Wednesday, October 3, 2012

John Hazlewood on Lancelot Andrewes

This is the second instalment of John Hazlewood's lecture on the Caroline Divines, given to the Institute of Spiritual Studies at St Peter's Eastern Hill in 1982. It was included in a book published by the Institute, Anglican Spirituality.  

John Hazlewood on The Caroline Divines 
Part 2: Lancelot Andrewes

Andrewes became a saint in his own lifetime. At least such was his reputation from King James 1 to the humblest servant at Farnham Castle, his main palace as Bishop of Winchester. I wish to quote from a book written in admiration of him by Henry Isaacson published in 1650 and interestingly titled, "An Exact Narration of the Life and Death of the Late Reverend and Learned Prelate and Painful Divine, Lancelot Andrewes, Late Bishop of Winchester, Which may serve as a Pattern of Piety and Charity to all godly disposed Christians." "To draw to an end of deciphering his virtues and endowments. It may be truly said of him that he had those gifts and graces, both of art and nature, so fixed in him, as that this age cannot parallel him; for his profundity and abyss of learning was accompanied with wit, memory, judgment, languages, gravity and humility, insomuch that if he had been contemporary with the ancient Fathers of the Primitive Church, he would have been, and that worthily, reputed not inferior to the chiefest among them." (In “Anglicanism” More and Cross p. 772) 

Andrewes was born in the Marian Persecution period and his first experiences as a young man at Cambridge University would have placed him more on the Puritan side than on the traditional. He always held several livings together and as Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth and Master of Pembroke College his studies were riding ahead of his companions. He was criticised for a sermon about the power of Absolution belonging to the priest and bishop alone and not to all the congregation. His first great act was to rescue the manuscripts of the last three books of Hooker's monumental "Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" and to have handed them over to his friend Archbishop Usher of Dublin for eventual publication. After he had been made Dean of Westminster he was a chairman of one of the committees set up by the King to produce an English Bible. Andrewes’ committee was set to deal with Genesis to 2 Kings. This glorious jewel of English literature and sensitive translation was produced in 1611 and became the quarry for the piety and the poetry of many of the authors of the century as did the Book of Common Prayer. 

In 1605 he became Bishop of Chichester, 1609 Bishop of Ely and in 1618 finally Bishop of Winchester until his death in 1626. He was not the best bishop by today's standards, usually being in his diocese at best three months a year. The rest of the time he was travelling with the King or sitting in the House of Lords or on the High Commission. S. R. Gardner's picture of him is well known in his "History of England" 1603-1642, P. 120: "Going in and out as Andrewes did amongst the frivolous and grasping courtiers who gathered around the King, he seemed to live in a peculiar atmosphere of holiness." 

He always preached before the King at Christmas, Easter and Whitsunday and his sermons were famous and published. His style is not anything like ours today, but they were very learned, sometimes contentious but generally emphasising the dogma of the King's Divine Right, the orthodoxy of the Creeds, the need for order and solemnity in liturgy, the necessity for penitence and absolution. His attitudes are well summed up in Paul Welsby's biography: 

“So far as worship is concerned, Andrewes deplored the neglect of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, alleging that some communicate only once a year. If men do not communicate as often as the primitive church, they should do so as often as the Church celebrates. He referred to the Puritan practice of forbidding the use of the Lord's Prayer in public worship. Horton Davies in his book "Worship of English Puritans" p 69, 99 has described the use of the Lord's Prayer as the crux of the liturgical problem . . . ‘The history of this discussion seems to show that the more radical Puritans and Separatists regarded the Lord's Prayer as a pattern and held it was not intended that it should be repeated. Andrewes regarded this practice as "a most fond invention . . . never once dreamed of before.'” (Paul Welsby – Biography p.5 SPCK) 

He is remembered today for his remarkable "Preces Privatae", a manual of prayers that set the pattern for Anglican private devotions even to this day. A contemporary, Bishop Buckeridge, said that this book of prayers emerged out of his personal habits of prayer. Andrewes' life was a life of prayer and he would spend five hours a day at it. This is done in an orderly manner in a set out method, system and order. Morning and evening every day of the week. His sources are catholic indeed. There is deep penitence and humble faith. Concerned intercession and repeated acts of Faith, Hope and Love. Writing in 1903 Brightman said, 

"They represent as a whole what he was and what he aspired to be,- what men knew of him and what they could know . . . They show us a background, the spring, the force, and inspiration of his public life and activity, the root of what men recognised in him: his piety, a serene and filial faith, a profound penitence, a living hope, a passionate love of God and a longing to be true to all he knew of Him; a large, detailed, imaginative charity . . . a gratitude alive to all God had done for him . . . and a general appreciation of life, its joys and its sorrows, and a belief in the possibility of its consecration. " (Preces Privatae by Lancelot Andrewes – Edit. Brightman SPCK 1903) 

We know that Andrewes forgot his friends and his theological principles in his work on the High Commission and most notably voting for the divorce of Essex against the ruling of his archbishop but, of course, in agreement with the monarch. He was shameless in procuring good livings for his rather less worthy brothers. He entertained lavishly, the cost of one such entertainment at Farnham Castle for James I was between 2,300 to 2,400 pounds. He was also very charitable towards the poor. He was a skilled and eminent controversialist against Roman claims as put forward by Bellarmine and while heavily involved in the muck of the contemporary power base, he nevertheless built up the reputation of sanctity. I leave his story with words that are truly his and might be written truly for most of us, From the "Preces Privatae", Wednesday morning: 

"O Lord thy goodness leadeth me to repentance: 
O give me some time repentance to recover myself out of the snare of the devil 
who am taken captive by him."


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