Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hall, John (1633-1710)

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HALL, JOHN, D.D. (1633–1710), bishop of Bristol, son of John Hall, vicar of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, and Anne his wife, was born at his father's vicarage on 29 Jan. 1632-3. He was admitted into Merchant Taylors' School in June 1644, and proceeded to Pembroke College, Oxford, where he was under the tuition of his uncle, Edmund Hall [q. v.], at one time a captain in the parliamentary army, but then a fellow of his college. All his kinsmen belonged to the puritanic school. Another uncle, Thomas (1610-1665) [q. v.], was ejected from his living of King's Norton in 1662. His brother-in-law, John Spilsbury, held the vicarage of Bromsgrove under the Commonwealth, and was ejected at the Restoration. With Spilsbury, Hall was always on affectionate terms.

Hall became a scholar of Pembroke in 1650, and graduated B. A. in 1651, and M.A.in 1653, in which year he was elected fellow. 'Educated among presbyterians and independents,' writes Wood, ' he acted as they did, and submitted to the authority of the visitors.' He was popular in his college, and was chosen master on 31 Dec. 1664, and appointed to the college living of St. Aldate's, Oxford, which he held in commendam till his death. He took his degree of B.D. in 1666, and of D.D. in 1669. At St. Aldate's he drew, by his 'edifying way of preaching,' large congregations of 'the precise people and scholars of the university' (Wood, Athenae Oxon. iv. 900). He succeeded Dr. Thomas Barlow [q. v.] as Lady Margaret's professor of divinity on 24 March 1676. Wood calls him 'a malapert presbyterian ' when recording that he preached at St. Mary's on 5 Nov. 'sharply and bitterly against the papists,' in the first excitement of the popish plot in 1678 (Wood, Life, Ixxxi-ii). He was also domestic chaplain to Charles II. On the translation of Dr. Gilbert Ironside [q. v.] from Bristol to Hereford, Hall was elected to the former see, still continuing to hold his mastership. He was consecrated in Bow Church on 30 Aug. 1691. He still chiefly resided at Oxford, where in 1695 he built new lodgings for the master of Pembroke, and was 'known more in than out of Oxford' as 'a good man laughed at by the wits, but esteemed for his godliness by pious people' (Noble, Contin. of Granger, i. 102; Stoughton, Hist. of Religion, v. 223). In spite of his bitter prejudice against Hall's political and religious views, his contemporary Hearne acknowledges him to have been 'a learned divine, a good preacher, and an excellent lecturer.' According to Calamy he knew how to bring 'all the theology of the Westminster assembly out of the church catechism.' Of his episcopate Hearne speaks with characteristic bitterness. In nonjuring language he terms him 'one of the rebel bishops,' and describes him as 'a thorough-paced Calvinist, a defender of the republican doctrines, ever an admirer and favourer of the whiggish party, a stout and vigorous advocate for the presbyterians and dissenters, and a strenuous persecutor of truly honest men.' 'Twas to none but men of rebellious principles he bestowed his charity. Let them be what they would, if they were men of that stamp they were sure to meet encouragement from him, even if men of no learning and hardly endowed with common sense, who could cant themselves into the good esteem of the Calvinistic brethren' (Hearne, Collections, ed. Doble, ii. 343, iii. 50). A puritan by birth and education, 'he was,' writes Mr. Abbey, 'the only bishop of his time who adhered to the school which once almost monopolised the bench. . . . Almost the last of his race, in him the old puritan doctrines survived, but with none of the old enthusiasm or energy' (Abbey, The Church and her Bishops, i. 151). It was an ominous sign of the times that, on the death of Archbishop Tillotson in 1695, Hall was considered by many a fit person to succeed to the primacy. He died at Oxford, in the master's lodgings which he had built, in February 1709-10. He was buried in the church of his native parish of Bromsgrove, where a monument was erected to him on the south wall of the chancel, with a very long and laudatory epitaph by W. Adams, student of Christ Church and rector of Stanton-on-Wye, recording the zeal with which he drove back 'ingruentes Romae et Socini errores,' enlarging on his unwearied fidelity in preaching and administration, his carelessness of dignities, and his charity to the poor. During his life he was a considerable benefactor to his college. By his will he bequeathed his books to the library, which was then transferred from a room over the south aisle of St. Aldate's Church to an apartment above the hall. He also bequeathed 800l. for the benefit of the poor at Bromsgrove, and 70l. a year for the purchase of bibles for distribution in his diocese. His nephew John Spilsbury, a dissenting minister at Kidderminster, he made his heir (Palmer, Nonconf. Mem. ii. 765, iv. 893; Kennett, Reg. p. 818).

[Hearne's Collections (Oxf. Hist. Soc.); Wood's Athenae, iv. 900; Life, lxxxi-ii; Kennett's Register; Evans's Hist. of Bristol, p. 246; Godwin, De Praesul. ii. 147; Abbey's Ch. of Engl. and her Bishops, i. 151; Stoughton's Church of the Revolution, p. 223.]

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