Historical account of Lisbon college/Chapter 4

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The appointment on June 29, 1655, of Dr. Godden to the Presidency in succession to Dr. Clayton, marks the commencement of the most glorious period in the history of the College. He was one of the most distinguished members it ever had, and in conjunction with the famous Dr. Sergeant his contemporary, by their brilliant writings in defence of the Church against the attacks of the most learned and redoubtable controversialists ever produced by the Established Church, shed the greatest lustre upon the College which claimed them as its members.

Dr. Godden whose true name was Tylden was a native of London, belonged to a family of good position, and was born of Protestant parents about the year 1622. He commenced his academical career in Queen s College, Oxford, whence he was removed to Cambridge and after five years application to Philosophy, took the degree of Bachelor of Arts in the College of St. John.

During this period he first formed an intimacy with Dr. John Sergeant, who, having himself discovered the path of truth, lost no time in bringing his friend to the same.

To remove the new converts from the danger to which the society of their late friends would have ex posed them, they were sent at their own request to the College at Lisbon, where they arrived on November 4, 1643.

After eight months spent in devotional exercises, they were on June 29, 1664, admitted alumni. Dr. Godden was then in his twenty-third year, Dr. Sergeant in his twenty-second. Even during the time of their preparatory studies, their intellectual exertions greatly added to the reputation of the College, whilst their eminent virtue did honour to their mental acquirements. Dr. Godden before he completed his course maintained three public Theses, two in Philosophy and one in Theology, all of which were attended with the most flattering success. Nature had gifted him with powers of reasoning of the highest order, and the laurels which he afterwards gained in his many contests with the adversaries of the Faith, fully justified the favourable presages, which were made thus early of his abilities. He revisited England in 1650, and the first happy fruit of his labours was the conversion of his mother to the Catholic Faith. He returned however to the College in the same year, where he commenced a Course of Philosophical Lectures and continued in this employment till 1653. In the February of the following year, he was appointed Professor of Theology and in that capacity gave lectures till the month of May, when his disciples were by order of the English Chapter transferred to a Seminary of the Oratorians in France, a measure dictated by the impoverished state of the College finances. Having successively filled the offices of Prefect of Studies and Vice-President, he undertook, on the death of Dr. Clayton, the entire management of the House, acting at the same time as Procurator. He was afterwards appointed President by a regular diploma of Bishop Smith who died the same year, 1654.

An accident however prevented Dr. Godden from receiving this first Official Deed of his nomination, and it was not until after the death of the above mentioned Prelate that he was by official letter from the Chapter, bearing date June 29, 1655, formally invested with the Presidency.

From this period Dr. Godden applied himself with redoubled assiduity to promote the interests of the establishment entrusted to his care. The Annals of the College record a number of improvements which the charitable donations of his friends enabled him to carry out. These occupations however did not hinder him from continuing his literary pursuits. His proficiency in the Portuguese language enabled him to exercise his zeal by public exhortations to the people, a practice which has sometimes been imitated by his successors, but of which he stands the first instance upon record. In April, 1660, he was made Doctor of Divinity. But a new field was now opening for the display of his abilities.

In the year 1661, he was appointed Chaplain and Preceptor to the Princess Catharine of Portugal, the destined Consort of King Charles II, and the year following he accompanied her to England. This appointment is evidence of his singular merit, and the high estimation in which he was held. The sufferings and fidelity of the Catholics in the royal cause, had earned for them a short suspension of that cruel and violent persecution with which they had been so long harassed. The clerical persons in the Queen s suite met with every mark of respect, and Dr. Godden had apartments allotted to him in the royal Palace of Somerset House. Here he found abundant opportunities of exercising his zeal and talents in religious and charitable works, and the reputation which he enjoyed brought him to the notice of the King.

It was during this period that he engaged in the celebrated controversy with Dr. Stillingfleet, which perhaps, owing to the great reputation of his opponent, has contributed more than any other event to perpetuate his memory. The occasion of this encounter was an assertion made by Stillingfleet, that though a person born and educated in the Catholic Faith could be saved, salvation was not attainable by those who should em brace Catholicity in case they had been educated in the doctrine of the Reformation. Dr. Godden s telling reply which did not admit of any direct or satisfactory answer, drew from the pen of Stillingfleet a volume of unjust charges and abuse against the Catholic Church. Dr. Godden, victorious in his first encounter, now stood forth in vindication of the Doctrines of the Church in general, and wrote his "Just Discharge to Dr. Stillingfleet s unjust charge against the Catholic Church," and so ably did he acquit himself that he left his adversary no chance of meeting him with a direct reply.

But the period of security which the Catholics en joyed was of short duration. A storm was gathering and Dr. Godden had only just time to shelter himself from it. Public feeling had been excited to the utmost against Catholics, by the rumours associated with Gates Plot, and the numerous calumnies and perjuries circulated by the infamous Prance, the ready abettor of Titus Oates. This scoundrel, among a thousand perjuries which he afterwards acknowledged, made oath that the murdered body of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, a Protestant Magistrate, had been concealed in Dr. Godden's apartment. Though destitute of every degree of probability this deposition easily gained credit among men, whose passions had been roused by repeated tales of Catholic plots, invasions and assassinations.

Dr. Godden, to avoid the fate that was preparing for him, fled into France, but his servant Hill was seized and executed.

After three years residence in Paris, during which time popular fanaticism had considerably abated in England, Dr. Godden returned to his former dwelling and occupation in Somerset House. He died in the year 1688, about the sixty-sixth year of his age, while as Dodd remarks, the nation was struggling in the pangs of a revolution. In his Will he bequeathed to the College a sum of money on condition that a solemn Office and Mass should be performed annually for him, on the Thursday nearest the Festival of St. Andrew the Apostle. By a clause, he manifests his affection towards the Community over which he once presided, directing that a second course should always be added on that day, to the ordinary College fare. He was buried in a vault under the chapel in Somerset House. Dodd, Eccles. History, Vol. 3.

His principal published works are the following:

  1. Catholics no Idolaters, or a full refutation of Stillingfleefs unjust charge of Idolatry against the Church of Rome. [London, 1671.]
  2. A Just Discharge to Dr. Stilling fleets Unjust Charge against the Church of Rome. [Paris, 1677.]
  3. A Treatise concerning the Oath of Supremacy.
  4. A Sermon on St. Peter, preached before Her Majesty the Queen Dowager, on June 29th, 1686.
  5. A relation of a Conference before His Majesty and the Earl of Rochester concerning the Real Presence and Transubstantiation.
  6. A Sermon on the Nativity of Our Lord, preached before the Queen Dowager, in her chapel, Somerset House, Christmas Day, 1686.

Contemporary with Dr. Godden, his friend before his conversion, and his companion in College, was Dr. John Sergeant, to whom the reader has been already introduced. This bright ornament and devoted son of Lisbon College was born about the commencement of 1623. At an early age he was placed in St. John's College, Cam bridge, where his superior talents soon drew upon him notice and applause. After five years application to Philosophy he took the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and was received into the family of the celebrated champion of Protestantism, Dr. Morton, Bishop of Durham, in quality of secretary.

In this position he had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with all the Controversies in which the Doctor was engaged, and his attention was thus drawn to the unjustifiable means of which his patron did not hesitate to avail himself in defence of his principles and doctrines. The unscrupulous use of spurious quotations and garbled texts of which he was a witness, could not fail to produce in a mind sincerely anxious for the truth, a serious misgiving as to the cause, in support of which they were employed. Sergeant, however, for some time dissembled his uneasiness. Among his companions at the table of the Bishop, was one Matthews, previously an alumnus of the English College of Rome, but now an apostate from the Catholic Faith. To him on one occasion Sergeant communicated his doubts as to the truth of the Protestant Faith, and disclosed to him the impression which the palpable falsehoods contained in the Bishop s writings had made upon his mind.

Matthews expressed no surprise at what he heard, but smiling apparently at his friend s simplicity, replied, that such artifices were common in the writings of those who impugned the truth. This acknowledgement on the part of an apostate influenced Sergeant even more powerfully than the bad faith of his Patron, and he became anxious to find some able and secure guide to the truth. In this he succeeded, through the recommendation of this very Matthews, who directed him to the Rev. Dr. Gage.

The result of the interview was his own conversion and that of Dr. Godden to the true faith. "Thus," observe the College Annals, " did God by means of one sheep which had determined to perish, conduct two others to His Fold."

After completing his Theological studies, Dr. Sergeant was ordained priest, March 12, 1650, and in the same month of the following year was nominated Master of Humanities. In April, 1652, he was appointed Procurator, an office he held for only six months, resigning it for that of Prefect of Studies.

At the pressing instance of his friends and Superiors he returned to England in 1653, and his missionary labours were crowned with wonderful success. In addition to his own relatives he reconciled to the Church innumerable others; and during this period gave a specimen of his controversial powers, which inspired his opponents with a salutary dread of crossing swords with him. The famed Dr. Hammond, Archdeacon of Chichester, had lately published a bitter invective against the Catholic Church, attempting to prove that the Bishop of Rome was the real author of the schism. Sergeant undertook to reply, and acquitted himself to the entire satisfaction of his brethren. Never was victory more complete; the friends of Dr. Hammond acknowledged this, and shame and remorse are said to have shortened the days of this adversary.

By order of the Chapter, Sergeant returned to Lisbon, in August, 1654, where he resumed the offices of Procurator and Prefect of Studies till the following March, when he was appointed Professor of Philosophy. About three months after, news arrived of the death of Bishop Smith, and Sergeant was deputed to assist at a new election, in the name of the College, as also to attend to some matters connected with the establishment. Immediately after his arrival in England, he was appointed Canon and Secretary to the Chapter, and his discharge of the duties connected with this position gave universal satisfaction. About the same time, 1654, he published his second controversial work entitled Schism Despatched, which was a rejoinder to the reply which Dr. Hammond and Bishop Bramhall had given to his first publication. We may gather how great was the influence of Sergeant s writings, from the fact that the most learned members of the Established Church entered the lists against him.

It will suffice to mention the names of Piercy, Taylor, Casaubon, Tenison, Stillingfleet, Whitby and Tillotson, all of them antagonists practised in the field of controversy, to prove the intellectual calibre of him, who faced successively each one of them in the contest, and bore away from all the palm of victory. His publications, which amount to no less than forty, are remarkable for clear and conclusive argument, a style correct and, considering the age in which he lived, not deficient in elegance. The impetuosity of his genius, and his fondness for the daring metaphysics of Dr. Blacklow, sometimes unfortunately led him into modes of expression which gave offence to his brethren, and three propositions extracted from his works were censured in an assembly of Parisian Theologians.

Dr. Sergeant urged in his defence that the propositions
"Dr. John Sargeant"


as explained by the context were free from error, and it was unfair to judge of an author s sentiments by a few isolated sentences. The plea, though deemed evasive by some of his accusers, was admitted by the Archbishop of Paris.

These contests and the troubles attending them, did not interrupt Dr. Sergeant in his missionary labours, nor prevent him from giving many proofs of his love for his Mother College. For the trifling salary of £10, he transacted the College affairs in England during the last forty years of his life, and by the liberal donations he was instrumental in procuring for it, contributed not a little to its support. After a long life of continual labours and exertions in the cause of truth, death came to him whilst holding his pen in his hand in 1707, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, and the fifty-seventh of his priesthood.

The College possesses his portrait with the following motto:

"Sine fictione didici et sine invidia communico."

A comparative sketch of the two illustrious men whose memoirs have just been given, drawn by the pen of Dr. Russell, the Bishop of Vizeu in Portugal, who was their contemporary at College and was therefore intimately acquainted with them, will doubtless be of interest. A copy of the original, in Latin, is inserted in the Annals of the College, of which the following is a translation:

"In their temper and genius there was little resemblance. In Sergeant appeared a lively imagination; in Godden, imagination tempered by an accurate judgement. In Poetry and the Belles Lettres, in every kind of verse as well as in prose, Sergeant displayed a peculiar and happy dexterity. Godden with equal abilities for every species of literature, was in his Humanity studies more than a match for all his companions, in those of Philosophy and Theology decidedly their superior.

"Sergeant, dissatisfied with the beaten track of Aristoletian Philosophy in which, with a multitude of occult qualities, almost everything is problematically disputed upon, anxiously sought after certainty, and gave to the Philosophers of our own times the most assiduous perusal. Godden observed a different conduct, and humbly embracing that occupation which God gave to man, rested in the opinion that Philosophical enquiries should be pursued only as far as Christian Philosophy ministers to true Theology and the Mysteries of Faith. During their residence at College, nothing appeared in the conduct of Sergeant that merited reproof; in Godden nothing but what merited esteem, nothing but what merited admiration. The virtues necessary to form the Apostolic Missionary were not deficient in Sergeant; in Godden they were eminently conspicuous. After their ad mission to Holy Orders and the Priesthood, in both was observed the same tenor of conduct, the same piety, the same obedience to Superiors; unless, perhaps, the zeal of Sergeant for the salvation of souls was distinguished for its vehemence; that of Godden for its prudence. The temper of the former was sometimes warm and impetuous; that of the latter ever mild and sedate."

Dr. Russell who penned the above sketch, is, himself, one of the most famous of the sons of Alma Mater, and one of whom the College may well be proud.

He was born of an obscure family of Berkshire, and went to the College very young in the capacity of servant to Dr. Daniel on his appointment to the Presidentship, 1642. During the period of five years that he continued in this humble situation, he gave all his leisure time to study, and such was the proficiency that he made, that his patron at length judged him worthy to be admitted into the Community, and gave him a place among the students on August 14, in the year 1647, which was the eighteenth of his age. In the schools young Russell soon outstripped his companions, and bore away the first prize in Humanities the year after his admission. Soon after he had entered Divinity, the rest of his class were sent to complete their Course in a College of Oratorians in France, on which occasion it was proposed to Dr. Russell to remain sometime longer at the College, then to prepare himself to receive Holy Orders, and proceed on to the Mission. Fearful, however, of undertaking the weighty charge of the priesthood without being duly qualified, he chose rather to try to gain admission into Douay. He accordingly made his way thither in 1654, and was received. He afterwards finished his Theology in Paris where he was ordained priest. Having thus obtained the end for which he left Lisbon, he returned by direction of his Superiors in 1655, and undertook the office of Procurator to the College.

Whilst in this occupation he received an intimation from the Chapter to return to England in 1657, in obedience to which he embarked the same year in the suite of Dom Francisco de Mello, Ambassador from the Court of Lisbon to Charles II. During the voyage the pious behaviour of Dr. Russell drew upon him the notice of his fellow travellers, and in particular that of the Ambassador, who on his arrival in England, requested and obtained leave from the Chapter to retain him in his family. During the three years and a half that Dom Francisco remained in England, Dr. Russell, from his perfect acquaintance with the Portuguese tongue, was enabled to render the most important services to the Embassy. He returned with the Ambassador to Lisbon in 1660, and was presented to the Queen Donna Louisa, who received him with the most flattering distinction and grateful acknowledgment of "his singular diligence and fidelity in promoting the interests of her kingdom."

A gift of one thousand and eighty crowns and a pension of twenty-five guineas a month, with the title of Secretary to the Queen, was conferred upon him. He returned to England the same year and, after being chiefly instrumental in settling the marriage between Charles and the Infanta Catharine, performed the nuptial ceremony.

On the return of the Embassy to Portugal, King Charles made Dr. Russell the bearer of his own favourable sentiments, in a letter to the Queen, who received him with distinguished marks of honour.

To reward his services and at the same time to preserve for her kingdom a person of such talents and worth, she nominated him Bishop of the Cape Verde Islands, promising to promote him to the first See in Portugal that should become vacant. This dignity Dr. Russell declined, but still continued at Court in quality of Preceptor to the Infanta, whom he soon after accompanied to England.

In 1671 the Bishopric of Portalegre becoming vacant, he was persuaded to accept it, and the year following received his consecration in the church of the College.

During the ceremony a dove was seen to enter the church, hover for some time over the head of the new prelate and then fly away. The account of this fact is preserved in a letter written by Dr. Godden, who was present when it occurred, to a friend in England, soon after the Bishop s consecration, of which letter a copy exists in the College. "You have the fact," says the Doctor at the conclusion of the letter, "make your own comment."

In Jan. 1672, Bishop Russell made his first entrance into Portalegre and took solemn possession of his Cathedral. An incident occurred at his enthronement which tends to show the perfect knowledge which he had acquired of the Portuguese tongue.

The Chapter of Portalegre somewhat piqued at the idea of having a foreigner for their Bishop, had received him with coldness, and on this occasion, when it was customary for the Prelate to make an address, expecting more amusement from his accent than edification from his discourse, were with unbecoming levity intimating their feelings to each other. The Bishop affecting not to understand or notice them, rose unruffled, and turning towards them, made so eloquent a discourse, and
"The Right Rev. Dr. Russell, bishop of Vizcu"

Bishop of Vizeu.

pronounced it with so perfect an accent, that they were equally astonished and ashamed.

The numerous improvements and pious foundations which the pastoral zeal of this eminent Prelate projected and executed during the ten years that he governed the See of Portalegre scarcely belong to this sketch. Suffice it to say, that while he exhausted his income in works of piety and charity, he ceased not to labour, by means of instructions, and exhortations, conferences and the publication of pious books, for the spiritual improve ment of his flock and he had at length the consolation of beholding a complete reformation in the conduct of the clergy and the laity of his Diocese. In 1682 by a beneplacitum of Pedro II. he was transferred to the the See of Yizeu, which church he governed during the last eleven years of his life. He continued to exercise the same episcopal zeal and vigilance which had marked his conduct when Bishop of Portalegre. In a letter to His Holiness Pope Innocent XI. he gave an account of the various regulations which he had made in his Dio cese, and of the manner in which he had employed his revenues, and concluded his address in these words, " In these and similar works I have spent and exhausted the whole income of my church, so that after twenty-two years of the episcopal charge, I am able truly to say (not in pride but in the humility of a grateful heart be it spoken) gold and silver I have not. Cætera dicant Paduani."[1]

His affection for his Mother College was ardent and generous, and showed itself in the pious donations which he either made himself or obtained from others in its behalf.

During his Episcopacy he introduced into his household as much as circumstances would permit, the regularity and pious exercises followed at the College, and "by knowing," say the Annals, "how to rule his own house, proved himself qualified to take care of the Church of God." He died in 1693.

To return to the History of the College.

It was in the year 1661, that Dr. Godden, as already stated, was appointed Chaplain and Preceptor to the Infanta, and this necessitated his resignation of the office of President. He was succeeded by the Rev. John Barnesley, alias Parott, a native of Worcestershire, and a convert from Protestantism, who thus became the ninth President. He went to the College in 1647, and distinguished himself by his abilities in the Philosophical and Theological Schools. After completing his studies, he successively filled the offices of Master of Humanities, Procurator, Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Theology. In 1659 he was appointed Vice-President, and in 1662 received from the Chapter his nomination to the Presidency. Some time after he was honoured with the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Some of the questions on which he stood Thesis on occasion of his receiving his degree, give evident proof of his intellectual power, and the boldness with which he entered into the contest.

The following are examples, from which it may be gathered how severe was the ordeal which those had to face who stood public Thesis, at which the religious and secular clergy of the city were invited to enter the lists as opponents, and they give an idea of the subjects upon which the intellectual acumen of theological students was, in those days, concentrated.

  1. Utrum res omnes sint physice et realiter præsentes Deo ab æterno, in æternitate in quâcumque differentia temporis existentes?
    1. An Deus summum bonum fuisset etiamsi creaturas non produxisset?
  2. An voluntas antecedens formaliler inveniatur in Deo?
  3. An implicet in Beatis species impressa vel expressa Dei ut in se est?
  4. An evidentia in attestante admitti possit stante fide?

Dr. Barnesley s reputation stood very high, and in the public disputations over which he presided, many of which were on the most abstruse and difficult subjects of Philosophy and Theology, he was always most successful. But if his talents excited admiration in strangers, his mildness and condescension, won the love and esteem of all the members of the Community.

He held the Presidency till the year 1672, when he returned to England, where he won from his brethren the same high opinion which he had ever enjoyed at the College. He was made Dean of the Chapter, and died 1714, at the advanced age of eighty- three.

  1. "Cætera dicant Paduani."
    This is quoted from a Responsary of St. Bernard in the Office of St. Antony of Padua which commences: "Si quaeris Miracula." The verse in which it is found is as follows:

    Pereunt pericula
    Cessat et necessitas
    Narrent hi qui sentiunt
    Dicant Paduani.
    Dangers vanish—ceases likewise need—
    Let those who have experienced such relate these facts
    Let the Paduans declare them.