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As the very learned and pious author of these divine Meditations was one of the most distinguished prelates of the age in which he lived, we presume a few memoirs concerning him will not be unacceptable to the reader. He had the experience of many vicissitudes of fortune in his life; of some of which he has given an account himself. His modesty, and love of retirement, prevented his appearing often in the busy world; in which his fine parts and genius would have qualified him for acting in a distinguished character. But this is a loss sufficiently compensated by his excellent writings; of which that part has generally obtained the preference, whereof a new edition, carefully collated with different copies, is now offered to the public.
Joseph Hall was born July 1st, 1574, in the English county of Leicester; while his father, then an officer under the Earl of Huntington, had the government of Huntington, the chief seat of that earldom. His parents, having early devoted him to the service of the church, sent him, at the age of fifteen, to Emanuel College, Cambridge, where
he made uncommon proficiency, and in three years took the degree of bachelor of arts. Here the promotion due to his merit was like to have been obstructed; because the college rules allowed only of one fellow for his county, and one already had got into possession. However he was diverted from a resolution to go to London, by the Earl of Huntington, his friend and patron, who so far prevailed as to get the single fellowship to be left to a free election, into which Mr. Hall was unanimously chosen ; and, for two years, he discharged the office of rhetoric professor, in that university, with great applause. Soon after, being persuaded to accept of the rectory of Halsted, he continued there several years; but, on account of some indifferent usage he met with from the patron, his superior, he was obliged to leave the country, and to enter into a more public scene.
On his coming up to London, his brilliant parts introduced him into the acquaintance of persons of the first quality, particularly of the Earl of Essex: he was invited to preach before Prince Henry at Richmond, in which he so well approved himself, that he was honoured with his Royal Highness's favour, and commanded into his service. Having taken his degree of doctor of divinity, he was presented to the living of Waltham in Essex, the labours whereof he underwent for two and twenty years. Being called to attend the embassy of Lord Viscount Doncaster to France, he was nominated in his absence to the deanery of Worcester ; and, upon his return, appointed by the King to be one of his sacred domestics to wait upon him in his journey to Scotland.
In the year 1618, he was judged a person highly qualified, as one of the English representatives to the celebrated Synod of Dort, to assist in establishing those Protestant doctrines which were so violently controverted by Arminius, and several other divines in the Low Countries. Upon his arrival there, that illustrious assembly pitched upon him to preach before them in Latin; and when he was constrained, by reason of bodily weakness, to ask his dismission, before the proceedings of the Synod were entirely concluded, he received signal marks of their esteem, and was presented by the states of Holland with a gold medal.
At his return to England, he was offered the bishoprick of Gloucester, which not accepting, he was in a little time promoted to that of Exeter; and from thence removed to the see of Norwich, where he continued, till his last and best translation. The latter part of his life was much involved in the troubles that arose about the end of King Charles the First's reign. He was confined for some time in the Tower, with the rest of the bishops; and suffered more, through the fury and confusion of the times, than a man of his known moderation could deserve : all which he bore with a truly christian spirit of patience, and exemplary devotion. He died at Higham in Norfolk, September 8th, 1656, in the eighty-third year of his age.
In the numerous pieces with which he obliged the world, such is the purity and elegance of his style, so various and spirited his thoughts, that he was, by way of excellence, called the ENGLISH SENECA. The unravelling of contro