Britannia Biographies: William Laud Part 3
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Biography of William Laud (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury

W I L L I A M
L A U D
Part 3: Popish Notoriety

Laud, who appears to have been designed for the church from his boyhood, was sent first to Reading School, the free grammar-school of his native town. Whence, in July 1589, before he was sixteen, "which," Heylin remarks, "was very early for those times," he was sent to Oxford, and entered as a commoner of St. John's. Here his tutor was Mr. Buckeridge, one of the fellows and a zealous opponent of Puritanism. The seed of this popular following had been sown in the Church almost at the beginning of the Queen Elizabeth's reign and, for all that could be done to keep it down, was evidently enough growing stronger every day. Buckeridge's teaching was not thrown away upon Land.

The events noted in Laud's Diary for the next ten or twelve years are: that he was chosen a scholar of his college in June 1590 and admitted a fellow in June 1593; that his father died on Wednesday 11th April 1594; that he proceeded bachelor of arts in June of that year; that, in 1596, he had a great sickness and, in 1597, another (he had also been brought to death's door by an illness in his infancy); that, in July 1598, he took his degree of master of arts and the same year was grammar reader; that, at the end of that year, he fell into another great sickness; that his mother died on 24th November 1600; that, on 4th January 1601, he was ordained deacon, and priest on the 5th of April thereafter.

He had already obtained a considerable academic reputation and, having been admitted in 1602 to read a divinity lecture then maintained in his college in which he acquitted himself to general satisfaction, he became, next year, a candidate for the proctorship of the university, and obtained it. In this year, 1603, Heylin says he publicly maintained, either in his divinity lecture or in some other chapel exercise, "his famous doctrine of the perpetual visibility of the church, as derived from the Apostles to the Church of Rome, and continued in that church till the Reformation." The proclamation of these opinions brought him at once into open collision with the dominant Calvinistic party in the University, headed by Dr. George Abbot, Master of University College (afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury), who was then Vice-Chancellor. Abbot did not profess to deny the constant visibility of the church, or the apostolical succession, but he held a different theory of it, "tracing it," says Heylin contemptuously, "as well as he could from the Berengarians to the Albigenses, from the Albigenses to the Wycliffists, from the Wycliffists unto the Hussies, and from the Hussites unto Luther and Calvin." From the two systems sprung what were called High Church and Low Church principles and parties at a later date. Heylin affirms, on the authority of Laud himself, that he was so violently persecuted by Abbot. He was so openly branded by him for a papist, or at least one very popishly inclined, "that it was almost made a heresy for anyone to be seen in his company, and a misprision of heresy for anyone to give him a civil salutation as he walked the streets." Laud had followed up his lecture or sermon of 1603 by maintaining, the next year, in his exercise for bachelor of divinity, the necessity both of baptism and of bishops. Again, by a sermon preached in St. Mary's Church, Oxford on 21st October 1606, he was called to account by Dr. Airy, then Vice-Chancellor, for making, in some passages, a declaration of downright popery. "The good man," says Helyin, took "all things to be a matter of popery which were not held forth unto him in Calvin's Institutes."

Part 4: The Earl of Devonshire's Marriage


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