Dr. PETER HEYLIN, an English divine, descended from an ancient family at Pentre-Heylin in Montgomeryshire, the son of Henry Heylin, gent. by Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Clampard, of Wrotham in Kent, and was born at Burford in Oxfordshire, Nov.29, 1600. In 1613 he was entered of Hart-hall in Oxford, and two years after chosen a demy of Magdalen-college. He had, while at school, given a specimen of his genius for dramatic poetry, in a tragi-comedy on the wars and fate of Troy; and now composed a tragedy, entitled "Spurius," which was so approved by his society, that the president, Dr. Langton, ordered it to be acted in his apartments. After this, he read cosmographical lectures in the college, which being a very unusual thing, and he very conversant in that branch of science, so much recommended him to the society, that he was chosen fellow in 1619. In 1621 he published his "Microcosmus, or Description of the World;" the chief materials of which were the lectures just mentioned. It was universally approved, and so speedily sold, that, in 1624, it was reprinted in the same size, but with considerable additions, and again presented to prince Charles, to whom it had been dedicated. It was soon after put into the hands of the king, who seemed at first greatly pleased with it; till meeting with a passage in it, where Heylin gave precedency to the French king, and styled France the more famous kingdom, he took so much offence, that he ordered the lord-keeper to suppress the book. Heylin, to make his peace with the king, declared that the error, in one of the exceptionable passages, was entirely the printer's, who had put "is" instead of "was;" and that when he himself mentioned the precedency of France before England, he did not speak of England as it then stood augmented by Scotland, and besides he took what he did say from Camden's Remains. James being satisfied with this apology, Heylin took care that the whole clause, which gave so much disgust, should be left out in all future impressions. The work was afterwards successively enlarged, till it became a great folio, and has since been often reprinted in that size.
In 1625 he went over to France, where he continued about six weeks, and took down in writing an account of his journey; the original manuscript of which he gave to his friend lord Danvers, but kept a copy for himself, which was published about thirty years after. In April 1627, he answered, pro forma, upon these two questions: 1. "An ecclesia unquam fuerit invisibilis?" "Whether the church was ever invisible?" 2. "An ecclesia possit errare?" "Whether the church can err?" both which determining in the affirmative, a great clamour was raised against him as a papist, or at least a favourer of popery. Wood says, that Prideaux, the divinity-professor, "fell foul upon him for it, calling him Bellarminian, Pontifician, and I know not what." Heylin was not easy under the charge of being popishly affected; for which reason, to clear himself from that imputation, he took an opportunity, in preaching before the king on John iv. 20, of declaring vehemently against some of the errors and corruptions of the Romish church. In 1628, lord Danvers, then earl of Danby, recommended him to Laud, then bishop of Bath and Wells; by whose interest also, in 1629, he was made one of the chaplains in ordinary to his majesty. On Act-Sunday 1630, he preached before the university of Oxford at St. Mary's on Matth. xiii. 25, whence he took occasion to deliver his sentiments very freely in regard to an affair which at first sight had a specious appearance of promoting the honour and emolument of the ecclesiastical state, but was in reality a most iniquitous scheme, injurious to the laity, and of no service where it was pretended to avail. This was a feoffment, that some designing persons had obtained, for the buying in of impropriations; but Heylin, seeing through the disguise, exposed very clearly the knavery of the designers. About this time he resigned his fellowship, having been married near two years; in concealing which marriage he acted very unstatutably, not to say dishonestly, nor did his friends attempt to justify him for it. What rendered it more irregular was, that he was married in Magdalen-college chapel.
In 1631 he published his "History of that most famous Saint and Soldier of Jesus Christ, St. George of Cappadocia," &c. to which he subjoined, "the institution of the most noble order of St. George, named the garter;" &c. which work he presented to his majesty, to whom he was introduced by Laud, then raised to the see of London. It was graciously received by the king, and Heylin soon after reaped the fruits of it: for in Oct. 1631 he was presented to the rectory of Hemmingford in Huntingdonshire, to a prebend of Westminster in November following, and shortly after to the rectory of Houghton in the bishopric of Durham, worth near £400 per annum. In April 1633 he was created D.D. and gave fresh offence to the divinity-professor Prideaux by the questions he put up; which were, 1. "Whether the church hath authority in determining controversies of faith?" 2. "Whether the church hath authority of interpreting the Sacred Scriptures?" 3. "Whether the church hath authority of appointing rites and ceremonies?" Of all which he maintained the affirmative. Prideaux, however, in the course of this dispute, is said to have laid down me tenets, which gave as much offence to Laud, who was chancellor of Oxford, and to the king, whom Laud informed of them, as Heylin's had given to him; as, "That the church was a mere chimera" "That it did not teach nor determine any thing." — "That controversies had better be referred to universities than to the church, and might be decided by the literari there, even though bishops were laid aside." Heylin afterwards found an opportunity of revenging himself on Prideaux, for the rough treatment he had received from him. This divine, we are told, had delivered a lecture on the sabbath, somewhat freer than suited the rigid orthodoxy of the times; of which, however, not much notice was taken. But shortly after, when the king, by publishing the book of sports on Sundays, had raised a violent outcry throughout the nation against himself and Laud, Heylin translated this lecture into English, and. published it with a preface in 1633-4, to the great vexation of Prideaux, who suffered much in the esteem and affection of the puritans.
Williams, bishop of Lincoln and dean of Westminster, having incurred the king's and Laud's displeasure, and being suspended and imprisoned, Heylin was made treasurer of the church of Westminster in 1637; and was also presented by the prebendaries, his brethren, to the rectory of Islip near Oxford. This he exchanged in 1638, for that of South-Warnborough in Hampshire; and the same year was made one of the justices of the peace for that county. In 1639 he was employed by Laud to translate the Scotch liturgy into Latin; and was chosen by the college of Westminster their clerk, to represent them in convocation. But a cloud was gathering, which threatened to overwhelm all who, like him, had distinguished themselves as champions for royal or ecclesiastical prerogative. To shelter himself therefore from the impending storm, he withdrew from the metropolis, where he had long basked in the sun-shine of a court, to his parsonage; but not thinking himself secure there, retreated soon after to Oxford, then garrisoned by the king, and the seat of his residence. On this the parliament voted him a delinquent, and dispatched an order to their committee at Portsmouth, to sequester his whole estate, and seize upon his goods. In consequence of this severe decree, he was deprived of his most curious and valuable library, which was carried with his household furniture to that town. He was employed by the king at Oxford to write a periodical paper, published weekly in that city, entitled "Mercurius Aulicus;" but in 1645, when the king's affairs became desperate, and the "Mercurius Aulicus" could be no longer supported, he quitted Oxford, and wandered from place to place, himself and his family reduced to the utmost straits. At Winchester he stayed for a while with his wife, &c. but that city being at length delivered up to the parliament, he was forced to remove again. In 1648 he went to Minster-Lovel in Oxfordshire, the seat of his elder brother, which he farmed for the six or seven years following of his nephew colonel Heylin, and spent much of his time in writing. On quitting this farm, he went to Abingdon in Berkshire, where he also employed himself in composing treatises, which he published from time to time. Upon the restoration of Charles II. he was restored to all his spiritualities, and undoubtedly expected from that prince some very eminent dignity in the church, as he had heroically exerted himself in behalf of it, as well as of the crown; and endured so much on that account, during their suffering condition. Here, however, he was utterly disappointed, being never raised above the sub-deanery of Westminster. One day when bishop Cosin came to see him, he said "I wonder, brother Heylin, thou art not a bishop, for we all know thou hast deserved it." To which he answered, "I do not envy them, but wish they may do more than I have done." He died May 8, 1662, and was interred before his own stall, within the choir of the abbey, leaving by his wife, Laetitia, daughter of Thomas Highgate, of Hayes in Middlesex, esq. four children.
Wood tells us, that he was "a person endowed with singular gifts, of a sharp and pregnant wit, solid and clear judgment. In his younger years he was accounted an excellent poet, but very conceited and pragmatical; in his elder, a better historian, a noted preacher, and a ready extemporaneous speaker. He had a tenacious memory to a miracle. He was a bold and undaunted man among his friends and foes, though of a very mean port and presence; and therefore by some of them he was accounted too high and proud for his function. A constant assertor of the church's right and the king's prerogative; a severe and vigorous opposer of rebels and schismatics. In some things too much a party-man to be an historian, and equally an enemy to popery and puritanism." Much perhaps cannot be added to this character. He was undoubtedly biassed and warm to a great degree, which must be imputed to, although it cannot be defended by a reference to his sufferings. That he should be suspected of popery is not very wonderful, as in his history of the reformation he preceded Collier in many of those opinions which brought the same charge against the latter; and in his aversion to puritanism he departs farther from the orthodoxy of his own church than is consistent with a knowledge of or attachment to its doctrines. He had, as Swift justly observes, "according to the current opinion of the age he lived in, too high notions of regal power; led by the common mistake of the term supreme magistrate, and not rightly distinguishing between the legislature and administration."
He was a very voluminous writer, and although few of his works can be recommended to general perusal, there are none perhaps of the whole series which may not be consulted with advantage, by those who have leisure and inclination to study the history of parties, in the distracted period in which he lived. Many of his lesser pieces were published together in 1681, in a folio volume, with a life of the author by the rev. George Vernon, which having given offence to his relations, a new life was published by his son-in-law Dr. Barnard, 1682, 12mo. It is from a comparison of both (Vernon's has since been published in 12mo) that a proper judgment can be formed of Dr. Heylin. His other works of most note are, 1. "An Help to English History," &c. 1641, 8vo, published under the name of Robert Hall, gent. republished with the additions of Christopher Wilkinson a bookseller, but with Heylin's name, in 1670, 8vo. It was again republished, and brought down to 1709; and in 1773 an improved edition was published by Paul Wright, D.D. in 1773, a large 8vo. Capt. Beatson's "Political Index" may be considered as a continuation of this work. 2. "History of the Sabbath," 1636, 4to, intended to reconcile the public to that dreadful error in the conduct of the court, the "Book of Sports," which did incalculable injury to the royal cause. 3. "Theologia Veterum; the Sum of the Christian Theology contained in the creed, according to the Greeks and Latins, &c. Lond. 1654, fol. reprinted 1673. 4. "Ecclesia Vindicata; or the Church of England justified, 1. In the way and manner of her Reformation, &c. 2. In officiating by a public Liturgy. 3. In prescribing a set form of Prayer to be used by preachers before their sermons. 4. In her right and patrimony of tithes. 5. In retaining the episcopal government, and therewithal the canonical ordination of priests and deacons," London 1657, in 4to, dedicated to Mr. Edward Davys, vicar of Shilton in Berkshire, formerly his master in the free-school of Burford in Oxfordshire. 5. "Short View of the Life and Reign of King Charles (the second monarch of Great Britain) from his birth to his burial," London, 1658, in 8vo. This Life Wood supposes to he the same with that which was printed with and prefixed to "Reliquiae sacrae Carolinae," printed at the Hague, 1649, in 8vo. 6. "Examen Historicum; or a discovery and examination of the mistakes and defects in some modern histories, viz. 1. In the Church History of Britain, by Tho. Fuller. To which is added, an Apology of Dr. Jo. Cosin, dean of Peterborough, in answer to some passages in the Church History of Britain, in which he finds himself concerned. 2. In the History of Mary Queen of Scots, and of her son King James VI.; the History of King James I. of Great Britain; and the History of King Charles I. from his cradle to his grave, by Will. Sanderson, esq. London, 1658, in a large 8vo. To this is added, An Appendix in an answer to some passages in a scurrilous pamphlet called A Post-haste Reply, &c. by Will. Sanderson, esq." Soon after Dr. Thomas Fuller published a thin folio, entitled "The Appeal for injured Innocence," which was commonly bound up with the remaining copies of his Church History in quires; and Mr. Sanderson wrote a pamphlet, entitled "Peter pursued; or Dr. Heylin overtaken, arrested, and arraigned upon his three Appendixes: 1. Respondet Petrus. 2. Answer to Post-Haste Reply. 3. Advertisements on three Histories. viz. of Mary Queen of Scots, King James, and King Charles," 1658, in 8 sheets in 4to. 7. "Historia Quinqu-Articularis: or a declaration of the Judgment of the Western Churches, and more particularly of the Church of England, in the five controverted points, reproached in these last times by the name of Arminianism. Collected in the way of an Historicall Narration out of the public acts and monuments, and most approved authors of those severall churches," London, 1660, in 4to. This involved him in a controversy with some able writers. 8. "History of the Reformation of the Church of England from the first preparations to it made by King Henry VIII. until the legal settling and establishing of it under Queen Elizabeth," &c. London, 1661, 1670, and 1674, in folio. 9. "Cyprianus Anglicus: or the History of the Life and Death of William (Laud) Archbishop of Canterbury," &c. London, 1668 and 1671, fol. 10. "Aerius Redivivus: or the History of the Presbyterians. Containing the beginning, progress, and successes of that sect. Their oppositions to monarchical and episcopal government. Their innovations in the church; and their imbroylments of the kingdoms and estates of Christendom in the pursuit of their designes. From the year 1536 to the year 1647," London, 1670 and 1672, in folio.