Bramhall, John, archbishop of Armagh, was born at Pontefract, in Yorkshire, in 1593, and studied at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he passed A.B. 1612, and A.M. 161f. In the same year he was presented to a living in York. In 1623 he held two disputations with a Romish priest and a Jesuit at Northallerton, in which he obtained so unquestionable a victory that archbishop Matthews, having heard it, called him to his side, and made him his chaplain, adding to that other ecclesiastical preferments. While in this situation he became known to Sir Thomas Wentworth (afterward Earl of Strafford), deputy of Ireland, who induced him, in 1633, to go over into Ireland to be his chaplain, deeming him well fitted to assist him in his schemes for the restoration and improvement of the Church in that country. In 1631 he was raised to the see of Londonderry, which he greatly improved, so far as even to double the yearly profits of the bishopric. He likewise did great service to the Irish Church by his exertions to get such impropriations as remained in the crown, vested by Charles I on the several incumbents, after the expiration of the leases, as well by his vast purchases of impropriations, either with his own money or by remittances from England. About the same time he was mainly instrumental in obtaining the reception by the Irish clergy of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Synod of London, A.D. 1562. He also chiefly compiled a book of canons for the Church of Ireland. Bishop Bramhall was not, however, left undisturbed to pursue his labors, and was soon involved in the troubles of the kingdom. On the 4th of March, 1640-41, articles of impeachment were exhibited against him in the Irish House of Lords, to answer which, reckless of the cautious advice of his friends, who dissuaded him from it, he repaired to Dublin, and was there made a close prisoner. Through the king's exertions, he was at length released, not a single charge being proven against him, and he embarked for England, whence, when the royal cause became lost, he repaired to Hamburgh, and thence to Brussels, where he chiefly continued till 1648, when he returned to Ireland. After great perils and dangers he again fled from that country, in October in that year was at Rotterdam, and continued abroad until the Restoration. Several of his most important works, especially those in defence of the Church of England, were written in his exile. "Among these we may especially mention his 'Answer to M. de Milletiere his impertinent dedication of his imaginary triumph intitled, the Victory of Truth; or his epistle to the king of Great Britain, wherein he invited his majesty to forsake the Church of England and to embrace the Roman Catholic religion: with the said Milletiere's epistle prefixed.' This was first published at the Hague in 1654, 12mo, but not by the author. It was occasioned by the fact that the Romanists endeavored to persuade King Charles II, during his exile, to expect his restoration 1 y embracing their religion, and for that purpose employed Milletibre, councillor in ordinary to the king of France, to write him this epistle. We may here mention that Theophile Brachet, Sieur de la Milletiere, was originally a member of the French Reformed congregations, and sufficiently distinguished among them to be selected as a deputy and secretary to the Assembly of La Rochelle in 1621. He entered subsequently into the plans of Cardinal Richelieu for the union of the Roman Catholic and Reformed churches in France; published a great number of letters, pamphlets, and treatises upon the doctrines in dispute between them, assimilating gradually to the Roman Catholic tenets; was suspended in consequence by the Synod of Alenoon in 1637, and expelled by that of Charenton in 1645 from the Reformed communion; and finally became a Roman Catholic ' of necessity, that he might be of some religion.' 'He was a vain and shallow man, full of himself; and persuaded that nothing approached to his own merit and capacity;' and, after his change of religion, 'was perpetually playing the missionary and seeking conferences, although he was always handled in them with a severity sufficient to have damped his courage, had he not been gifted with a perversity which nothing could conquer' (Benoit, Hist. de I'Edit de Nantes, tom. ii, liv. 10:p. 514-516). The work to which Bramhall replied seems fully to bear out the truth of this sketch of his character" (Hook). In June, 1660, we find him again in London; and in January, 1660-61, he was translated to the see of Armagh, not long after which he consecrated in one day two archbishops and ten bishops. As archbishop, he exerted all his powers for the good and welfare of the Church. A little before his death he visited his diocese, provided for the repairs of his cathedral, and returned to Dublin about the middle of May, 1662. He died June 25th, 1663. Jeremy Taylor preached his funeral sermon. He was a High-Church divine, but very laborious and zealous for Protestant Christianity as well as for the Church of England. The most important passage in his literary history was the controversy with Hobbes, an account of which will be found in The Question concerning Liberty, etc., between Bishop Bramhall and Mr. Hobbes (Lond. 1656), and also in Bramhall's Works. "The controversy between Bramhall and Hobbes took its rise from a conversation that passed between them at an accidental meeting, in 1645, at the house of the Marquis of Newcastle in Paris. It appears that the bishop subsequently committed his thoughts upon the subject to writing, and transmitted his 'discourse' through the marquis to Hobbes. This called forth an answer from the latter, in a letter addressed to the marquis (dated Rouen, Aug. 20,1645), to be communicated ' only to my lord bishop;' to which Bramhall replied in a second paper, not, however, until the middle of the following year, and privately as before. Here the controversy rested for more than eight years, having been hitherto carried on with perfect courtesy on both sides. In 1654, however, a friend of Hobbes procured without his knowledge a copy of his letter, and published it in London with Hobbes's name, but with the erroneous date of 1652 for 1645; upon which Bramhall, finding himself thus deceived, rejoined in the next year by the publication of the Defence, etc. (Lond. 1655, 8vo), consisting of his own original 'discourse,' of Hobbes's answer, and of his own reply, printed sentence by sentence, With a dedication to the Marquis of Newcastle, and an advertisement to the reader explaining the circumstances under which it was published." His works were collected in one vol. fol., and published at Dublin in 1676, again in 1677, and lately at Oxford in the "Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology" (Oxford, 1842-45, 5 vols. 8vo). They are distributed into four volumes, viz.:
1. Discourses against the Romanists; 2. His Writings against the English Sectaries; 3. His Writings against Mr. Hobbes; 4. Miscellaneous. A sketch of his life, with a list of his writings, is given in vol. i of the late Oxford edition of his works.
Jeremy Taylor, in his funeral sermon on Bishop Bramhall, says of him: "To sum up all, he was a wise prelate, a learned doctor, a just man, a true friend, a great benefactor to others, a thankful beneficiary where he was obliged himself. He was a faithful servant to his masters, a loyal subject to the king, a zealous assertor of his religion, against Popery on one side and fanaticism on the other. The practice of his religion was not so much in forms and exterior ministeries, although he was a great observer of all the public rites and ministeries of the Church, as it was in doing good to others. It will be hard to find his equal in all things. For in him were visible the great lines of Hooker's judiciousness, of Jewel's learning, of the acuteness of Bishop Andrewes. He showed his equanimity in poverty, and his justice in riches; he was useful in his country, and profitable in his banishment." See Hook, Eccl. Biog. 3:52; Landon, Eccl. Dict. ii, 382.