Morton, Thomas (1564-1659) (DNB00)

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MORTON, THOMAS (1564–1659), bishop successively of Chester, of Lichfield, and of Durham, the sixth of the nineteen children of Richard Morton, mercer, of York, and alderman of that city, by his wife Elizabeth Leedale, was born in the parish of All Saints Pavement, York, on 20 March 1564. He received his early education at the grammar schools of York and Halifax; at the former the conspirator Guy Fawkes [q. v.] was his schoolfellow. He entered St. John's College, Cambridge, as a pensioner in 1582, and was admitted scholar in 1584. He graduated B.A. in 1586, and M.A. in 1590. He was chosen fellow under Dr. Whitaker, 'against eight competitors well recommended and better befriended, purely for his learning and work' (Baker, Hist. of St. John's College, i. 184). Ordained deacon in 1592, and priest in 1594, he took the degree of B.D. in 1598, and that of D.D. 'with great distinction' in 1606. He was appointed university lecturer in logic, and continued his studies at Cambridge till 1598, when, through his father's influence, he was presented to the rectory of Long Marston, near York. Here he devoted himself assiduously to his spiritual duties, but was soon appointed chaplain to Lord Huntingdon, lord president of the north, and his parochial work was undertaken in his absence by 'a pious and learned assistant.' In 1602, when the plague was raging at York, he devoted himself to the inmates of the pest-house. To avoid spreading the infection he suffered no servants to attend him, and carried on the crupper of his saddle sacks containing the food and medicaments needed by the sufferers.

While in the north he acquired great reputation for the skill with which he conducted disputations with Roman catholics, who were numerous there; many of them, we are told, including 'some of considerable standing' Dr. Herbert Croft [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Hereford, being one he brought over to the church of England. In 1602 he was selected, with Richard Crakanthorpe [q.v.] as his colleague, to accompany Lord Eure when sent by Elizabeth as her ambassador extraordinary to the emperor of Germany and the king of Denmark. He took advantage of this opportunity to make the acquaintance of foreign scholars and theologians, including several learned Jesuits, and to collect books at Frankfort and elsewhere, thus laying in stores 'on which,' Fuller says, 'he built to his death.' Among others he fell in with the learned but hot-tempered Hugh Broughton [q. v.], then residing at Middleburg, to whom he proposed his scriptural difficulties (S. Clarke, Lives, 1683, pp. 5, 6). On the queen's death Morton returned to England, and became chaplain to Roger Manners, earl of Rutland. He thus had leisure for study and the preparation of theological works, while residence at Belvoir enabled him to consult the libraries of London. In 1605 he published the first part of his 'Apologia Catholica' on 'the marks of a true church,' a defence of the church of England against the calumnies of the Romanists, with a refutation of the Jesuits' doctrine of equivocation. This work, which evoked more than one reply, exhibits unusual familiarity with recent ultramontane polemics, and Morton is believed to have derived aid from his younger friend John Donne [q. v.], afterwards dean of St. Paul's (Sanderson, Works, iv. 328). These 'primitise,' as he calls them, were dedicated to Archbishop Bancroft, who, with a just discernment of his merits, had become his steady friend. Through Bancroft's recommendation he was appointed one of the king's chaplains, and in 1606 became dean of Gloucester, and, on the nomination of his former patron, Lord Eure, the lord president, member of the council of the marches. On accepting the deanery he offered to resign the living of Long Marston in favour of Donne, then in great straits through his ill-advised marriage. He hoped thereby to induce Donne to take holy orders (Walton, Life of Donne; Wordsworth, Eccl. Biography, iii. 634-6). The offer was gratefully declined ; but Morton still pressed on his friend the desirability of his undertaking the ministerial office (Life, by J. N[elson], p. 100). In the same year he visited Oxford, where he was received with great honour, and admitted to an ad eundem degree on 12 July. On this occasion he made the acquaintance of some eminent theologians, such as Dr. John King [q. v.], afterwards bishop of London; Dr. Reynolds [q. v.], president of Corpus ; Dr. Airey [q. v.j, provost of Queen's ; and Daniel Featley [q. v.] In 1609 James I transferred him to the deanery of Winchester. Here he was welcomed by Bishop Bilson [q. v.], who conferred on him the living of Alresford. At Winchester he became the intimate friend of Dr. Arthur Lake [q. v.], then master of St. Cross, afterwards bishop of Bath and Wells, and of Dr. John Harmar [q. v.], head-master of Winchester school, and other scholars and theologians of repute. In 1610 he preached the sermon ad clerum at the opening of Convocation. When in London he lodged at the deanery of St. Paul's, with Dr. John Overall [q. v.], in whose house he enjoyed the society of Isaac Casaubon [q. v.], who became his intimate friend; of Scultetus, Diodati, Du Moulin and foreign scholars (cf. Casauboni Epistolæ, ed. 1709, Nos. 735, 751, 787, 802, 1048, 1050). On Casaubon's death in 1614 Morton caused a monument to be erected to him in Westminster Abbey at his own cost. Among his associates at a later period were Frederick Spanheim of Leyden, and Marco Antonio De Dominis [q. v.], archbishop of Spalato, whose high-flown pretensions to be regarded as the restorer of the unity of the church he seems to have estimated at their real worth (Barwick, Life, p. 87 ; Gardiner, Hist. of England, iv. 287).

By this time Morton's character for learning and piety, as well as for practical wisdom, was fully established. The king valued him highly, and in 1610 he was nominated for one of the seventeen fellowships in the abortive college proposed by Sutcliffe, dean of Exeter, to be established at Chelsea for the study of controversial divinity (Fuller, Church Hist. v. 390 ; Life, by J. N. p. 37). Preferments followed one another with inconvenient rapidity. In July of the same year he was collated by Archbishop Toby Matthew [q. v.] to the canonry of Husthwait in York Minster (Baker, Hist. of St. John's College, i. 194). In 1615, on the death of Dr. George Lloyd [q. v.], the king nominated him to the see of Chester. He accepted the nomination with great reluctance. His consecration was delayed till 7 July 1616. The ceremony, which was one of unusual stateliness, was performed at Lambeth by Archbishop Abbot, assisted by the primate of Ireland, the Bishop of Caithness, and others. While the palace at Chester was getting ready he stayed with Sir Christopher Hatton at Clay Hall, Essex, where he had a dangerous fever. He had resigned Alresford, but during his episcopate he held the living of Stopford, given him by the king in commendam that he might be better able to ' keep hospitality in that hospitable county.'

Difficulties which Morton had anticipated were not slow in presenting themselves at Chester. Few of the English dioceses at that time were so large, or exhibited greater differences in religion. Morton's see embraced, as indeed it did till the first half of the present century, not only the county of Chester, but the whole of Lancashire, the north-western portion of Yorkshire, and large portions of Cumberland and Westmoreland. In Lancashire the chief landowners, together with a large portion of the population, adhered to the oldunreformed faith; while the minority, who had embraced the reformation, had adopted the most extreme opinions of the foreign divines. The sanctity of the Lord's day was one of the points at issue. An attempt had been made by the magistrates to suppress the diversions customary on Sunday afternoons. Many resented this interference with their liberties, and the quarrel grew serious. James applied for advice to Morton, who cautiously recommended that nothing should be permitted which might disturb the worshippers when engaged in divine service, and that it should be left to each man's conscience whether he should take part in the accustomed sports when service was over. At the same time all parishioners were to attend their own parish church, and those who refused to do so were to be debarred from engaging in the subsequent diversions. With the exception of the last proviso, which, as Mr. Gardiner says, 'bribed men to worship God by the alluring prospect of a dance in the afternoon' (Gardiner, Hist. of England, iii. 251), the bishop's temperate recommendations, on which James based his subsequent declaration (Wilkins, Concilia, iv. 483), were calculated to promote a peace in the church. But the king's rash publication of the 'Book of Sports ' in the following year led to new disturbances. Morton's dealings with his non- conformist clergy were marked by fatherly moderation, and in friendly conference he sought to meet by argument their objections to the ceremonies. In 1619 he published 'a relation of the conference ' under the title of 'A Defence of the Innocenceof the three Ceremonies of the Surplice, the Cross in Baptism, and Kneeling at the Blessed Sacrament.' dedicated to George Villiers, marquis of Buckingham. In 1618, on his friend Overall's translation to Norwich, he was removed to Lichfield and Coventry, on the recommendation of Bishop Andrewes [q. v.], 'who was never known to do the like for any other.' With the bishopric he held the living of Clifton Camville in commendam. Here he continued his endeavours to win over both non-conformists and recusants. In 1621 he served on the commission for granting a dispensation to Archbishop Abbot for the casual homicide of a keeper in Bramshill Park (Collier, Eccl. Hist. vii. 418). In 1623 a curious correspondence took place between him and Lord Conway about a horse named ; Captain,' which on Lord Gerard's death the bishop had taken as a heriot. Gerard had bequeathed his two choicest horses to Prince Charles, then absent in Spain. Conway requested Morton in the king's name to forego his right ; this he declined to do, but he obtained permission to present 'Captain' to the prince on his return (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1623). In February 1626 he took a leading part in the conference on Bishop Montague's incriminated books held at the Duke of Buckingham's house, and with Dr. Preston, the puritan master of Emmanuel, did his best to impugn the statements contained in them on predestination and freewill (Birch, Court of Charles I, i. 86 ; cf. Church Hist, v. 449 ; see also Addit. MS. Brit. Mus. 5724, pp. 57 ff.) The high esteem felt for Morton by James was continued by Charles I, and in June 1632 Morton was translated to the rich and important palatinate see of Durham, which he held by canonical right until his death in 1659, : although parliament claimed to deprive him of it in 1647. His administration of the diocese, with its large secular jurisdiction and its princely revenues, fully justified his reputation. No complaints were made against him to the House of Commons during the civil wars, except by his scurrilous and wrong-headed prebendary, Peter Smart [q. v.] He showed great forbearance in claiming the undoubted rights of the palatinate in wardships, wrecks, and forfeitures for suicide. He was systematic and liberal in almsgiving, and maintained many poor scholars at the universities. He did all in his power to augment the poor benefices of his diocese, and exhibited extreme conscientiousness both in admission to holy orders and in the exercise of his patronage. His hospitality was profuse. On his journey to Scotland in 1633 Charles I and his suite were received by Morton, both at Auckland and at Durham, in such princely style that one day's entertainment is reported to have cost 1,500l. On Sunday, 2 June, on the occasion of the king's attending service in the cathedral, the bishop preached on the cursing of the fig-tree. Six years later, in. May 1639, he again entertained Charles at the beginning of 'the First Bishops' War.' The next year, in the month of August, the Scots crossed the Tweed, and pushed on to Durham. The cathedral clergy fled, Morton himself retiring into Yorkshire. It is probable that he never again permanently resided in his bishopric.

Early in 1641 he was in London attending to his parliamentary duties, and was nominated a member of the sub-committee to prepare matters for the consideration of the abortive committee of the lords appointed on 1 March the day of Laud's committal to the Tower to take cognisance of innovations in religion (Fuller, Church Hist. vi. 188). In the following December an unruly mob threatened to drag him out of his coach, when on his way to the House of Lords (Barwick, Life, p. 103). Morton never took his seat in the lords again. Two days later, 29 Dec., he joined in Williams's ill-advised protest against the legality of all acts done in the enforced absence of the spiritual lords. For this he and his eleven associates were next day impeached of high treason ou Prynne's motion, and the same night they were all committed to the Tower, with the exception of Morton and Wright, bishop of Lichfield, who, on account of their advanced age, were allowed to remain in the house of the usher of the black rod a doubtful privilege, for the charges were far greater. After four months' imprisonment Morton was released without a trial, and remained unmolested at Durham House, in the Strand, till April 1645, when he was again brought before the bar of the House of Commons on the double charge of baptising the infant daughter of the Earl of Rutland according to the rites of the church of England, and of refusing to surrender the seal of the county palatine of Durham. He was committed to the custody of the sergeantat-arms for six months (Whitelocke, Memorials, 1732, p. 14). On the abolition of episcopacy in 1646 an annual income of 800l. was assigned to him out of the revenues of the see. This, however, he never received, the authorities by whom it was to be paid not being specified. All he obtained was a sum of 1,000l. from the committee at Goldsmiths' Hall 'towards the arrears,' which he employed in paying his debts and purchasing an annuity of 200l. for life. In 1648 he was driven from Durham House by the soldiery, who took forcible possession of it. He then resided with his friends, the Earl and Countess of Rutland, at Exeter House in the Strand ; but, being unwilling to live permanently at the charge of others, he left them, and passed his time with various royalist lay friends. At last he resolved to return to London. On his way thither, on horseback, he fell in with Sir Christopher Yelverton. There had been some previous relations between them. Sir Christopher was theson andheir of Sir Henry Yelverton [q.v.], James I's attorney-general, in whose behalf, when brought before the bar of the house in 1621 for an attack on the all-powerful Buckingham, Morton had remonstrated against the injustice of condemning him unheard. Sir Henry had also, in 1629, sat as judge of assize at Durham in the case of Morton's enemy, Peter Smart, and had charged the jury in his favour, declaring that he 'hoped to live and die a puritan.' Sir Christopher inherited his father's puritanical bias. On their meeting the bishop recognised him, though Sir Christopher did not recognise the bishop. To his inquiry who he was, Morton replied, 'I am that old man, the Bishop of Durham, in spite of all your votes;' to the further inquiry whither he was going, his answer was, 'To London, to live there a little while, and then to die.' Ultimately Sir Christopher invited him to his house at Easton-Mauduit, ten miles from Northampton. His visit only ended with his death. He became a revered member of Sir Christopher's family, and tutor to Henry, his eldest son, then a lad of sixteen, receiving 'from the wholefamily all the tender respect and care which a father could expect from his children' (Barwick, Life, p. 123). At Easton-Mauduit Morton endeavoured to maintain the ministerial succession of the church of England by holding secret ordinations. Sir Christopher died in 1654. The bishop died at Easton-Mauduit on 22 Sept. 1659, 'blessed,' writes his friend Walton (Life of Donne, u.s., p. 634), 'with perfect intellectuals, and a cheerful heart,' in the ninety-fifth year of his age, and the forty-fourth of his episcopate, and the twenty-fourth of his translation to Durham. He was buried in the Yelverton chapel of the parish church. His chaplain, Dr. John Barwick [q. v.], afterwards dean of St. Paul's, preached the funeral sermon. One of his latest acts before his death was to publish a denial, fully attested, of the slanderous statement that he had in a speech in the House of Lords acknowledged the fiction of the 'Nag's Head Consecration' of Arch-bishop Parker (Bramhill, Works, iii. 5-10 ; Strype, Parker, i. 119 ; Neal, Puritans, iv. 179 ; Barwick, Life, pp. 108-20). By his will he left 10. to the poor of the parish in which he died, and his chalice to All Saints, York, the parish in which he was born. He also bequeathed a silver-gilt chalice and paten of large size for the use of the chapel recently added to his manor-house by Sir Henry Yelverton. Since the demolition of the house these have been transferred to the parish church. A codicil to his will contained a declaration of his faith and of his adhesion to the church of England, solemnly attested by witnesses, as 'a legacy to all pious and sober Christians, but especially those of his diocese of Durham' (ib. p. 127). He died unmarried, having early in life ' resolved to die a single man' (Walton, Life of Donne, p. 636).

Morton is described as small of stature, upright in person, and sprightly in motion, preserving the vigour of youth in extreme old age, of a sweet and serious countenance, grave and sober in speech, manifesting a gentleness which won all hearts and disarmed enmity ; 'in the fullest sense of the word, a good man' (Gardiner, u.s. iii. 249). His habits were ascetic. He slept on a straw bed, and rose at 4 A.M., never retiring to rest till 10 P.M., drank wine but seldom, and then sparingly, and only took one full meal in the day. In his attire he was 'always decent in his lowest ebb, and never excessive in his highest tide,' never discarding the episcopal habit, even when it was perilous to wear it. Portraits of Morton are at Christ Church, Oxford, at St. John's College, Cambridge, and at Auckland Castle, Durham. An engraved portrait is prefixed to Barwick's 'Life.'

Morton was a great patron of good and learned men. His house was ever open to scholars as a home and as a place of refuge in poverty or trouble. At the commencement of the parliamentary war, while it was still in his power to do so, he offered Fuller a home and maintenance (Fuller, Worthies, ii. 541). Isaac Basire [q. v.] was one of the many deserving scholars whom he brought forward. Ralph Brownrig [q. v.], bishop of Exeter, Henry Feme [q. v.], bishop of Chester, and John Barwick, dean of St. Paul's, were among his chaplains. He was a patron of foreign scholars of the reformed faith, whom he received into his house and dismissed, on leaving, with gifts of money and books. He warmly favoured the endeavours of John Durie (1596-1680) [q. v.] for reconciling the differences between the various branches of the reformed churches in France and Germany (cf. De Pace inter Evangelicos procuranda, 1638). He numbered Hooker among his friends as well as Hooker's biographer Walton, who speaks very gratefully of the information he derives from the bishop concerning one 'whose very name he loved.' Laud was one of his correspondents (cf. Laud, Works, vi. 549, 560, 571). In theology he belonged to the school of Ussher and Bedell, and had little sympathy with the high-church doctrines of Laud. Baxter speaks of him as 'belonging to that class of episcopal divines who differ in nothing considerable from the rest of the reformed churches except in church government,' and Clarendon classes him with 'the less formal and more popular prelates' (Sanderson, Works, vol. ii. p. xli). He was a sincere but by no means bigoted episcopalian. He regarded ordination by presbyters valid in case of necessity, no such necessity however warranting it in the church of England. From the moderation of his ecclesiastical views he was at one time regarded with friendly eyes by Prynne (cf. Canterburies Doome, p. 230). He would now be reckoned a low churchman. If he was sure that any one was a really good man, anxious to fulfil the object of his ministry, he was not over strict in exacting conformity. Calamy records with praise his liberal treatment of puritans like John Hieron, Richard Mather, and John Shaw of Christ's College (Calamy, Memorial, pp. 162, 824 ; Clarke, Lives, p. 128). His attitude towards the church of Rome was one of uncompromising hostility. He was one of the only three bishops who, according to a statement made to Panzani, the papal envoy, by Bishop Montague, were 'counted violently bent against the Papists' (Panzani, Memoirs, p. 246).

The larger portion of his writings were devoted to the exposure of the fallacy of Romish doctrines. They display great learning and an intimate acquaintance with the arguments of his antagonists. It is no small praise that they exhibit none of the bitterness and scurrility which too commonly disfigure the polemics of the age. Besides the 'Apologia Catholica,' a work of immense learning and calm reasoning, he published in 1609 his 'Catholick Appeal,' which, according to Barwick (u.s. p. 132), dealt 'such a deadly blow to his Romish adversaries' that none of them even attempted to answer it. Ten years later, at James's command, he entered the lists against Bellarmine in defence of the oath of allegiance to a protestant sovereign in his 'Causa Regia.'

Morton's chief works, omitting separately published sermons, were : 1. 'A Treatise of the Threefolde State of Man, wherein is handled : (1) His Created Holinesse in his Innocencie; (2) His Sinfulnesse since the Fall of Adam ; (3) His Renewed Holinesse in his Regeneration,' London, 1596, 8vo. 2. 'Salomon, or a Treatise declaring the State of the Kingdom of Israel as it was in the Daies of Salomon. Whereunto is annexed another Treatise of the Church, or more particularly of the Right Constitution of a Church,' 2 pts., London, 1596, 4to. 3. 'Apologia Catholica, ex meris Jesuitarum contradictionibus conflata,' &c., part 1, London [1605-6], 4to. 4. 'An Exact Discoverie of Romish Doctrine in the case of Conspiracie and Rebellion,' &c., 1605, 4to. 5. 'Apologise Catholicæ, in qua paradoxa, hsereses, blasphemies, scelera, quæ Jesuitæ et Pontificii alii Protestantibus impingunt, fere omnia, ex ipsorum Pontificiorum testimoniis apertis diluuntur, libri duo. De notis Ecclesise. Editio castigatior,' 2 pts. London, 1606, 8vo and 4to. 6. 'A Full Satisfaction concerning a Double Romish Iniquitie, hainous Rebellion, and more than heathenish Æquivocation. Containing three parts,' London, 1606, 4to. 7. 'A Preamble unto an Incounter with P. R. [R. Parsons], the Author of the deceitfull Treatise of Mitigation : concerning the Romish Doctrine both in question of Rebellion and of Aequivocation,' London, 1608, 4to. 8. ' A Catholic Appeal for Protestants, out of the Confessions of the Romane Doctors ; particularly answering the mis-named Catholike Apologie for the Romane Faith, out of the Protestants [by J. Brereley],' Londoni 1610, fol. 9. ' A Direct Answer unto the scandalous Exceptions which T. Higgons hath lately objected against D. Morton [i.e. against his "Apologia Catholica "]. In which there is principally discussed two of the most notorious Objections used by the Romanists, viz. : (1) Martin Luther's Conference with the Divell ; and (2) The Sence of the Article of Christ, His Discension into Hell (Animadversions),' London, 1609, 4to. 10. 'A Defence of the Innocencie of the Three Ceremonies of the Church of England, viz., the Surplice, Crosse after Baptisme, and Kneeling at the Receiving of the Blessed Sacrament,' London, 1609, 4to. 11. 'The Encounter against M. Parsons, by a Review of his last Sober Reckoning and his Exceptions urged in the Treatise of his Mitigation …,’ London, 1610, 4to. 12. ‘Causa Regia, sive De Authoritate et Dignitate principum Christianorum adversus R. Bellarminum,’ 1620. 13. ‘The Grand Imposture of the (now) Church of Rome manifested in this one Article of the new Romane Creede, viz., “The Holy Catholike and Apostolike Romane Church, Mother and Mistresse of all other Churches, without which there is no salvation.” The second edition, revised … with … Additions,’ London, 1628, 4to. 14. ‘Of the Institution of the Sacrament of the Blessed Bodie and Blood of Christ,’ &c., 2 pts., London, 1631, fol.; second edition of the above, much ' enlarged . . . with particular answers to ... objections and cavils . . . raysed against this worke,' London, 1635, fol. 15. ‘A Discharge of Five Imputations of Mis-Allegations falsely charged upon the Bishop of Duresme by an English Baron (Arundell of Wardour),’ London, 1633, 8vo. 16. ‘Sacris ordinibus non rite initiati tenentur ad eos ritus ineundos. Non datur purgatorium Pontificium aut Platonicum’ (in verse), Cambridge, 1633, s. sh. fol. 17. ‘Antidotum adversus Ecclesiæ Romanæ de merito proprie dicto ex condigno venenum. Ex antiquæ Ecclesiæ Catholicæ testimoniis confectum. Juxta Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ et Protestantium omnium unanimam sententiam,’ &c., Cantabr. 1637, 4to. 18. ‘De Eucharistia Controversiæ Decisio,’ Cantabr. 1640. 19. ‘The Opinion of … T. Morton … concerning the peace of the Church,’ 1641, 4to.; a Latin version appeared in 1688. 20. ‘The Necessity of Christian Subjection demonstrated … Also a Tract intituled “Christus Dei,”’ &c., 1643, 4to; posthumously printed. 21. ‘Ezekiel's Wheels: a Treatise concerning Divine Providence,’ London, 1653, 8vo. 22. ‘'A Treatise of the Nature of God,' London, 1669, 8vo. 23. ‘Επίσκοπος Αποστολικός, or the Episcopacy of the Church of England justified to be Apostolical. … Before which is prefixed a Preface … by Sir H. Yelverton,’ London, 1670, 8vo.

[Dean Barwick's Life and Death of Thomas, late Lord Bishop of Duresme; Life by J[oseph] N[elson]; Biog. Brit. v. 3180 ff.; Baker's Hist. of St. John's College, i. 260 ff.; Lloyd's Memoirs, pp. 436–46; Fuller's Worthies, ii. 540 ff., Church History, v. 390, 449; Mayor's Materials for the Life of Thomas Morton; communications of the Camb. Antiq. Soc. iii. 1–36; Walton's Life of Donne, and of Hooker; Wordsworth's Eccles. Biog. iii. 450, 634; Walker's Sufferings, pt. ii. p. 17; Nichols's Leicestershire, ii. 53, 382; Surtees's Durham, i. pp. xci ff.; Ormerod's Cheshire, i. 76, 146; Baker's MSS. xxvii. 276–8; Laud's Works (Anglo-Catholic Lib.) vi. 549, 560, 571.]

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