This was a man of mark,--”a vast scholar.” He was a native of Bishop’s Middleham, in the county of Durham. His father was a gentleman of “more ancientry than estate.” He studied at Cambridge, where he was at first a student of Christ’s College, then a Fellow of Emanuel, and afterwards Master of Sidney Sussex College. He entered upon this latter office in 1609, and occupied it with great usefulness and honor till his death, thirty-four years after. His college flourished greatly under his administration. Four new fellowships were founded, all the scholarships augmented, and a chapel and new range of buildings erected, all in his time. He was distinguished for the gravity of his deportment, and for the integrity with which he discharged the duties of his Mastership.
Being appointed chaplain to the royal favorite, Bishop Montague, he was by that prelate made Archdeacon of Taunton in 1615, and also Prebendary of Wells. The King next year presented him to the rectory of Much-Munden in Hertforshire; and also appointed him one of his chaplains. In 1617, the excellent Dr. Toby Mathew, archbishop of York, made him Prebendary of Ampleford in the cathedral church of York; and this stall Dr. Ward retained as long as he lived.
King James sent him, in 1618, to the Synod of Dort, in Holland, together with Bishops Carleton, Davenant, and Hall; as the four divines most able and meet to represent the Church of England, at that famous Council. After a while Dr. Goad, a powerful divine and chaplain to Dr. Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, was sent in the place of Dr. Hall, recalled at his own request, on account of sickness. The English delegates were treated with the highest consideration; and having exerted a very happy influence in the Synod, returned with great honor to their own country, after six or eight months’ absence. The sittings of the Synod began November 3d, 1618, and ended April 29th of the next year. During all this time, the States General of Holland allowed the British envoys ten pounds sterling each day; and at their departure, gave them two hundred pounds to bear their expenses; and also to each of them a splendid gold medal, representing the Synod in session.
At this celebrated ecclesiastical council, Walter Balcanqual, B.D., Fellow of Pembroke Hall, and afterwards Master of the Savoy, by order of King James, represented the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. There were also, besides the members from the Dutch provinces, delegates present from Hesse, the Palatinate, Bremen, and Switzerland, all of whose churches practised the Presbyterial form of discipline and government. The Church of England, through its “supreme head,” acknowledged and communed with all these as true churches of the Lord Jesus Christ, --sitting and acting with them, by its delegated theologians, in a solemn ecclesiastical assembly. Surely the spirit of the Anglican Church in those days was widely different from what is manifested now.
The object of the Synod, which convened by order of their High Mightinesses, the Lords States General, was to settle the doctrinal disputes which ten convulsed the established Church of the Netherlands. For some ten years the dispute had been very sharp between Calvinists, who adhered to the old national faith, and the followers of Arminius, who innovated upon the old order of things. The points in dispute related to divine predestination, the nature and extent of the atonement, the corruption of man, his conversion to God, and the perseverance of saints. These five points are explained in some sixty “canons,” which were “confirmed by the unanimous consent of all and each of the members of the whole Synod.” The Dordrechtan Canons are, perhaps, the most careful and exact statement of the Calvinist belief, in scientific form, that has ever been drawn up. It is wisely framed, so that all the usual objections to these doctrines are forestalled and excluded in the very form of their statement. Although the decrees of Dordrecht had not the desired effect of quelling the errors of Arminianism, they are worthy of all it cost to procure them. At the time of their adoption, King James was very hostile to the Arminians. He soon, however, became more lenient toward them, when convinced by Bishop Laud, that the laxity and pliancy of Arminianism made it far more supple and convenient for the purposes of “kingcraft” and civil despotism, than the stiff and unyielding temper of Calvinism, whose first principle is obedience to God rather than to man. The court favor took such a turn, that it was not many years till, in answer to a question as to what the Arminians held, it was wittily said, that they held almost all the best bishoprics and deaneries in England.
Before going home to England, the British delegates made a tour through the provinces of Holland, and were received with great respect in most of the principal cities. On his return, Dr. Ward resumed his duties as head of Sidney College. In 1621, he was Vice-Chancellor of the University. In the same year, he was made the Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, which office he sustained with great celebrity for more than twenty years. The English Bible, which he actively assisted in translating, was formally published in 1611. Some errors of the press having crept into the first edition, and others into later reprints, King Charles the First, in 1638, had another edition printed at Cambridge, which was revised by Dr. Ward and Mr. Bois, two of the original Translators who still survived, assisted by Dr. Thomas Goad, Mr. Mede, and other learned men.
When the Assembly of Divines was convened at Westminster, 1643, Dr. Ward was summoned as a member, but never attended. In doctrine, he was a thorough Puritan; but in politics, a staunch royalist. In the sad and distracted times of the civil wars, as Thomas Fuller, his affectionate pupil, says, “he turned as a rock riseth with the tide. --In a word, he was accounted a Puritan before these times, and popish in these times; and yet, being always the same, was a true Protestant at all times.” When hostilities broke out, he joined the other heads of Colleges at Cambridge, in sending their college-plate to aid the tyrannical Charles Stuart, whose character, partially redeemed by some private virtues, has been so admirably exposed by Macaulay. “Faithlessness,” says that philosophic historian, “was the chief cause of his disasters, and is the chief stain on his memory. He was, in truth, impelled by an incurable propensity to dark and crooked ways. It may seem strange that his conscience, which, on occasions of little moment, was sufficiently sensitive, should never have reproached him with this great vice. But there is reason to believe that he was perfidious, not only from constitution and from habit, but also on principle.” This historical judgment may seem severe; but its truth is maintained by other competent critics. James Stuart was undoubtedly one of the worse sort of monarchs; but of him Coleridge frankly says, --”James I., in my honest judgment, was an angel, compared with his sons and grandsons.”
Dr. Ward, no doubt, like many other good men who disliked the King’s proceedings, was compelled, by his conscientious belief in the long established doctrine of the “divine right of kings,” to uphold his sovereign. In consequence of his sending the college-plate to be coined for the King’s use, the parliamentary authorities deprived Dr. Ward of his professorship and mastership, and confiscated his goods. He was also, in 1642, with three other heads of colleges involved in the same transaction, imprisoned in St. John’s College for a short time. During his confinement, he contracted a disorder that proved fatal in six weeks after his liberation, which was granted on account of his sickness. He died, in great want, at an advanced age, in 1643, and was the first person buried in Sidney Sussex Chapel. A beautiful character is drawn in some Latin verses addressed to him by Dr. Thomas Goad, the close of which is thus given in English by Fuller; -
So skilled in tongues, so sinewy in style;
Add to all these that peaceful soul of thine,
Meek, modest, which all brawlings doth decline.”
Dr. Ward maintained much correspondence with learned men. His correspondence with Archbishop Ushur reveals traits of diversified learning, especially in biblical and oriental criticism. * In his letters to the elder Vossius he adimadverts upon that distinguished author’s History of Pelgianism. His character cannot be better described than in the following beautiful passage from Dr. Fuller’s History of the University of Cambridge. “He was a Moses, not only for slowness of speech, but otherwise meekness of nature. Indeed, when, in my private thoughts, I have beheld him and Dr. Collins, ** (disputable whether more different, or more eminent in their endowments,) I could not but remember the running of Peter and John to the place where Christ was buried. In which race, John came first, as youngest and swiftest; but Peter first entered the grave. Dr. Collins had much the speed of him in quickness of parts; but let me say, (nor doth the relation of pupil misguide me,) the other pierced the deeper into underground and profound points in divinity. Now as high winds bring some men the sooner into sleep, so, I conceive, the storms and tempests of these distracted times invited this good old man the sooner to his long rest, where we leave him, and quietly draw the curtains about him.”
* Dr. Usher, in one of these letters, corrects a misprint in the Translator’s Preface, where the name Efnard should be Eynard, or Eginhardus.
** Samuel Collins, Provost of King’s College, and for forty years Regius Professor. “As Caligula is said to have sent his soldiers vainly to fight against the tide, with the same success have any encountered the torrent of his Latin in disputation.”