This good man was born at Ludlow, in Shropshire, in the year 1539. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford; and graduated in 1570, with great applause. Three years after, he was made chaplain and Fellow of Baliol College; and as Anthony Wood says, was “another Apollos, mighty in the Scriptures,”--also “ a solid preacher, a most noted disputant, and a most learned divine.” He was made Doctor in Divinity in 1584. The next year, when Robert Dudley, the famous Earl of Leicester, was sent as governor of the Netherlands, then just emancipated from the Spanish yoke, Dr. Holland went with him in the capacity of chaplain. In 1589, he succeeded the celebrated Dr. Lawrence Humphrey as the King’s Professor of Divinity, a duty for which he was eminently qualified, and which he trained up many distinguished scholars. He was elected Rector of Exeter College in 1592; an office he filled with great reputation for twenty years, being regarded as a universal scholar, and a prodigy of literature. His reputation extended to the continent, and he was held in high esteem in the universities of Europe. These were the leading events in his studious life.
As to his character, he was a man of ardent piety, a thorough Calvinist in doctrine, and a decided non-conforming Puritan in matters of ceremony and church- discipline. In the public University debates, he staunchly maintained that “bishops are not a distinct order from presbyters, nor at all superior to them by the Word of God.” He stoutly resisted the popish innovations which Bancroft and Laud strove too successfully to introduce at Oxford. When the execrable Laud, afterwards the odious Archbishop of Canterbury, was going through his exercises as candidate for the degree of Bachelor in Divinity, in 1604, he contended “that there could be no true churches without diocesan episcopacy.” For this, the young aspirant was sharply and publicly rebuked by Dr. Holland, who presided on the occasion; and who severely reprehended that future Primate of all England, as “one who sought to sow discord among brethren, and between the Church of England and the Reformed Churches abroad.”
As a preacher, Dr. Holland was earnest and solemn. His extemporary discourses were usually better than his more elaborate preparations. As a student, it was sad of him, that he was so “immersed in books,” that this propensity swallowed up almost every other. In the translation of our Bible he took a very prominent part. This was the crowning work of his life. He died March 16th, 1612, a few months after this most important version was completed and published. He attained to the age of seventy-three years.
The translation being finished, he spent most of his time in meditation and prayer. Sickness and the infirmities of age quickened into greater life his desires for heaven. In the hour of his departure he exclaimed,--”Come, Oh come, Lord Jesus, thou bright and morning star! Come Lord Jesus; I desire to be dissolved and be with thee.” He was buried with great funeral solemnities in the chancel of St. Mary’s, Oxford.
One of his intimate associates and fellow-translators, Dr. Kilby, preached
his funeral sermon. In this sermon it is said of him,--”that he had a wonderful
knowledge of all the learned languages, and of all arts and sciences, both
human and divine. He was mighty in the Scriptures; and so familiarly
acquainted with the Fathers, as if he himself had been one of them; and so
versed in the Schoolmen, as if he were the Seraphic Doctor. He was, therefore,
most worthy of the divinity-chair, which he filled about twenty years, with
distinguished approbation and applause. He was so celebrated for his preaching,
reading, disputing, moderating, and all other excellent qualifications,
that all who knew him commended him, and all who heard of him admired him.”
In illustration of his zeal for purity in faith and worship, and against all
superstition and idolatry, the same sermon informs us, that, whenever he took
a journey, he first called together the Fellows of his College, for his parting
charge, which always ended thus,--”I commend you to the love of God, and to the
hatred of all popery and superstition!” * He published several learned orations
and one sermon. He left many manuscripts ready for the press; but as they fell
into hands unfriendly to the Puritanism they contained, they were never published.