The fifth company of Translators was composed of seven divines, who held their meetings at Westminster. Their special portion of the work was the whole of the Epistles of the New Testament. The president of this company was Dr. William Barlow, at the time of his appointment, Dean of Chester. He belonged to an ancient and respectable family residing at Barlow, in Lancashire. He was bred a student of Trinity Hall, in the University of Cambridge. He graduated in 1584, became Master of Arts in 1587 and was admitted to a fellowship in Trinity Hall in 1590. Seven years later, Archbishop Whitgift made him sinecure Rector of Orpington in Kent. He was one of the numerous ecclesiastics of that day, who were courtiers by profession, and studied with success the dark science of prefermente. When Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was beheaded for high treason in the year 1600, Dr. Barlow preached on the occasion, at St. Paul’s Cross, in London. He was now a “rising man.” In 1601, the prebendship of Chiswick was conferred upon him, and he held it till he was made Bishop of Lincoln. In the year 1603, he became at the same time, Prebendary of Westminster and Dean of Chester. This latter prebendship, he held in “commendam” to the day of his death.
When, soon after the accession of James Stuart to the throne of England, the famous Conference was held at Hampton Court, that monarch summoned, as we have said, four Puritan divines, whom he arbitrarily constituted representatives of their brethren. To confront them, he summoned a large force of bishops and cathedral clergymen, of whom Dean Barlow was one, all led to the charge by the doughty king himself. At the different meetings of the Conference, the Puritans were required to state what changes their party desired in the doctrine, discipline, and worship, of the Church of England. As soon as they ventured to specify any thing, they were browbeaten and hectored in the most abusive manner by the monarch and his minions. In his time, when comparing his reign with the preceding, it was common to distinguish him by the title Queen James; and his illustrious predecessor, as King Elizabeth. When his learned preceptor, Buchanan, was asked how he came to make such a pedant of his royal pupil, the old disciplinarian was cruel enough to reply, that it was the best he could make of him! This prince, who fancied himself to be, what his flatterers swore he was, an incomparable adept in the sciences of theology and “kingcraft,” as he termed it, was quite in his element during the discussions at Hampton Court. He trampled with such fury on the claims of Puritanism, that his prelates, lordly and cringing by turns, were in raptures; and went down on their knees, and blessed God extemporaneously, for “such a king as had not been seen since Christ’s day!” Surely they were thrown off their guard by their exultation, when they set such an impressive example of “praying without book.”
This matter is mentioned here the more fully, because the principal account we have of this Conference is given by the Dean of Chester. It is not strange that the Puritans make but a sorry figure in his report of the transactions. Gagged by royal insolence, and choked by priestly abuse, it could hardly have been otherwise. Indeed, they were only summoned, that, under pretence of considering their grievances, the King might have an opportunity to throw off his mask, and to show himself in his true character, as a determined enemy to further reformation in his Church. Dr. Barlow’s account is evidently drawn up in a very unfriendly disposition toward the Puritan complainants, and labors to make their statements of grievances appear as weak and witless as possible. Had the pencil been held by a Puritan hand, no doubt the sketch would have been altogether different. The temper of the King and of his sycophantic court-clergy may be inferred from the mirth, which, Dr. Barlow says, was excited by a definition of a Puritan, quoted from one Butler, a Cambridge man,--”A Puritan is a Protestant frayed out of his wits!” The plan of the King and his mitred counsellors was, the substitution of an English popery in the place of Romish popery. Their notions were well expressed, some years afterward, in a sermon at St. Mary’s Cambridge,--”As at the Olympic games, he was counted the conqueror who could drive his chariot- wheels nearest the mark, yet not so as to hinder his running, or to stick thereon; so he who, in his sermons, can preach near popery, and yet not quite popery, there is your man!”
As we have already related, almost the only request vouchsafed to the Puritans at this Conference was one which was well worth all the rest. The King granted Dr. Reynold’s motion for a new translation of the Bible, to be prepared by the ablest divines in his realm. Dr. Barlow was actively employed in the preliminary arrangements. He was also appointed to take part in the work itself; in which, being a thorough bred scholar, he did excellent service.
In the course of the work, in 1605, being, at the time, Rector of one of the London parishes, St. Dunstan’s in the East, Dr. Barlow was made Bishop of Rochester. He was promoted to the wealthier see of Lincoln in 1608, where he presided with all dignity till his death. He died at a time when he had some hopes of getting the bishopric of London. His decease took place at his episcopal palace of Buckden, where he was buried in 1613. He published several books and pamphlets, which prove him not out of place when put among the learned men of that erudite generation of divines.