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The Sermon mentioned by Messrs. Roulston did not come to hand, otherwise due notice would have been taken of it. JUVINIS on the Apocalypse ; Mr, Pearson on Jephthah's Vow, and on a future Life ; IoTa on Privaté and Public Virtue, with other articles, came too late to hand for insertion in the present number, but will certainly appear in our next
MAGAZINE AND REVIEW,
For FEBRUARY 1806.
Εχονίας το μυστηριον της πιστεως εν καθαρα περιειδησει. 1 Τim. iii. 9
The Life of Thomas Comber, D. D. sometime Dean of
THIS gentleman was born at Shermanbury in Sussex,
January 1, 1575. The father of our dean was a gentleman of a very ancient stock in that county; and tradi
“that the first of the family settled in England, being of French extraction, came over with William the Conqueror, and had the manor of Barkham, in the county of Sussex, conferred on him for slaying the Saxon or Danish Lad in the famous battle of Hastings.” It is certain that this manor continued many ages to belong to the family, and other proofs of its gentility are not wanting. But the character of the more immediate ancestor of our dean was of much more.consequence to him (as much more likely to influence his mind and form his manners), than that of far distant progenitors, however illustrious.
His father, John Comber, of Shermanbury, Esq. was a counsellor, and (says an old biographer) managed his profession with such reputation of justice and equity, that for those virtues, and his great hospitality, he was honoured in his generation as one of the glories of his times*. The same writer piously, and not unreasonably, ascribes the improvement of this gentleman's fortune to God's
* Boreman's Panegyric, &c. Vol. Xi Churchm. Mug. for Feb. 1806. N blessing
blessing on his charity; and remarks, that his numerous offspring, thirteen in all, was the gift of the Lord.
Our dean was the twelfth child, and surviving all his elder brothers, inherited his father's estate. At the age of fourteen he was removed from Horshain School tó Tripity College, Cambridge, under the tuition of Mr. Tichburne, who instructed him in Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic; besides the usual sciences of logic, ethics, and so much of the mathematics as was then studied in our uni, versities.
In May 1593, Mr. Comber was chosen scholar of the house by the influence of the master, the famous Dr. Thomas Nevile, dean of Canterbury; and in the following year was admitted to the degree of B. A. In 1596 he was chosen minor fellow of the college, and next year major fellow. Being now settled in the enjoyment of literary leisure and competence, Mr, Comber resolved to complete his course of studies, and accordingly proceeded through the Latin and Greek Fathers, the Schoolmen and Councils, Church History, and all modern writers of note.. In 1598, he took the degree of M. A.; but when be en. tered into holy orders does not appear, though it was probably about this time.
He was an indefatigable student, and being blessed with a most retentive memory, soon made an uncommon progress in the knowledge of languages, particularly in the Oriental, such as the Coptic, Samaritan, Chaldee, and Persian. He also became master of many modern tongues, as the French, Italian, and Spanish.
His character as a tutor was particular and amiable: for he is described as bringing up his pupils rather as friends and companions than disciples, insinuating learning into them by familiar discourse and conversation ; and training them up to virtue and knowledge by his example, more effectually than others did by precepts, giving this reason for it afterwards, to other tutors, that
young men admitted to the company of their seniors would be decoyed into excellence, being ashamed to speak or do any thing below the company they kept."
In 1601 he obtained leave of his college to travel, and resided three years in France with the learned Peter du Moulin, who was commonly called the Protestant Pope. Living in intimacy with such a man, our divine could not but reap great advantages. During Mr. Comber's perę.
grinations, he converted, by his learned and pious conferences, an eminent Jew called Bardesius.
In 1608 he was made junior dean of his college, and the year following commenced bachelor of divinity, and was then chosen college preacher.
In 1612 he was appointed head lecturer; and in 1614 , he was pandoxator, which office he also discharged the year following
In 1616 he commenced doctor of divinity and senior fellow, and probably was made about this time his majesty's chaplain, which preferment he appears to have owed to his pupil, the eldest son of Lord Portland. When he became rector of Worpesden in Surry is not certain, but We are assured that he conscientiously went to discharge his duty in that church as frequently as his absence from college could be allowed. He was senior dean of his col. lege in 1618, 1619, and 1625.
Dr. Comber was sent by his majesty commissioner to the conference held at St. Andrew's with the Scottish divines about church government; and though he could not bring them over to his opinion in that point, yet we are assured, that "they admired him for his solid quickness and his various learning.” In 1630, by the interest of Lord Portland, he was made dean of Carlisle; and on the death of Dr. Brooke in 1631, King Charles I. preferred him to the mastership of Trinity College, a very profitable and honourable station, in which he had been preceded, by many great and good men. In the same year he was chosen vice-chancellor of the university.
“ He was very strict (says Lloyd) in observing the statutes, very watchful in the public performances; the jocose that they should not be too loose or abusive; the serious that they should not be too perfunctory; and the religious (whether sermons, prayers, or disputations,) that they should not be (what they are too apt to be) too factious, witness the dangerous positions of Mr. Bernard, lecturer of St. Sepulchre's, at St. Mary's, which he [the dean] speedily reported to Archbishop Laud, and rigorously prosecuted in the high conmission: What these positions were the same quaint writer informs us, “'1. That God's ordinances, blended with the innovations of men, cease to be God's ordinances. 2. That it is impossible to be saved in the Church of Rome, without repentance for being of it. 3. That treason is not limited to royal blood, and that he is a traitor against a nation that depriveth it
of its ordinances, &c. 4. That those who shamefully syme bolise with the Church of Rome (as some among us do) in Pelagian errors, and superstitious ceremonies, are to be prayed either to their conversion or confusion. On this occasion the historian concludes: “ But awhile after these and other principles, which he thought fit to punish, others thought fit to practise.” He might justly have added, “ and compel the nation to practise;" for by these principles was the constitution overturned, and by such will any constitution be overturned, when the patrons of them can acquire power.
In 1636, our dean was again elected vice-chancellor. This year the king and queen visited the university, and among other entertainments saw a comedy called “ The Jealous Lovers,” acted by the students of Trinity College in their hall. It was written by Thomas Randolph, M. A. and fellow of Trinity, and has a dedication to Dr. Comber. Let us now consider our dean as master of this great college. There is extant a very elegant Latin letter, partly in verse, partly in prose, without date, by one J. Ryley, which praises the dean very much as an excellent master; but as the letter is addressed to himself, and the writer was probably a fellow of his college, no stress shall be here laid on its authority. The author of the MS. life of this good man chooses therefore rather to refer to the accounts of him given by his survivors, who cannot reasonably be accused of partiality.
In the first place, the bistorians * assure us that Dr. Comber was the father as well as master of his college, preventing factions at its dividends, which were not allowed by him to exceed the clear revenue: and the contrary practice which is implied in this praise, must justly, have been decried by every sensible and good man. In the second place, they inform us that the doctor took such effectual care to prevent discord in opinion, that even " the names of Arminius and Socinus were hateful to the learned fellows of Trinity.” This topic of encomiuin deserves notice. The lengths which Socinus wcut in reducing the character of the Mediator to that of mere man, were such, that it is no wonder if the learned fellows.of Trinity should detest his name. But it seems surprising that the name of Arminius should share that fate. There is no question that Doctor Comber, before he became
* Boreman and Lloyd.