Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Green, John (1706?-1779)

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GREEN, JOHN (1706?–1779), bishop of Lincoln, was born at or near Hull (perhaps at Beverley) about 1706, and received his early education at a private school. He was then sent as a sizar to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. with distinction, and obtained a fellowship (1730). He proceeded M.A. in 1731, B.D. 1739, and D.D. 1749. On leaving Cambridge he became assistant-master, under Mr. Hunter, in the Lichfield grammar school, where he made the acquaintance of Johnson and Garrick. His first clerical appointment was to the vicarage of Hingeston, Cornwall. He then became known to Charles, duke of Somerset, the chancellor of the university of Cambridge, who appointed him his domestic chaplain. In 1747 the duke gave him the rectory of Borough Green, near Newmarket. Green appears, however, to have resided at college, where he filled the office of bursar. In 1748, on the death of Dr. Whalley, he was appointed regius professor of divinity, and soon afterwards royal chaplain. The favour of the Duke of Somerset seems to have recommended Green to the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle, who succeeded him in the chancellorship of Cambridge. In 1749 Green, after an action at law, obtained the living of Barrow in Suffolk, as senior fellow in orders of the college. In 1750, on the death of Dean Castle, master of Corpus Christi College, the fellows of that society being in a difficulty about the election of a master, referred the matter to Archbishop Herring. Herring, at the request of the Duke of Newcastle, nominated Green, who was then elected by the fellows. Green took an active but anonymous part in advocating the new regulations proposed by the chancellor of the university. He published his views in a pamphlet entitled 'The Academic, or a Disputation on the State of the University of Cambridge.' On 22 March 1751 he preached the sermon on the consecration of Dr. Keene to the see of Chester, which was afterwards printed. In October 1756 Green was promoted to the deanery of Lincoln, and resigned his professorship of divinity. He thus became eligible for the office of vice-chancellor of Cambridge, to which he was chosen in November following. Green now became one of the numerous writers against the rising sect of the methodists. He published two letters against the 'Principles and Practice of the Methodists' without his name, the first addressed to John Berridge [q. v.], the second to George Whitefield (1761). He had prepared a third letter on the same subject, but the publication of this was prevented by Archbishop Seeker, who probably considered his attacks too severe. Being on a visit to the primate, Green was desired by the archbishop to proceed no further in the controversy, as 'he looked upon the methodists to be a well-meaning set of people.' On the translation of Bishop Thomas to the see of Salisbury, Green, by the influence of his constant patron, the Duke of Newcastle, was promoted to the bishopric of Lincoln (1761). This vacated his other church preferments, but he still retained the mastership of his college. In 1762 Green visited the diocese of Canterbury as proxy for Archbishop Seeker. In 1763 he preached the 30 Jan. sermon before the House of Lords, which, as usual, was printed. In the following year he resigned his mastership at Cambridge. Lord Hardwicke, son of the famous lawyer, was greatly helped in his contest for the stewardship of Cambridge by Green. The bishop had been associated with him as a contributor to the 'Athenian Letters,' supposed to be written by a Persian residing at Athens during the Peloponnesian war (London, 1781). These were republished in a complete form in 1798 (2 vols.)

Green established a considerable literary reputation. The conversaziones of the Royal Society, which used to be held at the house of Lord Willoughby, were transferred to Green's house in Scotland Yard in 1765. His interest at court also continued to be good, as in 1771, on a representation that the revenues of his diocese were too small for his wants, he attained a residentiary canonry at St. Paul's, to be held in commendam. The bishop now removed to his residentiary house in Amen Court, and he also had a house at Edmonton. He does not appear to have resided much in his diocese. In 1772 he distinguished himself in the House of Lords by being the only bishop to vote in favour of the bill for the relief of protestant dissenters, who, as the law then stood, were required to subscribe the doctrinal articles of the church of England. The bill was rejected by 102 to 27, but seven years afterwards was carried. Green died suddenly at Bath on 25 April 1779. He appears to have enjoyed a high position in society, but was not remarkable as a theologian, nor as an active administrator of his diocese.

[Gent. Mag. 1779 p. 234, 1781, p. 624, and 1782 pp. 167, 227; Cat. Grad. Cant.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. of Eighteenth Cent. vols. viii. ix.; Parl. Hist. vol. xvii.]

G. G. P.