Lancelot Andrewes : biography
Lancelot Andrewes (1555 – 25 September 1626) was an English bishop and scholar, who held high positions in the Church of England during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. During the latter’s reign, Andrewes served successively as Bishop of Chichester, Ely and Winchester and oversaw the translation of the Authorized Version (or King James Version) of the Bible. In the Church of England he is commemorated on 25 September with a Lesser Festival.
Two generations later, Richard Crashaw caught up the universal sentiment, when in his lines "Upon Bishop Andrewes’ Picture before his Sermons" he exclaims:
- This reverend shadow cast that setting sun,
- Whose glorious course through our horizon run,
- Left the dim face of this dull hemisphere,
- All one great eye, all drown’d in one great teare.
Andrewes was a friend of Hugo Grotius, and one of the foremost contemporary scholars, but is chiefly remembered for his style of preaching. As a churchman he was typically Anglican, equally removed from the Puritan and the Roman positions. A good summary of his position is found in his First Answer to Cardinal Perron, who had challenged James I’s use of the title "Catholic". His position in regard to the Eucharist is naturally more mature than that of the first reformers.
As to the Real Presence we are agreed; our controversy is as to the mode of it. As to the mode we define nothing rashly, nor anxiously investigate, any more than in the Incarnation of Christ we ask how the human is united to the divine nature in One Person. There is a real change in the elements—we allow ut panis iam consecratus non sit panis quem natura formavit; sed, quem benedictio consecravit, et consecrando etiam immutavit. (Responsio, p. 263).
Adoration is permitted, and the use of the terms "sacrifice" and "altar" maintained as being consonant with scripture and antiquity. Christ is "a sacrifice—so, to be slain; a propitiatory sacrifice—so, to be eaten." (Sermons, vol. ii. p. 296).
By the same rules that the Passover was, by the same may ours be termed a sacrifice. In rigour of speech, neither of them; for to speak after the exact manner of divinity, there is but one only sacrifice, veri nominis, that is Christ’s death. And that sacrifice but once actually performed at His death, but ever before represented in figure, from the beginning; and ever since repeated in memory to the world’s end. That only absolute, all else relative to it, representative of it, operative by it … Hence it is that what names theirs carried, ours do the like, and the Fathers make no scruple at it—no more need we.(Sermons, vol. ii. p. 300).
Andrewes preached regularly and submissively before King James and his court on the anniversaries of the Gowrie Conspiracy and the Gunpowder Plot. These sermons were used to promulgate the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings.
His Life was written by Whyte (Edinburgh, 1896), M. Wood (New York, 1898), and Ottley (Boston, 1894). His services to his church have been summed up thus: (1) he has a keen sense of the proportion of the faith and maintains a clear distinction between what is fundamental, needing ecclesiastical commands, and subsidiary, needing only ecclesiastical guidance and suggestion; (2) as distinguished from the earlier protesting standpoint, e.g. of the Thirty-nine Articles, he emphasized a positive and constructive statement of the Anglican position.
His best-known work is the Manual of Private Devotions, edited by Alexander Whyte (1900), which has widespread appeal. Andrewes’s other works occupy eight volumes in the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology (1841–1854). Ninety-six of his sermons were published in 1631 by command of King Charles I.
Andrewes was considered, next to Ussher, to be the most learned churchman of his day, and enjoyed a great reputation as an eloquent and impassioned preacher, but the stiffness and artificiality of his style render his sermons unsuited to modern taste. Nevertheless, there are passages of extraordinary beauty and profundity. His doctrine was High Church, and in his life he was humble, pious, and charitable. He continues to influence religious thinkers to the present day, and was cited as an influence by T. S. Eliot, among others (Eliot also borrowed, almost word for word and without his usual acknowledgement, the opening of Andrewes’ 1622 Christmas Day sermon for ‘The Journey of the Magi’). In his 1997 novel Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut suggested that Andrewes was "the greatest writer in the English language," citing as proof the first few verses of the 23rd Psalm. His translation work has also led him to appear as a character in three plays dealing with the King James Bible, Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn (2010), Jonathan Holmes’ Into Thy Hands (2011) and David Edgar’s Written on the Heart (2011).