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Joseph Hall, an eminent and learned divine, and successively bishop of Exeter and Norwich, was born July 1, 1574, at Ashby de la Zouch, in Leicestershire. Having received the rudiments of his education at his native place, he entered, at the age of fifteen, Emanuel College, Cambridge; of which he became a Fellow.
After continuing about seven years at college, he was presented by sir Robert Drure, to the rectory of Halsted in Suffolk. In 1605, he accompanied sir Edward Bacon to the Spa; in which journey he had an opportunity of observing for himself the state and prac
tices of the Romish Church ; and at Brussels - he had a conference with Coster the Jesuit,
On his return he obtained the donative of Waltham-Holy-Cross,. in Essex; and about the same time, 1612, took the degree of Doc. tor of Divinity, having been a little before made chaplain to prince Henry. His next preferment was to a Prebend in the collegiate church of Wolverhampton; and while absent in France, attending on the embassy of lord Hay, in 1616, he had the Deanery of Worcester conferred upon him. The year following, he attended his majesty into Scotland as one of his chaplains; and in 1618 was one of the English divines who attended the synod of Dort. He was raised in 1627, to the see of Exeter; from which, in 1641, he was translated to the see of Norwich.
Hall was of the number of those bishops who, on the 30th of December of the same year, joined in the protestation against the validity of all laws made during their forced absence from parliament. In consequence of which, he with the rest was sent to the Tower; and was released only on giving 50001. bail, when he withdrew to Norwich. In 1643, the order was issued for sequestering notorious delinquents, among whom his name was included, and he was now reduced to great disa
tress, living only on a very small allowance from the parliament. He died in 1650, at an inconsiderable village near Norwich, in his eighty-second year.
1. Bishop Hall was one of the antagonists of Milton in controversial theology. At the beginning of the troubles, he wrote several tracts in favour of episcopacy. The first of these was entitled, “ Episcopacy by Divine Right asserted." London, 1640, 4to. This treatise was occasioned by the circumstance of G. Graham, bishop of the Orkneys, openly renouncing his episcopal function before the assembly of the clergy of Edinburgh, and craving their pardon for having accepted it.
2. Not long after, he published another tract in support of the liturgy and episcopacy. This was entitled “ An humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament, by a dutiful Son of the Church." London, 1640, 4to. To this an answer appeared the following year, by Smectummuus, a fictitious name, composed of the initial letters of the christian and surnames of the five following persons, the real authors, viz: Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamey, Thomas Young, Mathew Newcomen, and William Spurstow. It was called “ An
Answer to a Book entitled An humble Re. monstrance.' In which the Original of Liturgy and Episcopacy is discussed; and Quæries propounded concerning both,” &c. London, 1641, 4to.
3. In reply to Smectymnuus, the bishop published the same year, “A Defence of the humble Remonstrance against the frivolous and false Exceptions of Smectymnuus ; wherein the Right of Liturgy and Episcopacy is clearly vindicated from the vain cavils and challenges of the Answerers. Seconded (in way of appendance) with the judgment of the famous Divine of the Palatinate, Abrahamus Scultetus, late Professor of Divinity in the University of Heidelberg; concerning the Divine Right of Episcopacy, and the No-right of Lay-eldership." London, 1641. Smectymnuus again rejoined in “A Vindication of the Answer to the humble Remonstrance, from the unjust Imputation of Frivolousness and Falsehood; wherein the cause of the Liturgy and Episcopacy is farther debated.” London, 1641. Hall concluded the dispute by “A short Answer to the tedious Vindication of Smectymnuus, by the Author of the humble Remonstrance." London, 1641, 4to.
On this occasion Milton trote his two tracts; 1. Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence against Smectymnuus. 2. An Apology for Smectymnuus.
It should be observed, that in this controversy the bishop shews greater moderation and urbanity of language than any of his antagonists.
It were needless to particularize any more of the writings of bishop Hall, since his works complete have lately been thought deserving of republication. They are comprised in 10 vols. 8vo. 1806.
As controversial theology cannot be supposed very interesting to the generality of readers, particularly on topics which have lost much of their former interest, I shall not select any passages from the treatises abovementioned. Perhaps a few extracts from the bishop's “ Occasional Meditations,” will be thought to exhibit as fair a specimen of his characteristic qualities as a writer and as a man, as any extracts that could be chosen Hall has been stiled the Christian Seneca, from his sententious manner of writing, and from the particular resemblance of his “ Meditations, to “Seneca's Morals."