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SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE ;
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CHRISTOPHER SUTTON, D.D.
The learned, eloquent, and pious Author of the following treatise, CHRISTOPHER SUTTON, is said to have been a “Hampshire man born.” Of his parentage and his earliest years, no information seems to have been preserved to ourday, except that the register of his matriculation in the University of Oxford records his lowly origin. The date of his birth must be fixed somewhere about the eighth year of Queen Elizabeth, 1565; he having entered
“batteler or commoner of Hart Hall, in 1582, at the age of seventeen.” The time of his matriculation, and of his residence in the University, naturally suggests many points of inquiry, both as to his instructors and his companions. But such inquiries, it is presumed, could now end only in conjecture. Still we must not overlook the fact, that Sutton had begun his academical life before Richard Hooker1 “was drawn from the tranquillity of his college ; from that garden of piety, of pleasure, of peace, and a sweet conversation, into the thorny wilderness of a busy world.” Undoubtedly it cannot be fairly thence inferred that the young scholar had then an opportunity of profiting by Hooker's preaching, and conversation, and example; though one might be unwilling to conclude that any individual was altogether shut out from the benefits which Hooker's residence in Oxford diffused among his contemporaries. But when we find these two men so closely coinciding in their sentiments on spiritual and ecclesiastical subjects, we may at least suppose that Sutton was not unknown in after days to Hooker ; whilst doubtless that master in our Israel had been, by his works at least, a guide and instructor to this younger brother in divine things; as he was indeed, and still is, to the Church at large.
16 Aul. Cerv. Martii 1, 1582. Christopherus Sutton, Hamptonensis, plebei filius. An. 17.” Reg. Matr. P. This date would correspond with March 1, 1583, according to our present mode of reckoning.
Christopher Sutton very shortly changed Hart Hall for Lincoln College, as a member of which he proceeded to his degrees in arts and divinity, having become B.A. Oct. 12, 1586 ; M.A. June 18, 1589; B.D. May 25, 1598; and D.D. June 30, 1608.
How long he remained in Oxford preparing himself for the better discharge of his sacred duties as a minister of the Church, we
1 Isaac Walton's Life of Hooker.
are not told : but the opinion that he was prematurely ordained, and was presented to a pastoral charge as incumbent, before the legal age, seems to have originated altogether in mistake. The first preferment to which he is
Anthony a Wood, in his biographical notices of Sutton (unless it be an error of the press), has unquestionably antedated his presentation to Rainham by ten years. Subsequent writers have followed that author with too implicit a reliance on his accuracy. Hence appears to have arisen the error of considering Sutton to have been both “ordained and presented to Rainham before he was twenty-three;" and of supposing him “to have held the rectory of Woodrising," subsequently to his resignation of Rainham, and his enjoyment of Caston. Had the facts been so, a question would naturally have suggested itself as to the state of church-discipline in the times of Queen Elizabeth ; for certainly the admission of a clerk to a benefice before he was twenty-three years of age, had been prohibited by statute some years before, 13 Eliz. c. 12. 1571. But, besides that the mistake involves such an inconsistency in this case, we are here strongly reminded that no one can be too cautious in trusting implicitly to any author, especially in deducing inferences from assumed dates, without first verifying the facts on the best evidence. Often does an apparently slight and unimportant error lead imperceptibly to a totally perverted view of things, unconnected with the immediate subject of inquiry.
The statute of Elizabeth enacts that “No person shall hereafter be admitted to any benefice, with cure, except he be then of the age of twenty-three: and that none shall be made minister, or admitted to preach and administer the sacrament, under the age of twenty-four years.” The ambiguity of the word “minister," in this statute, has been often the subject of remark.