Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/23

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Abbot
Abbot
9

have no other direction but to persuade the Scots there was no substantial difference in religion betwixt the two realms, but only in things indifferent concerning government and ceremonies’ (Hist. of Kirk of Scotland, published by the Wodrow Soc. vi. 735). A letter from Scotland reached James, describing with enthusiasm the effect of Abbot’s preaching (Orig. Letters on Eccles. Affairs, Bannatyne Club, i. 146). It is true that the Scotch episcopate was not ultimately restored till 1610, but Abbot’s conciliatory tone did much to prepare the way, and he himself put the finishing touch to the work in that year by presiding at the consecration of the bishops of Glasgow, Brechin, and Galloway (Calderwood, vii. 150).

This was only one of the services that Abbot rendered James on his visit to Scotland. While at Edinburgh, the trial of George Sprot, a notary of Eyemouth, charged with conspiring in 1600 to murder the king, took place, and the man was condemned and executed before Abbot left the city. Abbot carefully watched the proceedings, and attended Sprot on the scaffold. The plot in which the convict had taken part was known as the Gowrie plot, and its chief authors, the Earl of Gowrie and his friends, were alleged to have invited James, in 1600, to a house at Perth, and to have locked him in a room with a ruffian who had been hired to kill him. James escaped; the earl and his friends were slain by the royal attendants, and an order was issued to the ministers of religion throughout Scotland to hold thanksgiving services for the king’s salvation; these services had been introduced at a later date into England, and continued throughout James’s reign. But the Scotch ministers had resisted them. An act of parliament had been necessary to enforce the order; doubts as to the real circumstances of the alleged plot were still abroad at the time of Sprot’s execution, and they continued to imperil friendly relations between James and his Scotch subjects. Abbot assumed the responsibility of attempting to remove the ground of disagreement. He published the notes taken by the judge at Sprot’s trial, together with a lengthy account of the ‘treasonable device betwixt John, Earl of Gowry, and Robert Logane of Restalrig (commonly called Lesterig) plotted by them for the cruel murthering of our most gracious sovereign.’ The task was probably undertaken at the suggestion of Lord Dunbar. The pamphlet, which has been reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany’ (ix. 560 et seq.), was penned in a spirit that, from a modern point of view, befitted the courtier rather than the historian. James’s life was declared to be ‘so immaculate and unspotted from the world . . . that even malice itself could never find true blemish in it.’ In successive passages he was compared to David, Solomon, Josias, Constantine the Great, Moses, Hezekiah, and Theodosius; but extravagant adulation was the recognised homage that loyal subjects, and especially the clergy, paid their sovereign at the time, and the warning tones in which Abbot here addressed disturbers of the public peace honestly expressed the value he himself set upon orderly behaviour and respect for authority.

It was thus that Abbot, whose theological attainments had already attracted James’s notice, established a claim on his gratitude, and Lord Dunbar’s influence with the king insured that his reward should not be long delayed. On 27 May 1609, within a few months of his return from Scotland, Abbot was appointed bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and his enthronement took place on 29 Dec. following. He had, however, scarcely visited his diocese when he was translated to a higher dignity, the bishopric of London, and he was enthroned at St. Paul’s on 12 Feb. 1609–10. But this preferment was little more permanent. In August 1610 Abbot consecrated a new churchyard presented to St. Bride’s parish by his old benefactor’s son, the Earl of Dorset. In October he consecrated the Scotch bishops. At Oxford he helped to establish Pembroke College out of the old foundation of Broadgates Hall, and throughout the year his letters to the Earl of Salisbury show that he was repressing with a strong hand throughout his diocese any manifestations of sympathy with Roman Catholicism. The poet, John Davies of Hereford, who claimed an acquaintance with him in earlier years, congratulated him on his promotion in a sonnet (Appendix to the Scourge of Folly). On 20 Nov. 1610, Richard Bancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, died, and Abbot preached a conventional sermon in his praise on the Sunday following (25 Nov.). The two religious parties throughout England were soon anxiously speculating as to Bancroft’s successor. The choice was generally expected to fall on Lancelot Andrewes, bishop of Ely. Abbot had no belief in his own chances of promotion, and the death of Lord Dunbar on 30 Jan. 1610–11, before the vacancy was filled, seemed to exclude him altogether from the list of likely candidates. But James had already consulted Dunbar; the earl had unhesitatingly advanced Abbot’s claim, and his advice had been accepted. On 25 Feb. 1610–11, Sir Thomas Lake, clerk to the signet, informed