Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brightman, Thomas

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BRIGHTMAN, THOMAS (1562–1607), biblical commentator, was born at Nottingham, admitted a pensioner at Queens' College, Cambridge, in 1576, of which he became fellow in 1584. He graduated B.A. in 1580-1, M.A. in 1584, B.D. in 1591. In 1592. on the recommendation of Dr. Whitaker, Sir John Osborne gave him the rectory of Hawnes in Bedfordshire, with the profits of the benefice for the two preceding years, Brightman frequently discussed in his college church ceremonies with George Meriton, afterwards dean of York. As a preacher he was celebrated, though his disaffection to church establishment was no secret. It is said that he subscribed the 'Book of Discipline.' He persuaded himself and others that a work he wrote on the Apocalypse was written under divine inspiration. In it he makes the church of England the Laodicean church, and the angel that God loved the church of Geneva and the kirk of Scotland. The great object of this puritan's system of prophecy in a commentary on Daniel, as well as in his book on the Apocalypse, was to prove that the pope is that anti-Christ whose reign is limited to 1290 days or years, and who is then foredoomed by God to utter destruction. His life, says Fuller, was most angelical, by the confession of such as in judgment dissented from him. His manner was always to carry about a Greek testament, which he read over every fortnight, reading the Gospels and the Acts the first, the Epistles and the Apocalypse the second week. He was little of stature, and (though such are commonly choleric) yet never known to be moved with anger. His desire was to die a sudden death. Riding on a coach with Sir John Osborne, and reading a book (for he would lose no time), he fainted, and, though instantly taken out, died on the place on 24 Aug, 1607. He was buried, according to the parish register, on the day of his death at Hawnes. There is an inscription to him in the chancel. He was a constant student, much troubled before his death with obstructions of the liver and gall-duct, and is supposed by physicians to have died of the latter. He was never married. His funeral sermon was preached by Edward Bulkley, D.D,, sometime fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, and rector of Odell in Bedfordshire, His works in their chronological order are:

  1. 'Apocalypsis Apocalypseos, idest Apocalypsis D. Joannis analysi et scholiis illustrata; ubi ex Scriptura sensus, rerumque predictarum ex historiis eventus discutiuntur. Huic Synopsis praefigitur universalis, et Refutatio Rob, Bellormini de anti-christo libro tertio de Romano Pontifice ad finem capitis decimi septimi inseritur,' Franc. 1609, 4to, Heidelb. 1612, 8vo.
  2. 'Anti-christum Pontificiorum monstrum fictitium esse,' Ambergae, 1610, 8vo.
  3. 'Scholia in Canticum Canticorum. Explicatio summi consolatoria partis ultimo et difficillimae prophetiae Danielis a vers. 36 cap. 11 ad finem cap. 12, qua Judaeorum, tribus ultimis ipsorum hostibus funditus eversis, restitutio, et ad fidem in Christum vocatio, vivis coloribus depingitur,' Basil, 1614. At Leyden, 1616, and again at London, 1614, was printed a translation of the 'Apocalypsis,' 'with supply of many things formerly left out.' At London, 1635, 1644, 4to, a translation of his 'Explication of Daniel.'
  4. 'The Art of Self Denial, or a Christian's first lesson,' Lond. 1648.

[Walt's Bibl. Brit.; Fuller's Church History, x. 50; Brit, Mus, Cat,; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. ii, 458.]

J. M.