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Sunday, 23 January 2011

Lancelot Andrewes: Adding beauty and grandeur.

Sir Lancelot Andrewes

Personal background

Andrewes was born in 1555 in Barking, Greater London, and like his contemporary Thomas Harrison (see Jan. 2) studied at Merchant Taylors' School, under Richard Mulcaster. He graduated from Cambridge 21 years old, In 1571. He became a fellow (teacher) of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and a clergyman four years after that. Teaching undergraduates over a thirteen year period, he gradually rose to become Master (Principal) of his College in 1589. By this time he had already become chaplain to the Archbishop, and was a great favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, whom she appointed her chaplain. By 1601, he was Dean of the Abbey at Westminster. Before the KJV was published, he had also been appointed Bishop of Chichester, and then of Ely. near Cambridge. Seven years after the great publishing event, Andrewes became bishop of Winchester, once the home of English Kings. Finally, he distinguished himself as Dean of the Chapel Royal. This is a body of singers and priests, which served to meet the spiritual needs of the Royal family at St James’ Palace and Hampton Court. Such a succession of significant offices meant there were few Englishmen more powerful in his day! He died in London, 1626, aged sixty-one, and a monument marks the spot where he was buried. Having never married, he bequeathed his property to charity. The poet John Milton, then but a youth, wrote a glowing Latin elegy on his death. The well-known poet T. S. Eliot wrote an essay about him, “ considering him "an important figure in the history of the church, distinguished for the quality of his thoughts and prose."

Academic achievements.

According to Alex. McClure Andrewes acquired most of the modern languages of Europe. At the University, he gave himself chiefly to Oriental languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac) and to divinity. One brave old chronicler said, such was his skill in ancient languages that had he been present at the confusion of tongues at Babel, he might have brought some order as Interpreter-General! Others taking up a similar thought applied it to the coming Day of Judgment!(1) In his funeral sermon, Buckeridge, Bishop of Rochester declared him conversant with fifteen languages.

His manual of Private Prayers has long been a source of private devotion for High Church Anglicans. It was Andrewes’ own, and written entirely in Greek. The on-line English edition (translated by JH Newman) has been accessed more than 50, 670 times since March 24, 2006! Says Donald Waite, “Many Christians today don’t even have private daily devotions. Of those who do, how many do you know who have made up private devotions' manuals? And of the people who have made up private devotions manuals, how many do you know who have written them wholly in the Greek language?”(2). Andrewes’ fame was due mainly to his passionate eloquence in the pulpit, but modern taste would dismiss his style as stiff and artificial. Nevertheless, there is that extraordinary beauty and profundity of the Elisabethan age, which filter through. Twenty-one of his sermons are lovingly reproduced on-line. Little did I know as a boy, that as every year came around (Nov. 5th) we were celebrating the seventeenth century trauma (the foiled Gunpowder Plot) at Andrewes’ instigation. There are fourteen accessible essays and articles about him.

How he influenced the KJV

Andrewes was invited by a senior bishop (together with the two senior Professors of Hebrew and Greek at ‘Oxbridge’) to name suitable persons qualified for the translation task. He also handled the details in implementing the fifteen guiding principles drawn up in direct response to the King’s specific requirements. Of the six companies, Andrewes chaired the first Westminster group, translating Genesis - II Kings. Perhaps he did more of the work than we would imagine, as he said of his translation ‘team’ – “Most of our company are negligent.” A. N. gives us an insight into the way Andrewes developed the openness of Tyndale’s version in Genesis 1:1-3, the first verses of the Bible. These had already been improved in the Geneva Bible, but he made of them “something larger, more three dimensional, more operatic . . . a baroque form.” “Andrewes introduced two new qualities: an aural fluency . . . and . . . a pace of deliberate and magisterial slowness. . . . It is as solemn and orderly as the beginning of a steady and majestic march.” A second example given is from St. Mark 14:4, “Why was this waste of ointment made?” Here the KJV improves on previous Bibles, though using the best of the past - whether Protestant or Catholic: “[The KJB] is both clear and rich. It both makes an exact and almost literal translation of the original and infuses that translation with a sense of beauty and ceremony. . . . No one could fault the Translators in their meticulous attention to detail of the original texts; and yet in doing so, more than any other English translators, they enshrined a high moment of Christian meaning. . . . This is the central paradox of the translation: the richness of the words somehow represents a substance that goes beyond mere words and that is its triumph.” (3)

His spirituality

This is defined by his Prayer Manual more than anything. As to this, HB Swete explains:

The private prayers of Bishop Andrewes were not written for publication. They grew up under the hands of the author in hours of solitude, perhaps when he was on his knees. That they are written in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin confirms this view of their origin; for others he would have used the English tongue; to Andrewes himself the three learned languages were as familiar and more expressive than English. There are other indications that we have here the genuine outpourings of the saint's heart. Personal recollections are numerous:
Just a cursory reference to this manual of devotion shows there was in Andrewes a quiet spirit, someone steeped in Scripture, with an intimate knowledge of early writers (“the Fathers”), and with a broad outlook.

Was Andrewes a saint?

His piety was that of an ancient saint, semi-ascetic and unearthly in its self-denial, but rooted in a deep and glowing love for his Lord. No shadow rests on his beautiful and holy life.
Not all agree on the final statement. There was a shadow, as there is in many lives. In terms of the Biblical definition – being someone set apart by God to live a holy life and who sought to live a holy life – Andrewes was a saint. But, like the rest of mankind, (including St. Paul, 1 Tim. 1:15-16 !) he remained a sinner, also! It comes as an unwelcome surprise to learn that – reminiscent of the burning of Michael Servetus with John Calvin’s approval at Geneva, 1553 – Andrewes condemned two men to burn for denying the deity of Jesus. “In Smithfield Market on March 18, 1611, at the urging of Andrewes, Abbot and other firmly irate divines, the king’s agents burned Bartholomew Legate at the stake.”! (4). Stephen Neill calls this “the one serious blot on the fair fame of Andrewes.” But, is this quite accurate? Andrewes added his weight against the more extreme Puritans, who considered each congregation a self-governing church of Christ. These believed that each soul could converse directly with God through faith in the crucified Saviour and Risen Lord, and that the mediation of a sacramental priesthood was unnecessary. Indeed, he himself had said that only a blind man could fail to see that salvation was to be found in churches other than the Anglican! (5).

Andrewes the persecutor?

Andrewes’ treatment of Henry Barrow is a clear example of prejudice. Barrow was a ‘separatist’ detained on the authority of the Archbishop. A. N. describes Andrewes’ conversation with Barrow in prison as “shocking,” “despicable” and “patronising.” The poor man [Barrow] was lonely, longing for his friends and for a sight of the sky, from which the intolerance of the state had excluded him,” but in response to his plea for mercy, what he got was a cold “reply, witty, supercilious, a pastiche of the sympathetic confessor.

Three years later, along with his friend and fellow ‘separatist’ John Greenwood, Henry Barrow was executed at Tyburn, early morning 6th April, for publishing literature which undermined established religion.(6)

KJV Zec. 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

The Mayflower

Justification by faith

Truth is, for all his learning and influence, Lancelot Andrewes never understood St. Paul’s teaching (Romans 5:12 ff.) that eternal life is a present gift, and a permanent gift of righteousness. The postscript to this blog proves Andrewes did understand and believe the concept of imputed righteousness. But he didn’t see that its application had an immediate and direct relevance, bringing joy - as St. Paul said it should (Rom. 5:11). The footnoted extract (below) shows it was consolation for Andrewes as he prepared to stand before God’s Judgement seat, not more. Perhaps this accounts for the comment of Richard Baxter, after hearing Andrews’ preaching: “When I read such a book as Bishop Andrewes’ sermons or heard any such kind of preaching, I felt no life in it; methought they did but play with holy things.” Commenting on this, Martyn Lloyd-Jones says: “As people in past days would go to a political meeting or hear a political orator, so people went to hear and to listen to preachers because they were interested in oratory and eloquence and ornate balanced sentences and cadences and beautiful illustrations.”(7)

A.N. also suggests Andrewes abandoned his pastoral responsibilities towards the sick and the dying in his parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, during the great plague of 1603. This averred dereliction of duty aimed to preserve his health intact. Meanwhile, so many were suffering horribly (6). As American Christians like to ask, “What would Jesus do?!” Would I have done any differently, I ask myself? - possibly not. Yet, such instances, highlighting that most of us have clay feet, are a healthy antidote against another human failing: the tendency to idolise those we admire.

(1) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. p. 86 - Abbreviated as A.N. in the body of the Text
(2) Waite, D.A. (1992/2004) Defending the King James Bible NJ: Bible For Today, p. 67
(3) Nicolson, pp. 193-194, p. 196 – 197
(4) Paine, Gustavus S. (1977/1959) The men behind the King James Version, MI: Baker, p. 142.
(5) Neill, Stephen. (1958) Anglicanism. Lon: Penguin, p. 136 – 137.
(6) Nicolson, p 91 - 92. Pp. 26 - 29
(7) Lloyd-Jones, D.M. (1987) The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors. Edin: Banner. p. 383

Postscript on Justification by faith: extract of Andrewes’ sermon,

Text Jeremiah xxiii: 6
This is His Name whereby He shall be called. The Lord our righteousness.

[His Name is] Jehova. Touching which word, and the ground why it must be a part of this name, the prophet David resolveth us: I will remember saith he, you alone are just. Because His righteousness, and only His righteousness, is worth the remembering, and other's beside, His is not meet [fit] to be mentioned. For as for our own 'righteousness' which we have without Him, Isaiah telleth us 'it is but a defiled cloth,' and St. Paul that it is 'but dung.' Two very homely [i.e. ugly] comparisons, but they be the Holy Ghost's own; yet nothing so homely as in the original, where they be so odious! As [to] what manner of defiled cloth, or what kind of dung [Isaiah speaks of], we have not dared to translate.

Our own [righteousness] then being no better, we are driven to seek for it elsewhere. 'He shall receive His righteousness,' saith the Prophet; and 'the gift of righteousness,' saith the Apostle. It is then another, to be given us, and to be received by us, which we must seek for. And whither shall we go for it? Job alone despatcheth this point. Not to the heavens or stars; for they are 'unclean in His sight.' Not to the Saints; for in them He found 'folly.' Nor to the Angels; for neither in them found He any steadfastness. Now if none of these will serve, we see a necessary reason why Jehova must be a part of this Name. . . . (final para. follows) [Imputed righteousness is] the greatest benefit that can be received for importance in itself, and the greatest in respect of the most dreadful place and time wherein we shall need to receive it [the day of judgement], wherein heaven and earth and all in them shall not be able to stand us in stead - but 'Jehovah our righteousness' only. (explanatory notes added in brackets)

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