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MAGAZINE AND REVIEW,
FOR JULY 1806.
Take we due care, that something of the wisdom of the serpent may always accompany the innocence of the dove; and that religion and discretion may constantly go hand in hand.
Life of the Right Rev. GEORGE BULL, D.D. sometime Lord Bishop of St. David's.
great man was the son of an opulent tradesman at Wells in Somersetshire,where he was born March. 25, 1634. He received his education at Tiverton school, in the county of Devon, from whence he was removed to Exeter college before he had obtained his fourteenth year, and was placed under the tuition of Mr. Ackland, with whom, on their leaving the university, he resided till he was about nineteen years of age. After quitting Mr. Ackland, he went to live with a Mr. Thomas, rector of Ubley in Somerset, with a view of prosecuting his theological studies. A worse choice could not have been made; for this gentleman was not only very insufficient, but extremely bigoted to the doctrines of Calvin, and to the Presbyterian discipline. But Mr. Thomas's son, who afterwards became prebendary of Wells, was of a more enlarged mind, and furnished Mr. Bull with the works of Hooker, Hammond, Grotius, &c. much against the wish of his father, who would frequently say, "My son will corrupt Mr. Bull." Thus it pleased God to correct the disadvantages of his education, and by a favourable circumstance, to strike such light into his mind as preserved him from the bad principles of those times, and directed his understanding in distinguishing truths of the greatest importance.
Vol. XI, Churchman's Mag. for July, 1806. B Soon
Soon after leaving Mr. Thomas, he received holy orders privately from ihe hands of Dr. Skinner, the suffering Bishop of Oxford, who had the courage to send many labourers into the Lord's Vineyard, when tl:e exercising his episcopal office was made penal by the parliament. Mr. Bull was ordained both deacon and priest in one day, and that when he was no more than one and lwenty. Though this was not strictly canonical, yet the exigency of the times gave it a sanction. Shortly after this, he accepted the small living of St. George's, Somersetshire, a few miles below. Bristol, where he found many Quakers, and other wild sectaries, who held very extravagant opinions; but by his constantly preaching twice every Lord's day, by his sound doctrine and exemplary life, by his great charities, (for he expended more annually in relieving the poor of all sorts, than the whole income of his living amounted to,) and by his prudent behaviour, he gained very much upon the affections of his parishioners, and was very instrumental in preserving many, and reclaiming others, from those pernicious errors which then were common among them. He had not been long settled in this place, when a singular circumstance happened, which greatly increased his reputation. The matter was this : One Sunday when he had begun his sermon, as he was turning over his bible to explain some texts of scripture which he had quoted, his notes, containing several small pieces of paper, flew out of his bible into the middle of the church, to the great entertainment of many of the congregation, who concluded that their young
minister would be completely at a nonplus for want of his materials; but some who were more considerate, gathered up the notes, and carried them to him in the pulpit. Mr. Ball took them, but perceiving most of his hearers inclined to triumph over him in his confusion, and to insult his youth, immediately put the notes into his book, and having shut it, continued the subject extempore with the greatest coolness and order, without being once at a loss.
The iniquity of the times would not bear the regular rise of the Liturgy: to supply which defect, Mr. Bull formed all the devotions he offered up in public, out of the Book of Common Prayer, which did not fail to supply him with fit matter and proper
upon sions. He did this with so much fervour and ardency of affection, and with so powerful an emphasis in every
part, that they who were the most prejudiced against the Liturgy, did not scruple to commend Mr. Bull as a person that prayed by the spirit, though at the same time they railed at the Common Prayer as a beggarly element, and as a carnal performance.
A remarkable instance, of this happened while he was minister of St. George's, which, because it shews how valuable the Liturgy is in itself, and what unreasonable pre judices are sometimes taken up against it, our readers will excuse us for mentioning it. He was sent for to baptize the child of a Dissenter in his parish; upon which occasion he made use of the office of baptism as prescribed by the church of England, which he had got entirely by heart; and he went through it with so much. readiness and freedom, and yet with so much gravity and devotion, and gave that life and spirit to all that he delivered, that the whole audience were extremely affected with his performance; and notwithstanding his using the sign of the cross, they were so ignorant of the church of fices, that they did not discover it was the common prayer. When the whole was over the father of the child returned him many thanks, intimating at the same time with how much greater edification they prayed, who depended entirely on the Spirit of God for his assistance in their extempore effusions, than those did who tied themselves up to premeditated forms; and that if he had not made the sign of the cross, which was, as he termed it, a badge of Popery, nobody could have formed an objection to his excellent prayers. Upon this, Mr. Bull hoping to recover him from his ill-grounded prejudices, shewed him the office of baptism in the Liturgy, wherein was contained every prayer which he had made use of on that occasion; and this, with other arguments that he then urged, wrought so effectually upon the good man and his family, that they always after that time frequented the parish church, and never absented themselves from Mr. Bull's communion.
While he remained minister of this parish, the Providence of God was pleased to appear wonderfully in his preservation. The lodgings he had taken in this place were contiguous to a powder-mill, the danger of which situation so affected his good friend Mr. Morgan, a gentleman of the parish, that he insisted upon his removing to his house. For some time he declined this kind offer, but at last he complied with it, and a few days after his removal the mill was blown up, and his apartment with
it, the very hour that he used commonly to be in his study. During his being at St. George's, it was his custom to make a journey once a year to Oxford, where he remained two months to enjoy the advantage of the public libraries. In his way thither, as well as on his return, he always made a visit to Sir William Masters of Cirencester; and while there, usually preached for Mr. Alexander Gregory, incumbent of that place, whose daughter be married in 1658. She was a most excellent woman, and had so great an affection for her husband, that when he died she preferred residing at Brecknock to settling among her relations, because that his remains were interred in that place, by the side of which her own were deposited a few years after his death. By this marriage Mr. Bull had five sons and six daughters.
Ahout this time he was presented to the rectory of Suddingion St. Mary in Gloucestershire, by Lady Pool. No man was more zealous in promoting the royal cause than Mr. Bull; and several gentlemen in his neighbourhood had frequent meetings at his house, to consult how they might contribute their assistance towards the restoration of the king. When that happy event was accomplished, Mr. Bull used frequently to preach at Cirencester, where, by his judicious discour:es, he reconciled many to the church of England, and in his own parish he made a free use of the Liturgy a considerable time before it became re-established.
In 1662, at the request of bis diocesan, Bishop Nicholson, Mr. Bull was presented to the neighbouring vicarage of Suddington St. Peter, by the Earl of Clarendon, then lord chancellor; but the value of both united did not exceed one hundred pounds a year. The only Dissenters he had to disturb the peace of his parish were a few Quakers, who resisted all bis endeavours to bring them to the church, for they were as obstinate as they were ignorant. One of these, who was a noted preacher among them, once accostéd Mr: Bull in these words : “ George, as for human learning I set no value upon it; but if thou wilt talk scripture, have at thee." Upon which Mr. Bull, willing to lessen bis confidence, readily answered, “Come on then, friend!” So opening the bible, which lay before them, he fell upon the book of Proverbs. “ Seest thou, friend,” saith he, “ Solomon saith in one place, ' answer a fool according to bis folly; and in another place, 'answer not a fool according to his folly.