Ferrar, Nicholas

Ferrar, Nicholas a clergyman of the Church of England, eminent for piety, was -born in London in 1592, and was carefully trained at home both in religion and letters. At fourteen he entered the University of Cambridge, and was eminently distinguished there by his abilities and learning, so that his tutor used to say of him, " May God keep him in a right mind! for if he should turn schismatic or heretic, be would make work for all the world." In 1612 he went abroad, studied at Leipsic and Padua, and, after visiting Rome, returned to England in 1618, and soon after became actively engaged in the affairs of a great company for colonizing Virginia, in America, of which he was chosen deputy governor. In 16-24 he was elected to Parliament, where he was highly distinguished for eloquence and ability, but soon decided to quit public life and devote himself to a religious life. In the Church of Rome he would have been a monk, and he came as near to it as possible for a Protestant. He purchased in 1612 the manor of Little Gidding, in Huntingdonshire, and organized in the mansion a religious community of some forty persons, male and female, including his mother. In 1626 he was ordained deacon by Laud (then bishop of St. David's). He now ' signed a vow, that since God had heard his most humble petitions, and delivered him out of many dangers, and in many desperate calamities had extended his mercy to him, he would therefore now give himself up continually to serve God to the utmost of his power in the office of a deacon, into which office he had that morning been regularly ordained; that he had long ago seen enough of the manners and of the vanities of the world, and that he did hold them all in so low esteem that he was resolved to spend the remainder of his life in mortifications, in devotion and charity, and in a constant preparation for death." Benefices of great value were offered him, but he refused, saying that his fixed determination was to rise no higher in the Church than the place and office which he now possessed, and which he had undertaken only with the view to be legally authorized to give spiritual assistance, according to his abilities, to his family and others with whom he might be concerned; and that, as to temporal affairs, he had now parted with all his worldly estate, and divided it among his family. Ferrer allotted one room in his house as an oratory for the devotions of the whole family;, besides two separate oratories for the men and women at night. His own lodgings were so contrived that he could conveniently see that everything was conducted with decency and order. He established a school close to the house, and provided masters for the free instruction of the children. He was diligent in catechizing the children of the neighborhood; and every Sunday, after service, these children, more than one hundred in number, were hospitably entertained. After evening service, all went into the oratory, when select portions of the Psalms were repeated. After this they were at liberty till eight o'clock, when the bell again summoned them to the oratory, where they sang a hymn to the organ and went to prayers, and then all retired. On the first Sunday in every month they received the communion. On week-days they rose at four, at five went to prayers, at six said the Psalms of the hour; then they sang a hymn, repeated some passages of Scripture, and at half past six went to church. "At seven they said the Psalms of the hour, sang a hymn, and went to breakfast. At ten they went to church to litany; at eleven to dinner, during which Scripture and pious books were read aloud. They went to evening prayers in the church at four, after which came supper and recreations till eight, at which time they .prayed in their oratory. During the night there was a continual vigil or watching, in which several of the men and women, in their respective oratories, repeated the whole Psalter, together with prayers for the life of the king and his sons, from nine at night till one in the morning. The time of this watch being ended, they awoke Nicholas Ferrar, who constantly rose at one o'clock, and betook himself to religious meditation, according to these words, 'At midnight will I rise and give thanks.' Ferrar himself lay upon a skin stretched on the floor, arrayed in a loose frieze gown, and he watched in the oratory or the church three nights in the week. King Charles I held Nicholas Ferrar in great reverence, and came more than once to visit this religious society; and, having perused the Harmony of the Gospels which they had compiled, he was so much pleased with it that he requested them to prepare a copy for his own peculiar use." He died in 1637. Ferrar translated and published (though without his own name) the CX Considerations of Valdes (1638).- Hook, Eccles. Biography, v, 108; Peckard, Life of Ferrar, in Wordsworth, Eccles. Biography, 4:111; Palmer, Church History, 184 sq. SEE VALDES, JUAN.

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