Prideaux, John, Dd

Prideaux, John, D.D.

an English prelate of much note, was born of humble parentage at Stowford, near Ivybridge, in Devonshire, Sept. 17,1578. While yet in his boyhood he was a candidate for the office of parish clerk at Ugborough, a neighboring village; but he did not succeed, and to his failure he used to attribute his elevated position in after-life. He was then noticed by a lady of the parish, who, seeing that a boy of only common educational training attempted so much, felt persuaded that he would surely rise if given greater facilities; and she supported him at school till he had acquired a knowledge of Latin, and was ready to go to Oxford, where he was admitted a poor scholar at Exeter College in 1596. He was elected probationer fellow of his college in 1602, being then a B.A. In the following year he received holy orders, and, having become noted for his profound knowledge of divinity as well as his great learning in general, he was elected rector of his college upon the death of Dr. Thomas Holland in 1612. In 1615 he succeeded Dr. Robert Abbott, then promoted to the see of Salisbury, as regius professor of divinity, canon of Christ Church, and rector of Ewelme. He afterwards held the office of vice-chancellor for several years. "In the rectorship of his college," says Wood, "he carried himself so winning and pleasing by his gentle government and fatherly instruction that it flourished more than any house in the university with scholars, as well of great as of mean birth; as also with many foreigners that came purposely to sit at his feet to gain instruction." He no less distinguished himself in the divinity chair, which he occupied for twenty-six years. Although he maintained his decided convictions against the Socinians and Arminians, and was a most stout defender of the Calvinistic tendency, he was yet popular with all his hearers, and none failed to do him reverence, however widely they might differ from him. Though the university was agitated deeply by the controversy of those times, Prideaux happily escaped all partisan imbroglio, and in 1641 was elevated to the bishopric of Worcester. On account of his adherence to the king, he found his dignity neither pleasant nor profitable. He became so impoverished as to be compelled to sell his books, and so was, as Dr. Gauden says, "verus librorum helluo." "Having," continues Wood, "first, by indefatigable studies, digested his excellent library into his mind, he was afterwards forced again to devour all his books with his teeth, turning them, by a miraculous faith and patience, into bread for himself and his children, to whom he left no legacy but pious poverty, God's blessing, and a father's prayers." He died at Bredon, in Worcestershire, July 12, 1650. He was a man of most unassuming and gentle manners; of excellent conduct, and great integrity and piety of mind; quite regardless of worldly concerns, and careless and often imprudent in worldly matters. He was an excellent linguist, possessing a wonderful memory, and so profound a divine that some have called him "Columna Fidei Orthodoxae et Malleus Haereticorum," "Patrum Pater," and "Ingens Scholue et Academiae Oraculum." His works were as much esteemed as his learning. They were numerous, and mostly written in Latin— upon grammar, logic, theology, and other subjects. Those specially interested will find a list in Middleton's Evangel. Biog. 3, 203 sq. Though he died before the publication of the London Polyglot, he was well known to the editor, Brian Walton, who appeals to Prideaux's authority, on the nicer points of Hebrew criticism, in vindicating the Polyglot from certain cavils that had been raised against it. See Hook, Ecclesiastes Biog. 8:163; Perry, Hist. of the Church of England, 3, 239; English Cyclopaedia, s.v.; Wood, Athenae Oxoniensis (Bliss ed.), 3, 267; Fuller, Worthies, 1, 408 sq.; Nicholls, 2, 456; and Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Authors, s.v.

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