Gilpin, Bernard

Gilpin, Bernard called the apostle of the North, an eminent English reformer and itinerant preacher, was born at Kentmire, in Westmoreland, in 1517. At sixteen he was sent to Queen's College, Oxford, where, stimulated by the works of Erasmus, he made the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek his chief study. In 1541 he became M.A., and about the same time was elected fellow of his college, and ordained. His reputation for learning soon after led to his being solicited by cardinal Wolsey's agents to accept an establishment in his new foundation at Christ's Church, whither he removed from Queen's College. The university was divided between those who asserted the necessity of a reformation and those who resisted it. Gilpin was for some time opposed to the reformers, maintaining the Romish side in a dispute with Hooper, afterwards bishop of Worcester. But his mind was open to conversion, and in preparing himself for this dispute, he began to suspect that the peculiarities of Romanism were not supported by Scripture or by the fathers. This truth was still further forced upon him when, on the accession of Edward VI, Peter Martyr was sent to Oxford, and Bernard Gilpin was selected as one of the champions on the Romish side to oppose him. The result was that he embraced the Reformation. In 1552 he was made vicar of Norton, and in the same year obtained from Edward VI a license as "general preacher," which authorized him to preach in any diocese. He resigned his living soon after, and went to Louvain, where the priests sought in vain to reclaim him to Romanism. He returned to England in 1556, and found the Church oppressed and persecuted by queen Mary with blood and fire. His uncle, bishop Tonstall, gave him the living of Easingdon, and afterwards the rectory of Houghton-le-Spring; and although his Protestant views were well known, the bishop protected him. His enemies now accused his before bishop Bonner, and he was on his way to trial, and probably to the scaffold, but was detained by breaking his leg on the journey, till news arrived of Mary's death, and he returned in peace to his rectory. The remainder of his life was spent in the assiduous discharge of his parish duties, and in preaching through the country as an itinerant. "The parts of Redesdale and Tyynedale, debatable land on the Marches, are particularly named as the scenes of his labors. The people there, living on the borders of the two counties, had long led a lawless life, subsisting mostly on plunder. Gilpin went fearlessly amongst them, holding forth the commands and the sanctions of Christianity, and did much to change the character of the country. Hence it was that he was commonly called the Northern apostle, and his name for generations was repeated with reverence. His own parish of Houghton, which included within it fourteen villages, however, was the chief scene of his labors. It yielded him an ample income, for Houghton was then, as now, one of the richest benefices in the North. He was himself a bachelor. In hospitality he was like what is said or fabled of the primitive bishops. Every fortnight, we are told, forty bushels of corns, twenty bushels of malt, and a whole ox, were consumed in his house, besides ample supplies of provisions of many other kinds. A good portion of this hospitable provision was no doubt consumed by his parishioners, it being his customs, having 'a large and wide parish and a great multitude of people, to keep a table for them every Sunday from Michaelmas to Easter.' But the rectory-house was also open to all travelers, and so great was the reverence which surrounded the master that his liberality was rarely abused, even the most wicked being awed lay it. His skill in according differences was scarcely less famed than his hospitality and his preaching; and when to this we add that his benevolence took the wise direction of providing instruction for the young, and that he was assiduous in his attention to the sick and to the poor, we have touched upon all the points which can be prominent in the life of a good pastor. His zeal for education was 'manifested at once in the education of the poor children in his parish in homely learning, and in patronizing promising youth in their studies in the universities. Of these, his scholars, 'he kept full four-and-twenty in his own house, the greater number being poor men's sons, upon whom he bestowed meat, drink, and cloth, sand education in learning;' and out of these scholars, and from the grammar-school which he founded, wes are told that 'he supplied the Church of England with great store of learned meas.' Of his scholars he always maintained at his own expense at least six at the universities, and when they had completed their studies charged himself with the care of their settlement" (English Cyclopaedia, s.v.). His Lfe, by bishop Carleton, is one of the most interesting of Christian biographies. He died March 4, 1583. See Wordsworth, Eccl. Biog. 4:367; Life, by W. Gipin (Glasg. 1824, 12mo); Jamieson, Cyclop. Relig. Biog. page 222; Hook, Eccl. Biog. volume 5; English Cyclopoedia, s.v. SEE FAITH, RULE OF.

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