Charles II's declaration from Breda. It was drawn by Sir Robert Atkyns and Sir Matthew Hale, and revised and endorsed by Barlow and his friend Bishop Wilkins. The introduction of the bill was frustrated by a declaration of the House of Commons, and the whole plan was finally dropped. A careful report of the whole proceeding, written by Barlow, exists in manuscript in the Bodleian library, and is printed in Thorndike's Works (Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, v. 302-8; Stoughton's Church of the Restoration, iii. 371-9).
The credit of having been the means of obtaining the release of John Bunyan, the author of the 'Pilgrim's Progress' from his twelve years imprisonment in Bedford gaol, was erroneously assigned to Barlow by Bunyan's earliest biographer, Charles Doe, and the error was repeated with fuller details in the life of Barlow's famous pupil, Dr. John Owen, published in 1721. Bunyan, however, was set at liberty in 1672, and Barlow did not become bishop of Lincoln till 1675. It is not improbable that Barlow, as bishop, may have procured this favour for some friend of Bunyan at Owen's request, and that the mistake has thus arisen.
On the death of Fuller, bishop of Lincoln, 22 April 1675, Barlow, then in his sixty-ninth year, at last attained his long-desired elevation to the episcopate. Anthony à Wood charges him with indecent eagerness for the mitre, which he gained, against Archbishop Sheldon's wishes, through the good offices of the two secretaries of state, Sir Joseph Williamson and Mr. H. Coventry, both of Queen's College, the latter having been his pupil. He is said to have obtained the promise of the see on the very day of Bishop Fuller's death, and without an hour's delay to have been introduced into the royal presence and kissed hands. It deserves notice that Barlow's consecration (27 June) did not take place in the customary place, Lambeth chapel, but in the chapel attached to the palace of the Bishop of Ely (then Peter Gunning) in Holborn, and that Bishop Morley of Winchester, not the primate, was the consecrating prelate. Evelyn notes that he was present at the consecration of 'his worthy friend the learned Dr. Barlow, at Ely House, and that it was 'succeeded by a magnificent feast' (Diary, ii. 310, ed. 1879). Entering on a bishopric is always a costly business, and Barlow prudently kept his archdeaconry in commendam for a couple of years after his consecration (Wood, Fasti, ii. 345).
Barlow resided so constantly at the episcopal palace at Buckden, near Huntingdon, and was so little seen in other parts of the diocese, that he was contemptuously styled the 'Bishop of Bugden,' and charged with never having entered his cathedral. Whether he ever visited Lincoln after he became bishop is uncertain, but that Barlow was not an absolute stranger to Lincoln is proved by a manuscript letter, written from Oxford half a year after his consecration, to Dr. Honywood, the dean, preserved in the chapter muniments, in which he says: 'I have seene and love ye place, and like it as ye fittest place of my abode, . . . but for some reasons I must a while reside at Bugden till I can make better accommodation at Lincoln for my abode there.' The ruined palace at Lincoln was at this time quite insufficient for a bishop's residence, but the 'better accommodation' proposed by Barlow was never provided until his prolonged absence from his cathedral city became a matter of public scandal. One of his own officials, Cawley, archdeacon of Lincoln, went so far as to publish a work affirming that bishops ought to reside in the cities where their cathedrals stand (Tanner MSS.). The Marquis of Halifax having remonstrated with Barlow on the subject in 1684, he wrote an elaborate apology, urging his age and infirmities, the example of his predecessors, and the central position of Buckden, but promising that as soon as God gave him ability he would not fail to visit Lincoln (Genuine Remains, p. 156). At the same time he told his friend, Sir Peter Pett, that the real ground of animadversion was not his absence from Lincoln, but the fact that he was 'an enemy to Rome and the miscalled catholic religion,' and that 'God willing, while he lived he would be so' (ibid.). This professed enmity to popery Barlow lost no opportunity of declaring, as long as to do so fell in with the popular feeling of the country. In 1678, when Titus Oates and his 'plot' had infected the whole nation with madness, he publicly declared his bitter enmity to the papists, and to their supposed leader, the Duke of York. On the introduction of the bill enforcing a test against popery which excluded Roman catholic peers from the House of Lords, Bishop Gunning of Ely having defended the church of Rome from the charge of idolatry, Barlow answered him with much vehemence and learning (Burnet, Own Time, i. 436). When two years later, 1680, while the madness was still at its height, James had been presented by Shaftesbury and others as a 'popish recusant,' he took the opportunity of lashing the nation to further fury by the republication, under the title of 'Brutum Fulmen,' of the bulls of Popes Pius V and Paul III pronouncing the excommunication and deposition of Queen Elizabeth and of Henry VIII, with inflammatory animadversions thereon, and learned proofs that 'the pope is the great Antichrist, the man of sin, and the son of perdition.' In 1682 appeared Barlow's answer to the inquiry 'whether the Turk or pope be the greater Antichrist,' giving the palm to the latter (Gen. Rem. 228), and in 1684 his letter to the Earl of Anglesey proving that 'the pope is Antichrist' (ibid. 190). When, 'on Mr. St. John's having been unfortunately convicted for the unhappy death of Sir William Estcourt,' Charles II, fast becoming absolute, interposed the royal prerogative for his pardon, Bishop Barlow published an elaborate tract, 1684-5, in support of the regal power to dispense with the penal laws. This tract was succeeded by 'a case of conscience,' proving that kings and supreme powers have the authority to dispense with the positive precept condemning murderers to death. In the same year (1684) when the persecutions against the nonconformists increased in violence, the quarter sessions of Bedford having published 'a sharp order,' enforcing strict conformity, Barlow, ever discreetly following the tide, issued a letter to the clergy of his diocese, requiring them to publish the order in their churches (Gen. Rem. pp. 641-3). A 'free answer' was written to this letter by John Howe (Calamy's Memoir of Howe, pp. 104-112).
A dispute arising in the parish of Moulton in South Lincolnshire, celebrated in the courts as the case of the 'Moulton images,' gave Barlow an occasion to display his strong anti-popish bias. The churchwardens and leading parishioners, desirous to make their church more decent and comely, obtained a faculty from the deputy-chancellor of the diocese to place the communion table at the east end of the chancel and to fence it in with rails, and at the same time to adorn the walls of the church with paintings of the apostles and other sacred emblems. When done, the pictures proved very obnoxious to the puritanically disposed vicar, Mr. Tallents, and on his protest the bishop's chancellor, Dr. Foster, annulled his deputy's decree. Barlow, being appealed to, sided with the remonstrants, and wrote an elaborate 'Breviate of the Case,' setting forth with great learning the illegality of the whole proceeding. The parishioners, however, appealed to the court of Arches, and the dean Sir Richard Lloyd, gave sentence, 7 Jan. 1685, in their favour, and condemned the vicar and his abettors in costs. Barlow's 'Breviate' was printed after his death in his 'Cases of Conscience' (No. vi.), in the preface to which, by a complete misconception of the editor, it is represented as being called forth by the prosecution of the bishop in the court of Arches for allowing the so-called 'images' to be defaced, and to have been the means of stopping the whole proceedings.
The death of Charles II at once caused a complete reversal of Barlow's policy. He was one of the first to declare his loyal affection for his new sovereign. When James issued his first declaration for liberty of conscience, he was one of the four bishops who, 'gained by the court,' carried 'their compliance to so shameful a pitch' as to send up an address of thanks to the sovereign for his promise to allow the bishops and clergy and their congregations the free exercise of their religion and quiet enjoyment of their possessions, and caused it to be signed by six hundred of his clergy, issuing a letter in defence of his conduct (Gen. Rem. p. 340; Echard, Hist. of Engl. iii. 821). He was much vexed at the refusal of Dr. Gardiner, then sub-dean and afterwards bishop of Lincoln, to sign the address (Tanner MSS.). On the appearance of the second declaration, 1688, Barlow, apparently awake to the probable turn in public affairs, addressed to his clergy a characteristic letter. The caution with which the trimming prelate seeks to avoid committing himself either way, that he may not be compromised whatever course events might take, would be amusing were it less despicable (Kennett, Complete History, iii. 512, note i; Stoughton, Church of the Restoration, iv. 147). This characteristic letter was dated 29 May 1688, a month previous to the famous acquittal of his seven episcopal brethren. A few months later we find Barlow voting among the bishops that James had abdicated, and calmly taking the oaths to his successors. Nor was any bishop, if Wood is to be believed, 'more ready than he to put in and supply the places of those of the clergy who refused the oaths, just after the time was terminated for them to take the same, 9 Feb. 1689 (Ath. Oxon. 335). Barlow died at Buckden in the eighty-fifth year of his age, 8 Oct. 1691, and was buried in the chancel of the parish church, by his own desire occupying the same grave as his predecessor, William Barlow (d. 1613) [q. v.], a monument being affixed to the north wall commemorating both in an epitaph of his own composition. Such of his works as were not already in the Bodleian Library he bequeathed to the university of Oxford, and the remainder to his own college, Queen's, where a new library was erected to receive them, 1693. Barlow's portrait was bequeathed by Bishop Cartwright of Chester, to be hung up and kept for ever in the provost's lodgings. Arthur, Earl of Anglesey, in his 'Memoirs,' p. 20, gives Barlow this high commendation: 'I never think of this bishop nor of his incomparable knowledge both in theology and church history and in the ecclesiastical law without applying to him in my thoughts the character that Cicero gave Crassus: "Non unus e multis, sed unus inter omnes prope singularis. '
His published works, as given by Wood, are: 1. 'Pietas in Patrem,' Oxon. 1637. 2. 'Exercitationes aliquot Metaphysicæ de Deo,' Oxon. 1637, 1658. 3. 'Pegasus, or the Flying Horse from Oxford,' 1648. 4. 'Popery, or the Principles and Position of the Church of Rome very dangerous to all,' London, 1678. 5. 'Concerning the Invocation of Saints,' London, 1679. 6. 'The Rights of the Bishops to judge in Capital Cases cleared,' Lond. 1680. 7. 'Brutum Fulmen,' Lond. 1681. 8. 'Discourse concerning the Laws made against Heretics by Popes, Emperors, and Kings,' Lond. 1682. 9. 'Letter for putting in Execution the Laws against Dissenters,' 1684. 10. 'Plain Reasons why a Protestant of the Church of England should not turn Roman Catholic,' Lond. 1688. 11. 'Cases of Conscience,' Lond. 1692. 12. 'Genuine Remains,' published by Sir Peter Pett, Lond. 1693, 'Containing divers Discourses Theological, Philosophical, Historical, &c., in Letters to several Persons of Honour and Quality, to which is[Wood's Life, Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 333, 880; Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), i. 454, 469, ii. 201, 238; Kippis's Biog.; Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library; Nelson's Life of Bull; Kidder's Life of Horneck; Birch's Life of Robert Boyle; Bp. Sanderson's Works, ed. Jacobson, vols. ii., vi.; Calamy's Life of Howe; Thorndike's Works (Anglo-Catholic Library), vol. v.; Burnet's Own Time, i. 436; Kennett's Complete History, iii. 512; Evelyn's Diary, ii. 310, ed. 1879; Walker's Sufferings; Fuller's Church Hist. ii. 293, ed. Brewer; The Genuine Remains of Bishop Barlow; Tanner MSS. in Bodleian Library, 2479-2511.] the Resolution of many Abstruse Points, as also Directions to a Young Divine for his study of Divinity and choice of Books.' This posthumous collection contains no fewer than seventy-six different tracts and letters on a large variety of subjects. Many were private letters, and few, if any, were intended for publication. The most considerable is the 'Directions to a Young Divine.' 13. (a) 'Explicatio Inscriptionis Græcæ,' (b) 'Directions for the Study of the English History and Antiquities,' appended to Archdeacon Taylor's 'Commentarius ad legem Decemiviralem,' Cant. 1742.