This divine was a staunch Puritan, brave and godly, learned and laborious, full of moderation and the old English hardihood. He was born at Chaderton in Lancashire, in the year 1537. His family was wealthy, but bigotted in popery, in which religion he was carefully bred. Being destined to the bar, he was sent to the Inns of Court, at London, where he spent some years in the study and practice of the law. Here he became a pious protestant; and, forsaking the law, entered, as student, at Christ's College, Cambridge. Oh that, in a far higher sense, all divinity-students might be trained in Christ’s own college, and learn their science from the Great Teacher himself!
These changes took place in 1564. Mr. Chaderton applied to his father for some pecuniary aid; but the wrathful old papist "sent him a poke, with a groat in it, to go a-begging;" and disinherited his son of a large estate. The son had to occasion to use the begging-poke. His high character and scholarship procured him much favor; while his mind was sustained by the promises of the Saviour, for whose sake he had "endured the loss of all things." He took his first degree in 1567, and was then chosen one of the Fellows of his College. He became Master of Arts in 1561; and Bachelor of Divinity in 1584. He did not receive the degree of Doctor in Divinity till 1613, when it was pressed upon him, at the time when Frederick, Prince Palatine of the Rhine, who married King James's daughter Elizabeth, visited Cambridge in state. Fuller, remarking on this matter, writes,--"What is said of Mount Caucasus, 'that it was never seen without snow on the top,' was true of this reverend father, whom none of our father's generation knew in the University before he was gray-headed."
"He made himself familiar with the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew tongues, and was thoroughly skilled in them. Moreover he had diligently investigated the numerous writings of the Rabbis, so far as they seemed to promise any aid to the understanding of the Scriptures. This is evident from the annotations in his handwriting appended to the Biblia Bombergi,* which are still preserved in the library of Emanuel College."** His studies were such as eminently to qualify him to bear an important part in the translating of the Bible. In 1576, he held a public dispute with Dr. Baron, Margaret Professor of Divinity, upon the Arminian sentiments of the latter. In this debate, Dr. Chaderton appeared to the highest advantage, as to his learning, ability and temper.
For sixteen years he was lecturer at St. Clement's Church, in Cambridge, where his preaching was greatly blessed. In 1578, he delivered a sermon at Paul's Cross, London, which appears to have been his only printed production. About that time, by order of Parliament, he was appointed preacher of the Middle Temple, with a liberal salary. It was thought best, perhaps, that a flock of lawyers should have the gospel preached to them by one who had been bred to know the sins of their calling.
In the year 1584, Sir Walter Mildmay, one of Queen Elizabeth's noted statesmen, founded Emanuel College, at Cambridge. Sir Walter was not supposed to be a very high Churchman, and the Queen charged him with having "erected a Puritan foundation." In reply, he told her, that he had set an acorn, which, when it became an oak, God only knows what will become of it." And truly, it pleased God, that it should yield plenteous crops of Puritan "hearts of oak;" and afford an abundant supply of that sound, substantial, and yet spiritual piety, which stands in strong contrast with all superstition and formality. Emanuel College Chapel, by order of the founder, was built in the uncanonical direction of north and south. Nearly a hundred years after, this non-conforming building was punished by the crabbed prelates, who had it pulled down, and rebuilt in the holy position of east and west, agreeably to the solemn doctrine of the "orientation of churches!" Perhaps there was no better way to convert it from the Puritanism wherewith it was infected, than thus to give it first an over turn, and then a half turn toward popery.
It is likely, however, that the religious peculiarities which long marked this College are to be ascribed less to the position in which the chapel was placed, than to the influence of its first Master. For this important office, Sir Walter Mildmay made choice of Dr. Chaderton. The modesty of the latter made him quite resolute to refuse the station, till Sir Walter plainly told him,--"If you will not be the Master, I will not be the Founder." Upon this, Dr. Chaderton accepted the office; and filled it with zeal, and industry, and high repute, for thirty-eight years. Through his exertions, the endowments of the institution were greatly increased, and it became a nursing mother to many eminent and useful men.
At the Hampton Court Conference, in 1603, Dr. Chaderton was one of the four divines appointed by the King as being "the most grave, learned, and modest of the aggrieved sort," to represent the Puritan interest. Dr. Chaderton, however, took no part in the debates, perceiving that the Conference was merely a royal farce, got up to give the tyrant an opportunity to avow his bitter hostility to Puritanism, because of its incompatibility with abject submission to arbitrary power. Coleridge, who was a staunch adherent of the Church of England, but by no means blinded on that account to the truth of history, thus expresses his opinion as to the Hampton Court affair. "If any man, who, like myself, hath attentively read the Church history of the reign of Elizabeth, and the Conference before, and with, her pedant successor, can shew me any essential difference between Whitgift and Bancroft, during their rule, and Bonner and Gardiner in the reign of Mary, I will be thankful to him in my heart, and for him in my prayers. One difference I see,--namely, that the former, professing the New Testament to be their rule and guide, and making the fallibility of all churches and individuals an article of faith, were more inconsistent, and therefore, less excusable than the popish persecutors."***
It was during his mastership of Emanuel College, that Dr. Chaderton was engaged in the Bible translation, in which good work he was well fitted and disposed to take his part. "He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one." Having reached his three score years and ten, his knowledge was fully digested, and his experience matured, while "his natural force was not abated," and his faculties burned with unabated fire. Even tot he close of his long life, "his eye was not dim," and his sight required no artificial aid.
Many years after, in 1622, having reached the great age of eighty-five, this Nestor among the divines resigned the office he had so long sustained. Not that he was even then disqualified for its duties by infirmity; but because of the rapid spread of Arminianism, and the fear that, if the business were left till after his death, a divine of lax sentiments, who was then waiting his chance, would be thrust into the place by the interference of the Court. The business was so managed, that Dr. Preston, the very champion of the Puritans, was inducted as Dr. Chaderton's successor. The vivacious patriarch, however, lived to survive Dr. Preston; and to see Dr. Sancroft, and after him, Dr. Holdsworth, in the same station. This latter incumbent preached Dr. Chaderton's funeral sermon. Dr. Holdsworth used to tell him, that, as long as he lived, he should be Master in the house, though he himself was forced to be Master of the house. The patriarch was always consulted as to the affairs of the College.
The most protracted and useful life must come to its end. There have been various accounts of the time of Dr. Chaderton's death, and of the place of his interment. But all mistakes are corrected by his Latin epitaph, which has been found on a monumental stone, at the entrance of Emanuel College chapel, and has been translated as follows:
Perhaps such longevity was more common then than now. It is on record, that "ten men of Herefordshire, a nest of Nestors, once danced the Morish before King James, their united ages exceeding a thousand years." Their contemporary, Dr. Chaderton, was more honored by the gravity of his gray hairs, than they by the levity of their giddy heels.
He was greatly venerated. All his habits were such as inspired confidence in his piety. During the fifty-three years of his married life, he never suffered any of his servants to be detained from public worship by the preparation of food, or other household cares. He used to say, --"I desire as much to have my servants to know the Lord, as myself." These things are greatly to his honor; though his regard to the Lord's Day may excite the scorn of some in these degenerate times.
Dr. Chaderton is described by Archdeacon Echard, as "a grave, pious, and excellent preacher." As an instance of his power in the pulpit, we will close this sketch with an incident which could hardly have taken place any where on earth for the last hundred years. It is stated on high authority, that while our aged saint was visiting some friends in his native country of Lancashire, he was invited to preach. Having addressed his audience for two full hours by the glass, he paused and said,--"I will no longer trespass on your patience.” And now comes the marvel; for the whole congregation cried out with one consent,--"For God's sake, go on, go on!" He, accordingly, proceeded much longer , to their great satisfaction and delight. "When," says Coleridge, "after reading the biographies of [Izaak] Walton and his contemporaries, I reflect on the crowded congregations, who with intense interest came to their hour-and-two-hour-long sermons, I cannot but doubt the fact of any true progression, moral or intellectual, in the mind of the many. The tone, the matter, the anticipated sympathies in the sermons of an age, form the best moral criterion of the character of that age." Let us not be so unwise as to inquire concerning this, "What is the cause that the former days were better than these?" For even now people like to hear such preaching as is preaching. but where shall we find men for the work like those who gave us our version of the Bible?
* An edition of the Hebrew Bible, printed by Bomberg, at Venice, in 1518.