This person, the president of his company, was born of worthy parentage, at Malden, in the County of Surrey. He was bred at Westminster School; and then entered, in 1575, as student of Christ’s Church, one of the Oxford Colleges. As it is a matter of some interest, shewing that he went through an extensive course of study, the dates of his various degrees will be given. In 1578, he graduated as Bachelor of Arts; in 1581, he proceeded as Master of Arts; in 1589, he became Bachelor in Divinity; and in 1595, he was made Doctor in Divinity. The successive degrees of the greater part of the persons belonging to the list of Translators could be given; but are omitted for the sake of brevity. It is enough to record, that they nearly all attained to the highest literary honors of their respective universities.
Dr. Ravis, in 1591, was appointed rector of the Church of All-hallows, Barking, in London. The next year, he became Canon of Westminster, and occupied the seventh stall in that church. Two years later, he was chosen Dean of Christ’s Church College. He was also, in 1596 and the year following, elected Vice-Chancellor of the University. In 1598, he exchanged his benefice at All- hallows Church for the rectory of Islip. He also held the Wittenham Abbey Church, in Berkshire. All these preferments and profitable livings mark him as a rising man. His holding a plurality of churches for the sake of their revenues, in neither of which he could perform the duties of the pastoral office, was one of the main cases that justified the complaint of the Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, at the Conference in Hampton Court. His lordship complained of this practice, as occasioning many learned men at the universities to pine for want of places, while others had more than they could fill. “I wish, therefore,” said he, “that some may have single coats, or one living, before others have doublets, or pluralities.” To this, the frugal Bancroft, then Bishop of London, who kept his own ribs thoroughly warmed with such investitures, made the thrifty reply,-- ”But a doublet is necessary in cold weather!” This prelate, a fierce persecutor of Puritans, was reputed to have manifested very little “saving grace,” except in the way of penurious hoardings. The graceless wags of his day made this epitaph upon him;
“Here lies his Grace, in cold clay clad,
The pernicious custom of pluralities, whereby a man receives tithes for the care of souls of which he takes no care, fleecing the flock he neither watches nor feeds, is one of those abuses still continued in the Church of England, and calling for thorough reform.
In 1604, soon after Dr. Ravis was commissioned as one of the Bible-translators, the Lords of the Council requested his acceptance of the bishopric of Gloucester, for which there were very many eager suitors. Three years later, he was translated to the bishopric of London. Anthony Wood says, that he was first preferred to the see of Gloucester, which he reluctantly accepted, on account of his great learning, gravity, and prudence; and that though his diocese “was pretty well stocked with those who could not bear the name of a bishop, yet, by his episcopal living among them, he obtained their love, and a good report from them.” If he deserved this commendation while at Gloucester, he changed for the worse on his translation to London, where he not only succeeded the biter Bancroft in his office, but also in his severe and exacting behavior. So true is the remark, that “bishops and books are seldom the better for being translated.” No sooner had he taken his seat in London, than he stretched forth his hand to vex the non- conforming Puritans. Among others, he cited before him that holly and blessed man, Richard Rogers, for nearly fifty years the faithful minister of Weathersfield, than whom, it is said, “the Lord honored none more in the conversion of souls.” In the presence of this venerable man, who, for his close walking with God, was styled the Enoch of his day, Bishop Ravis protested,--”By the help of Jesus, I will not leave on preacher in my diocese, who doth not subscribe and conform.” The poor prelate was doomed to be disappointed; as he died, before his task was well begun, on the 14th of December 1609. On account of his high offices, and his dying before the translation was completed, it is not probably that he took so active a part in that business as some of his colleagues. Though too much carried away by a zeal for the forms of his Church, which was neither according to knowledge nor charity, he lived and died in deserved respect, and hath a fair monument still standing in his cathedral of St. Paul’s.