Thomas Bilson: Difference between revisions

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A theological argument over the [[Harrowing of Hell]] led to several attacks on Bilson personally in what is now called the [[Arminianism in the Church of England#Descensus controversy|Descensus controversy]]. Bilson's literal views on the descent of Christ into Hell were orthodox for "conformist" Anglicans of the time, while the Puritan wing of the church preferred a metaphorical or spiritual reading.<ref>Bruce Gordon, Peter Marshall, ''The Place of the Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe'' (2000), pp. 118–9.</ref> He maintained that Christ went to hell, not to suffer, but to wrest the keys of hell out of the Devil’s hands. For this doctrine he was severely handled by [[Henry Jacob]] and also by other [[Puritan]]s. [[Hugh Broughton]], a noted Hebraist, was excluded from the translators of the King James Bible, and became a vehement early critic. The origin of Broughton's published attack on Bilson as a scholar and theologian, from 1604,<ref>''Declaration of general corruption, of religion, Scripture, and all learninge: wrought by D. Bilson''.</ref> is thought to lie in a sermon Bilson gave in 1597, which Broughton, at first and wrongly, thought supported his own view that hell and paradise coincided in place. From another direction the Roman Catholic controversialist [[Richard Broughton (priest)|Richard Broughton]] also attacked Anglican conformists through Bilson's views, writing in 1607.<ref>Willem Nijenhuis, ''Adrianus Saravia (c. 1532 – 1613): Dutch Calvinist, First Reformed Defender of the English Episcopal Church Order on the Basis of the Ius Divinum'' (1980), p. 182.</ref><ref>Charles W. A. Prior, ''Defining the Jacobean Church: The Politics of Religious Controversy, 1603–1625'' (2005), pp.49–50 and note.</ref> Much feeling was excited by the controversy, and Queen Elizabeth, in her ire, commanded Bilson, "neither to desert the doctrine, nor let the calling which he bore in the Church of God, be trampled under foot, by such unquiet refusers of truth and authority."<ref name="1858KJV" />
 
Bilson's most famous work was entitled ''The Perpetual Government of Christ's Church'' and was published in 1593. It was a systematic attack on [[Presbyterian polity]] and an able defence of [[Episcopal polity]].<ref name="anglicanhistory">{{cite web|url=http://anglicanhistory.org/scotland/jdowden/paddock/02.html|title=Outlines of the History of the Theological Literature of the Church of England (1897)|publisher=anglicanhistory.org|accessdate=12 April 2014}}</ref> Following on from [[John Bridges (bishop)|John Bridges]],<ref>Robert Zaller, ''The Discourse of Legitimacy in Early Modern England'' (20070, p. 342.</ref><ref name="fromdeathtolife">{{cite web|url=http://www.fromdeathtolife.org/chistory/england3.html|title=ENGLAND|author=Ray Shelton|publisher=fromdeathtolife.org|accessdate=12 April 2014|deadurl=yes|archiveurl=https://web.archive.org/web/20120822103834/http://fromdeathtolife.org/chistory/england3.html|archivedate=22 August 2012|df=dmy-all}}</ref> the work is still regarded as one of the strongest books ever written in behalf of episcopacy.<ref name="1858KJV" />
 
===Courtier to James I (1603–1616)===
===Final years===
[[Image:1stEarlOfSomerset.jpg|thumb|left|125px|The 1st Earl of Somerset.]]
He was appointed a judge in the 1613 [[annulment]] case of [[Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex]] and his wife [[Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset|Frances]] née Howard; with [[John Buckridge]], [[bishop of Rochester]], he was one of two extra judges added by the King to the original 10, who were deadlocked. This caused bitterness on the part of [[George Abbot (Archbishop of Canterbury)|George Abbot]], the [[archbishop of Canterbury]], who was presiding over the nullity commission. Abbot felt that neither man was impartial, and that Bilson bore him an old grudge.<ref>Anne Somerset, ''Unnatural Murder: Poison at the Court of James I'', pp. 159–160.</ref> Bilson played a key role in the outcome, turning away the Earl of Essex's appeal to appear a second time before the commission, and sending away [[Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton]] who was asking on behalf of Essex with a half-truth about the position (which was that the King had intervened against Essex).<ref>Somerset, p. 164.</ref> The outcome of the case was a divorce, and Bilson was then in favour with [[Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset]], a favourite in the court who proceeded to marry Frances. Bilson's son, the lawyer Sir Thomas Bilson (1579–1630), was nicknamed "Sir Nullity Bilson", because his knighthood followed on the outcome of the Essex annulment case.<ref>{{cite web |url=http://www.the-miscellany.co.uk/jacobean/person?id=226 |title=Archived copy |accessdate=2008-10-05 |deadurl=yes |archiveurl=https://web.archive.org/web/20110108175946/http://the-miscellany.co.uk/jacobean/person?id=226 |archivedate=8 January 2011 |df=dmy-all }}</ref><ref>Somerset, p. 168.</ref>
 
In August 1615 Bilson was made a member of the [[Privy Council]].<ref name="bham">{{cite web|url=http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/diary/1eng.html|title=1eng|publisher=philological.bham.ac.uk|accessdate=12 April 2014}}</ref> In fact, though this was the high point of Bilson's career as courtier, and secured by Somerset's influence, he had been led to expect more earlier that summer. Somerset had been importunate to the point of pushiness on behalf of Bilson, hoping to secure him a higher office, and had left Bilson in a false position and James very annoyed. This misjudgement was a major step in Somerset's replacement in favour by [[George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham|George Villiers]], said to have happened in physical terms under Bilson's roof at [[Farnham Castle]] that same August.<ref>Alan Stewart, ''The Cradle King: A Life of James VI & I'' (2003), p. 271.</ref><ref>Somerset, p. 286.</ref> Bilson died in 1616 and was buried in [[Westminster Abbey]].<ref name="1858KJV" />