Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Downham, George

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DOWNHAM or DOWNAME, GEORGE (d. 1634), bishop of Derry, elder son of William Downham, bishop of Chester [q. v.], was probably born at Chester, to which see his father was elected 1 May 1561. He was elected fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1585, and logic professor in the university. Fuller describes him as one of the best Aristotelians of his time. His sermon, 17 April 1608, at the consecration of James Montague, bishop of Bath and Wells, led him into a controversy on the divine institution of episcopacy, which he had strongly maintained. James I made him one of his chaplains, and on 6 Sept. 1616 nominated him as bishop of Derry. He was consecrated on 6 Oct. His appointment was perhaps due to his strong Calvinism, which made him acceptable to the Scottish settlers in Ulster. He was among the most zealous signatories of the protestation against the toleration of popery, issued on 26 Nov. 1626, by some [not all, see Daniel, William, d. 1628] of the Irish hierarchy. Preaching on 11 April 1627 before the lord deputy at Dublin, he read out the protestation in the course of his sermon, adding 'and let all the people say, Amen.' The church shook with the sound of the response, but the deputy (Falkland) disapproved the proceeding, and sent copies of both sermon and protestation to the king. Many years before, Downham had preached a sermon at St. Pauls Cross against Arminianism, and had designed its publication in 1604. When the discourse was at length printed at Dublin, early in 1631, with an appended treatise on ' Perseverance,’ some copies which reached London came under the notice of Laud, then bishop of London. He procured the king's letters to be written to Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, for suppressing the book in England, and to Ussher, archbishop of Armagh, for similar measures in Ireland; the ground alleged being a contravention of his majesty's declaration prefixed to the articles in 1629. The royal letters, dated 24 Aug. 1631, did not reach Ussher till 18 Oct., and by this time nearly the whole of the edition of Downham's book was distributed. Ussher thought the censure of the Dublin press more properly belonged to his ‘brother of Dublin,’ Launcelot Bulkeley [q. v.]; but he promised that thereafter nothing should be published contrary to ‘his majesties sacred direction.’ This was an arbitrary step, for the English articles had not been adopted by the Irish church, nor did the king's declaration refer to any church except that of England. Downham's treatise was expressly devoted to ‘maintaining the truth’ of the thirty-eighth of the Irish articles of 1615. On two occasions, the latter being 3 Oct. 1633, Downham received powers for the apprehension of delinquents in his diocese on his own warrant. His diocese abounded in Irish-speaking ‘recusants’ (who, according to the Ulster visitation of 1622, printed in Reid, filled whole parishes), and contained many presbyterians. Downham used his authority with discretion. He anticipated the wise policy of the saintly Bedell of Kilmore [q. v.], by providing clergy who could catechise and preach in Irish; and he treated the presbyterians in a friendly spirit. He had no cathedral till in 1633 the London corporation completed the present structure at a cost of 4,000l. He died at Derry on 17 April 1634, at what age is not known, and was buried in the cathedral, or, according to Maturin, in the old Augustinian church. John Downham or Downame [q. v.] was his younger brother.

He published: 1. ‘A Treatise concerning Antichrist … against … Bellarmine,’ &c., 1603, 4to, 2 parts. 2. ‘Lectures on the 15th Psalm,’ 1604, 4to. 3. ‘The Christian's Sanctuary,’ 1604, 4to. 4. ‘Abraham's Trial,’ 1607, 12mo (a Spital Sermon preached in 1602). 5. ‘Funeral Sermon for Sir Philip Boteler,’ 1607, 12mo. 6. ‘Two Sermons … the Ministerie in generall … the office of Bishops,’ &c., 1608, 4to (the second, with separate title-page, is the one preached at Montague's consecration); 2nd edit. 1609, 4to. 7. ‘The Christian's Freedom,’ &c., 1609, 4to; another edition, Oxford, 1635, 8vo. 8. ‘Commentarius in Rami Dialecticam,’ Frankfort, 1610, 8vo (the prefixed oration is much commended by Fuller). 9. ‘A Defence of the Sermon,’ &c., 1611, 4to (four parts; in reply to ‘An Answere,’ 1609, 4to, probably by John Rainolds, D.D., to whom is also ascribed ‘A Replye,’ 1613–14, 4to; other replies were by H. Jacob, ‘An Attestation of … Divines,’ &c., 1613, 8vo; and by Paul Baynes, ‘The Diocesan's Trial,’ 1621, 4to; reprinted, 1644, 4to). 10. ‘Papa Antichristus,’ &c., 1620, 4to, 2 parts. 11. ‘Sermon,’ 1620, 4to (Matt. vi. 33). 12. ‘An Abstract of … Duties … and Sinnes,’ &c., 1620, 8vo (Watt), 1635, 8vo, edited by B. Nicoll. 13. ‘The Covenant of Grace,’&c., Dublin, 1631, 4to (appended, with separate title-page, is ‘A Treatise of the certainty of Perseverance’); reprinted 1647, 12mo. 14. ‘A Treatise of Justification,’ 1633, fol. Posthumous were: 15. ‘A Treatise against Lying,’ 1636, 4to. 16. ‘Sermon,’ 1639, 4to (2 Cor. xiii. 11). 17. ‘A … Treatise of Prayer,’ &c., Cambridge, 1640, 4to (edited by his brother John).

[Prynne's Canterburies Doome, 1646, pp. 171 sq., 434, 508 sq.; Fuller's Worthies, 1662, p. 189 (first pagination; mispaged 289); Wood's Athenæ Oxon., 1691, i. 260; Ware's Works (Harris), 1764, i. 292 sq.; Chalmers's Gen. Biog. Dict. 1813 xii. 297 sq.; Fisher's Companion and Key to Hist. of Engl., 1832, p. 756; Lewis's Topographical Dict. of Ireland, 1837, ii. 304; Collier's Eccl. Hist. of Great Britain (Barham), 1841, viii. 49; Reid's Hist. Presb. Ch. in Ireland (Killen), 1867, i. 146 sq., 159, 164, 515; records at Chester and Derry throw no light on his birth or age.]

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