Warner, John (1581-1666) (DNB00)

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WARNER, JOHN (1581–1666), bishop of Rochester, son of Harman Warner of London, merchant tailor, was baptised at St. Clement Danes in the Strand on 17 Sept. 1581. He became demy of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1599, and was elected fellow of that college in 1604. He proceeded M.A. in 1605, and D.D. in 1616. He was rector of St. Michael's, Crooked Lane, London, from 1614 to 1619, and was nominated prebendary and canon of Canterbury in 1616. He was instituted rector of Bishopsbourne, Kent, in 1619, rector of Hollingbourne. Kent, in 1624, and rector of St. Dionis Backchurch, London, in 1625.

Warner was a devoted adherent of the church and monarchy. In 1626 he preached in Passion week before the king at Whitehall a sermon on Matthew xxi. 38: 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him,' which nearly occasioned his impeachment by parliament, and induced him to obtain for safety the king's pardon, which is still extant. In 1633 be became chaplain to Charles I and dean of Lichfield. In the same year he attended the king at his coronation in Edinburgh. Finally, in 1637, he was promoted to the bishopric of Rochester. In March 1639-40 he preached a sermon in Rochester Cathedral on Psalm liiiv. 23, 'Forget not the voice of thy enemies,' against the puritans and rebels, to which allusion made in 'Scot Scout's Discovery.'

Warner attended at York in 1640 the king's council of peers, at which only one other prelate was present. He took part in the convocation which was called together on the opening of the Short parliament of 1640. When that parliament was dissolved, and the convocation continued its sittings under royal license, Warner assisted Laud in framing new canons. Warner joined in the declaration made on 14 May 1641 by the bishops to maintain the existing constitution of church and state. On 4 Aug. following he was impeached with other bishops by the House of Commons, under the stature of praemunire, for taking part in the convocation of 1640 and making new canons. In December 1641 Warner, with eleven other bishops, was committed to prison, but the impeachment was afterwards dropped, owing to the admirable defence made by Warner through Chaloner Chute, the counsel whom he had selected for the defence of the bishops. On 13 Feb. 1642, when the bishops were excluded by statute from the House of Lords, Warner defended their rights with much ability and force of argument; Fuller remarked that 'in him dying episcopacy gave its last groan in the House of Lords.' Sequestration of his lands and goods followed in 1643, and Warner had to leave his palace at Bromley in disguise. For three years he led a wandering life in the west of England.

By Charles's command he published in 1646 a treatise on 'Church Lands not to be sold, or a Necessary and Plain Answer to the question of a Conscientious Protestant whether the lands of Bishops and Churches in England and Wales may be sold.' On 4 Feb. 1648-9, within a week after the execution of Charles I, he preached and afterwards published anonymously a sermon on Luke xviii. 31: ' Behold we go up to Jerusalem.' The volume was entitled 'The Devilish Conspiracy,' and in it he it inveighed against the fate which had befallen his royal master.

Finally, in 1649, on payment of some 5,000l. in fines, the sequestrations on his property were discharged; but to the last he refused to take the oaths to the usurping government, as he considered it to be. At the Restoration Warner and eight other sequestrated bishops who had survived came forth from their exile and resumed, as a matter of course, the government of their dioceses. In 1661 parliament recalled the bishops to the House of Lords, and once more, on 11 Feb. 1662, Warner was able to address his clergy in Rochester Cathedral. He died on 14. Oct. 1666 aged 86, and was buried in Merton's Chapel in Rochester Cathedral, where a fine monument exists to his memory. Two portraits of the bishop are at Magdalen College, Oxford; one in the chaplain’s residence at Bromley College; and three at Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk, the seat of Henry Lee Warner, esq., his descendant, and a property which had been bought by the bishop.

Warner was married. Some authorities state that his wife was Bridget, widow of Robert Abbot, bishop of Salisbury; others that she was the widow of George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury; but these statements have been conclusively disproved (see Notes and Queries, 9th ser. ii. passim). He died without issue, and on his death his estates descended to his nephew John Lee, archdeacon of Rochester, who was the son of his sister, and who afterwards assumed the additional name of Warner in compliance with the terms of the bishop's will,

Warner was 'a man of decided character and cheerful and undaunted spirit, an accurate logician and philosopher, and well-versed in the fathers and schoolmen.' His charities were munificent. The net value of the see of Rochester was barely 500l. a year, but his father left him a considerable fortune acquired by trade, and it is said that a godmother, who was a relative, left him 10,000l. Altogether his known benefactions in his lifetime and by his will amounted to over 30,000l; which included large gifts to the libraries of Magdalen College, Rochester and Canterbury Cathedrals, To the last he gave its present costly font; 8,500l. was paid out of his estate for building Bromley College, Kent, for the relief of distressed widows of the clergy; and he gave many other charitable gifts, among them 6,000l. to the relief of the sequestered clergy, and 2,500l., for the redemption out of slavery of captives in Barbary. He further charged by will his estate at Swaton in Lincolnshire (which is still held by his descendants) with the perpetual payment of 450l. per annum for the endowment of Bromley College, and he bequeathed 80l. per annum for the foundation of Scottish scholarships at Balliol College, Oxford, so that, as he expressed it, 'there may never be wanting in Scotland some who shall support the ecclesiastical establishment of England.'

Besides the works above mentioned, Warner was the author of various sermons, and liberally contributed to Matthew Poole's 'Synopsis,' the most voluminous commentary then extant on the Bible. In 1645 he published ' The Gayne of Losse, or Temporal Losses spiritually improved, in a Century and one Decad of Meditations and Resolves.' In 1656 he entered into correspondence with Jeremy Taylor [q. v.] on the subject of Taylor's 'Unum Necessarium, or the Doctrine and Practice of Repentance,' especially concerning those chapters dealing with original sin, which Taylor had endeavoured to explain away in a manner inconsistent with the tenets of the church of England.

[Biogr. Brit. ed. 1763. vol. vi. pt. ii. p. 4159; Wood's Athenae Oxon. ed. Bliss, 1813, iii. 731, with Fasti; Hasted's Kent. ed. 1778. i. 94, ii. 44, &c.; Bloxam's Magdalen Coll. Register, ed, 1873, iv. 224 sq.; Pearman's Dioc. Hist, of Rochester, 1897, p. 280, &c.]

E. L.-W.