This noted scholar was a Belgian by birth. His father was a Spaniard, his mother was a Belgian, and both were Protestants. He was born in 1530, at Hedin in Artois. Of his early life no notices have reached us. He was, for some years, a pastor both in Flanders and Holland. He was, in his principles, a terrible high- church-man; and seems, from his zeal for the divine right of episcopacy, to have had some trouble with his colleagues and the magistrates at Ghent, where he was one of the ministers in 1566. From that place he retired to England. He was sent by Queen Elizabeth's Council as a sort of missionary to the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, where he was one of the first Protestant ministers; knowing, as he says of himself, in a letter, "which were the beginnings, and by what means and occasions the preaching of God's word was planted there." He labored there in a twofold capacity, doing the work of an evangelist, and conducting a newly established school, called Elizabeth College.
From his island-home, he was recalled to the continent by the Belgian churches, in 1577. He was invited to become Professor of Divinity at the University of Leyden, in 1582; and soon after was also made preacher of the French Church in that city. In 1587 he came to England with the Earl of Leicester, and became master of the grammar- school in Southampton, where, in the course of a few years, he trained many distinguished pupils.
His zeal for episcopacy led him to publish several Latin treatises against Beza, Danaeus, and other Presbyterians. He also published a treatise on papal primacy against the Jesuit Gretser. All his publications relate to such matters, and were collected into a folio edition, in the year 1611. They are still highly praised by the "Oxford divines," who have given occasion to Macauley to say, in his caustic style,--"The glory of being further behind the age than any other class of the British people, is one which that learned body acquired early, and has never lost."
In 1590, Saravia was made Doctor of Divinity at Oxford, as had been done long before at the University of Leyden. He was made Prebendary of Gloucester, next of Canterbury, in 1695; and then of Westminster in 1601. This last was his highest preferment. He added to it the rectorship of Great Chart, in Kent, some eight years after. He died at Canterbury, January 15th, 1612, aged eighty-two years. Thus his fluctuating life ended in a quiet old age, and a peaceful death.
He is said, by Anthony a-Wood, to have been "educated in all kinds of literature in his younger days, especially in several languages." It was his fortune to find friends and patrons among the great. Archbishop Whitgift, that stern suppressor of Puritanism, held him in high esteem, and made great use of his aid in conducting his share in the controversies of the time. In particular the arch-prelate relied much on Dr. Saravia's "Hebrew learning" in his contest with Hugh Broughton, that stiff Puritan, whom Lightfoot styles "the great Albionean divine, renowned in many nations for rare skill in Salem's and Athen's tongues, and familiar acquaintance with all Rabbinical learning." Thus the Prebendary of Westminster was accustomed to cross swords with no mean adversaries; and was, no doubt, thoroughly furnished with the knowledge necessary for a Bible translator.
While Dr. Saravia was Prebendary of Canterbury, the famous Richard Hooker was parson of the village of Borne, about three miles distant. Between these worthies there sprang up a friendship, cemented by the agreement of their views and studies. Professor Keble says, that Saravia was Hooker's "confidential adviser," while the latter was preparing his celebrated books "Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity." Old Izaak Walton gives the following beautiful picture of their Christian intimacy;-- "These two excellent persons began a holy friendship, increasing daily to so high and mutual affections, that their two wills seem to be but one and the same; and their designs, both for the glory of God, and peace of the church, still assisting and improving each other's virtues, and the desired comforts of a peaceable piety."