Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sibthorp, Robert

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SIBTHORP or SYBTHORPE, ROBERT, D.D. (d. 1662), royalist divine, was, according to Bliss, the son of John Sybthorpe, a Northamptonshire clergyman. He was admitted at Trinity College, Cambridge, on 6 May 1614, commenced B.A. 1615–16, was elected a fellow in 1618, proceeded M.A. in 1619, and was incorporated M.A. at Oxford on 13 July 1619. On 11 May 1619 on the presentation of Robert Lambe, LL.D., he was instituted to the vicarage of St. Sepulchre, Northampton, and on 8 April 1622 he was instituted to the vicarage of Brackley, Northamptonshire, which he served by a curate. He was a member of the convocation of 1625. He became B.D. of Cambridge in 1627, according to Foster; but it is certain that he was D.D. after 18 May 1625 and before 22 Feb. 1626–7.

Sybthorpe made his reputation by an assize sermon (Romans xiii. 5), preached at Northampton on the last-named date, and urging a cheerful response to the royal demand (made in the previous September) for a general loan. He had this excuse for touching the topic, that at Northampton on 12 Jan. a royal commission had asked the opinion of local divines as to the lawfulness of the loan. The case for the loan itself was not ill put in the sermon; but among obiter dicta, Sybthorpe affirmed (p. 13) that ‘if princes command anything which subjects may not performe, because it is against the laws of God, or of nature, or impossible, yet subjects are bound to undergoe the punishment without either resistance or railing and reviling; and so to yeeld a passive obedience, where they cannot exhibit an active one.’ The sermon was presented to Charles I, who sent it by William Murray (afterwards first earl of Dysart [q. v.]) to Archbishop Abbot for licence. Abbot said this was chaplain's work, and what King James ‘never put him to.’ In a day or two he returned it to Murray, with objections to five passages. Charles himself furnished answers to three of the objections, admitted that the fourth passage must be mended, and struck out the fifth passage, reflecting against an elective monarchy, namely, ‘the princes of Bohemia have power to depose their kings.’ Abbot raised eight more objections, to which Laud furnished answers. Not deeming them satisfactory, Abbot refused to license the sermon. Laud then conveyed to George Montaigne [q. v.], bishop of London, the royal command to review the sermon and objections, in concert with four other bishops, and report as to whether it might not fitly be published. Montaigne's chaplain, Worral, showed it to Selden, who remarked, ‘If that book were true, there is no meum and tuum in England,’ and advised Worral to let it alone, for ‘if ever the tide turned, he would be hang'd for publishing it.’ A few minor corrections were made, and the sermon, licensed by Montaigne on 8 May, was published with the title ‘Apostolike Obedience,’ &c., 1627, 4to, having dedications to the king and to ‘the church and common-weale of England.’ It made a great stir, but was eclipsed in August by the still stronger sermons of Roger Manwaring [q. v.] Sybthorpe was made chaplain-in-ordinary to the king, and, to prevent any danger to him from his sermon, he was included (24 Jan. 1629) in the pardon granted to Manwaring. On 23 Sept. 1629 he was instituted to the rectory of Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, and resigned St. Sepulchre's.

In 1629 he supported a charge brought against John Williams, bishop of Lincoln, through his registrar, of favouring puritans in Leicester. Williams brought him before the Star-chamber in 1633, but nothing came of it. When John Towers was promoted from the deanery to the bishopric of Peterborough, he wrote (30 Dec. 1633) to Sir John Lambe [q. v.], expressing a hope that Sybthorpe might succeed him as dean. With Lambe he was a commissary (from 1635) for the visitation of Peterborough diocese, and was zealous in putting down puritan practices. In 1637 he came thus into conflict, not very successfully, with Miles Burkitt, vicar of Pattishall, Northamptonshire [see under Burkitt, William]. Later in the same year he compelled Francis Rishworth, churchwarden of All Saints, Northampton, to rail in the communion-table and place it altarwise. It is a curious comment on his ‘obedience’ sermon that, in 1639, when George Plowright, constable of Burton, had been summoned for the king's forces, Sybthorpe made strenuous appeals for his exemption, writing that he had ‘done good service against the English puritans,’ and ought not to be sent to perish among Scottish ones. As a county magistrate he was active in 1640 against persons charged with spreading seditious rumours. He joined the king at Oxford in 1643, escaping ‘in his clarks habit;’ often preached before the court, and in 1646 had a university licence to preach in any part of England. His livings of Brackley and Burton were sequestered in 1647. At the Restoration he recovered them; and, dying in April 1662, was buried in the chancel at Burton Latimer on 25 April. He married a sister of Sir John Lambe (cf. manuscript State Papers, Dom., Charles I, vol. 537 No. 32, and vol. 538 No. 144). Wood assigns to him ‘A Counterplea to an Apostate's Pardon,’ 1618, 4to (sermon, Jeremiah v. 7, not seen). His name is spelled in various ways, but he prints it Sybthorpe.

Wood confuses him with Robert Sibthorp (d. 1649), a native of Essex, admitted D.D. from Lincoln College, Oxford, on 2 June 1624, bishop of Kilfenora, 1638–42, and of Limerick, 1642–9. Strafford spoke of him as an honest and able man. He died at Dublin in April 1649, and was buried at St. Werburgh's Church; after his death the see remained vacant until the Restoration (Cotton, Fasti Eccles. Hib. i. 385).

[Sybthorpe's Sermon, 1627; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed Bliss, iii. 550 sq.; Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 391; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1892, iv. 1356; Lloyd's Memoires, 1668, pp. 277 sq.; Rushworth's Historical Collections Abridged, 1703, pp. 272, 218 sq., 418 sq.; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, 1714, ii. 60; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1625–41 (constant references).]

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