Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baro, Peter

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BARO, PETER (1534–1599), controversialist, son of Stephen Baro and Philippa Petit, his wife, was a native of France, having been born December 1534 at Etampes, an ancient town between Paris and Orleans. Being destined for the study of the civil law, he entered at the university of Bourges, where he took his degree as bachelor in the faculty of civil law 9 April 1556. In the following year he was admitted and sworn an advocate in the court of the parliament of Paris. The doctrines of the reformers were at this time making rapid progress in France, and Bourges was one of their principal centres. Here, probably, Baro acquired those doctrinal views which led him shortly after to abandon law for divinity. In December 1560 he repaired to Geneva, and was there admitted to the ministry by Calvin himself. Returning to France he married, at Gien (on the Loire), Guillemette, the daughter of Stephen Bourgoin, and Lopsa Dozival, his wife. The 'troubles in France,' Baro tells us (whether prior to or after the massacre of St. Bartholomew does not appear), now induced him to flee to England, where he was befriended by Burghley, who admitted him to dine at his table, and, being chancellor of the university of Cambridge, exercised his influence on Baro's behalf with that body. (The foregoing facts are derived from a manuscript in Baro's own handwriting, transcribed in Baker MSS. xxix. 184-8.) He was admitted a member of Trinity College, where Whitgift was then master. The provost of King's College, Dr. Goad, engaged him to read lectures in divinity and Hebrew. In 1574, through the influence mainly of Burghley and Dr. Perne, he was chosen Lady Margaret professor of divinity. On 3 Feb. 1575-6 he was incorporated in the degrees of bachelor and licentiate of civil law, which he had taken at Bourges. In 1576 he was created D.D., and was incorporated in the same degree at Oxford on 11 July. His stipend as professor was only 20l. a year, and on 18 March 1579 the university recommended his case through the deputy public orator to the state secretaries, Walsingham and Wilson, for their consideration in the distribution of patronage, but apparently without result.

Notwithstanding his connection with Geneva, Baro appears to have gradually become averse to the narrow doctrines of the reformed or Calvinistic party, and a series of complaints preferred against him in 1581 show that he was already inclining to Arminianism, and was prepared to advocate something like tolerance even of the tenets of Rome. Between Laurence Chaderton (afterwards master of Emmanuel College at Cambridge) and himself there arose a somewhat sharp controversy; and by Chaderton's biographer (Dillingham) Baro is accused of having brought 'new doctrines' into England, and of publishing them in his printed works (Vita Laurentii Chadertoni, pp. 16-7). The controversy was amicably settled for the time; but it was again revived by the promulgation of the Lambeth Articles in 1595. These articles, which were chiefly the work of William Whitaker, the master of St. John's and the most distinguished English theologian of his day, and Humphry Tyndal, acting in conjunction with Whitgift, had undoubtedly their origin in the design to repress all further manifestations of anti-Calvinistic views, such as those on which Baro and others had recently ventured. Whitgift, writing to Dr. Neville (his successor at Trinity College) in December 1595, says: 'You may also signify to Dr. Baro that her majesty is greatly offended with him, for that he, being a stranger and so well used, dare presume to stir up or maintain any controversy in that place of what nature soever. And therefore advise him from me utterly to forbear to deal therein hereafter. I have done my endeavour to satisfy her majesty concerning him, but how it will fall out in the end I know not. Non decet hominem peregrinum curiosum esse in aliena republica' (Whitgift, Works, iii. 617). It is possible that, owing to the intervention of the Christmas vacation, this warning reached Baro too late. On 12 Jan. following he preached before the university at Great St. Mary's, and ventured to criticise the Lambeth Articles. His long labours as a scholar and his position as a professor entitled him to speak with some authority. At the same time his observations do not appear to have been conceived in any captious spirit, but rather with the design of justifying his formal acceptance of the new articles, and explaining the construction which he placed upon them. The Calvinistic party, flushed with their recent victory, were, however, incensed at his presumption; for his discourse was construed into an attempt to reopen a controversy which they fondly hoped had been set at rest for ever. Although but few of the heads were in Cambridge, the vice-chancellor, Roger Goad, felt himself under the necessity, after a consultation with one or two of their number, of communicating with Whitgift concerning 'this breach of the peace of the university.' Baro himself deemed it expedient to defend his conduct in a letter to the archbishop, and to seek a personal interview with him. His efforts were, however, without result. Whitgift looked upon his 'troublesome course of contending' as inexcusable, while he was himself too definitely pledged to the defence of the new articles to be able to entertain any proposition which involved their reconsideration or modification. Baro was cited before the vice-chancellor and heads, and required to produce the manuscript of his sermon, while he was peremptorily forbidden to enter upon further discussion of the doctrine involved in the Lambeth Articles. It is probable that the proceedings would have resulted in his actual removal from his professorial chair had it not become apparent that he was not without sympathisers and friends. Burghley interposed in his behalf with unwonted vigour, expressing his opinion that the professor had been too severely dealt with; while Overall (afterwards bishop of Norwich), Harsnet (afterwards archbishop of York), and the eminent Lancelot Andrewes, all alike declined to affirm that the views which he had put forth were heterodox. The election to the Lady Margaret professorship was, however, at that period a biennial one, and Baro's appointment terminated November 1596. Before that time, foreseeing that he would probably not be re-elected, he wrote to Burghley, offering, if continued in office, to treat of the doctrine of predestination with great caution, or even altogether to abstain from any reference to it. His appeal was not attended with success, and before the year closed he deemed it necessary to leave Cambridge. 'Fugio, ne fugarer,' the utterance attributed to him on the occasion, sufficiently indicates the moral compulsion under which he acted. Dr. John Jegon, the master of Corpus Christi College, made an effort to bring about his return. Writing to Burghley (4 Dec. 1596) he speaks of Baro as one who 'hath been here longe time a painful teacher of Hebrew and divinity to myself and others,' and 'to whome I am very willing to showe my thankful minde;' and he then proceeds to suggest that should Baro return 'and please to take pains in reading Hebrew lectures in private houses, I doubt not but to his good credit, there may be raised as great a stipend' (Masters, Life of Baker, p. 130).

Baro did not, however, return to Cambridge, but lived for the remainder of his life in London; residing, according to the statement of his grandson, 'in a house in Dyer's Yard, in Crutched Fryers Street, over against St. Olive's Church, in which he was buried' (Baker MSS. xxix. 187). He died in April 1599, and Bancroft, at that time bishop of London, who sympathised with him both in his views and in the treatment he had experienced, honoured him with an imposing funeral, in which the pall was borne by six doctors of divinity, and the procession (by the bishop's orders) included all the clergy of the city. The feature which invests Baro's career with its chief importance is the fact that he was almost the first divine in England, holding an authoritative position, who ventured to combat the endeavour to impart to the creed of the church of England a definitely ultra-Calvinistic character, and he thus takes rank as the leader in the counter movement which, under Bancroft, Andrewes, Laud, and other divines, gained such ascendency in the church of England in the first half of the following century. Writing to Nicholas Heming, the Danish theologian, from Cambridge (1 April 1596), he says: 'In this country we have hitherto been permitted to hold the same sentiments as yours on grace; but we are now scarcely allowed publicly to teach our own opinions on that subject, much less to publish them' (Arminius, Works, ed. Nichols, i. 92). Some twenty years later, it being asked at court what the Arminians held, the reply was made that they held all the best bishoprics and deaneries in England.

Baro had eight children, most of whom died young. The eldest, Peter, was a doctor of medicine, and, with Mary, his wife, was naturalised by statute 4 Jac. I. He practised at Boston in Lincolnshire, where he successfully exerted himself to uphold Arminian views (Cotton Mather, Hist. of New England, bk. iii. p. 16). A grandson, Samuel Baron, practised as a physician at Lynn Regis in Norfolk, and had a large family; his fifth son, Andrew, was elected a fellow of Peterhouse in 1664. Baro's principal published writings were:

  1. 'Praelectiones' on the Prophet Jonas, edited by Osmund Lake, of King's College, London, fol. 1579; this volume also contains 'Conciones ad Clerum' and 'Theses' maintained in the public schools.
  2. 'De Fide ejusque Ortu et Natura plana ac dilucida Explicatio,' also edited by Osmund Lake, and by him dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham, London, 8vo, 1580.
  3. 'De Praestantia et Dignitate Divinae Legis libri duo,' London, 8vo, n. d.
  4. 'A speciall Treatise of God's Prouidence,' &c., together with certain sermons ad clerum and 'Quaestiones' disputed in the schools; englished by I. L. (John Ludham), vicar of Wethersfielde, London, 8vo, n. d. and 1590.
  5. 'Summa Trium de Praedestinatione Sententiarum,' with notes, &c., by John Piscator, Francis Junius, and William Whitaker, Hardrov. 12mo, 1613 (reprinted in 'Praestantium ac Eruditorum Virorum Epistolae Ecclesiasticae et Theologicae,' 1704).

His 'Orthodox Explanation' of the Lambeth Articles (a translation of the Latin original in Trin. Coll. Lib. Camb., B. 14, 9) is printed in Strype's 'Whitgift,' App. 201.

[The account of Baro's early life, in his own handwriting, was found in the study of his great grandson at Peterhouse after the death of the latter; it was transcribed by Baker (MSS. xxix. 184-8), and abridged in Masters's Life of Baker, pp. 127-30. See Mayor's Catalogue of Baker MSS. in the University Library, Cambridge, p. 301; Cooper's Athenae Cantab. ii. 274-8; Mullinger's Hist. of the University of Cambridge, ii. 347-50; Cotton Mather's Hist. of New England; Whitgift's Works (by Parker Society, see Index); Strype's Life of Whitgift and Annals of the Reformation; Heywood and Wright's Cambridge Transactions during the Puritan Period, ii. 89-100; Nichols's Life and Works of Arminius, vol. i.; Haag's La France Protestante, 1st ed. i. 261 seq., 2nd ed. i. 866 seqq.]

J. B. M.