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Beveridge was entered a member of St. John's College, Cambridge, in May 1653, then under the government of the well-known Dr. Anthony Tuckney; and it is remarkable, considering the works by which they were distinguished in after life, that the compiler and author of the “ Pandectæ Canonum” and of the “ Codex Canonum Ecclesiæ Primitivæ Vindicatus," and the author of the “ Historia Literaria,” should have been entered within a very few days of each other members of the same College, where, no doubt, was laid the foundation of that sound learning, perhaps, of those very works themselves for which they are so eminent. There is apparently, no trace discoverable of
any peculiar intimacy existing between them, but there is a coincidence in the lives and pursuits and writings of Bishop Beveridge and Dr. Cave which, in the absence of any very remarkable incident in the history of either of them separately, it may be interesting to mention here.
Both were born within a year, in the same county, and, though not in the immediate neighbourhood of each other, yet at a distance of not many miles-Beveridge, at Barrowupon-Soar near Loughborough, and Cave at Pickwell, near Melton Mowbray, in the county of Leicester. They were school-fellows at Oakham school, in Rutlandshire, where Cave is described as having received his education, and where, though Beveridge spent only two years, yet those were probably the two years immediately preceding his removal to the University. Both were sons of the incumbents of the above-named parishes, and had relatives who, in the violence of the times, were suspended from their livings.
Both were admitted, as we have seen, members of the same College, within a few days of each other, Cave on the 9th, and Beveridge on the 14th day of May, 1653 ; and as neither was ordained till after the Restoration, they were employed, doubtless, during much of the period of trial which intervened, on the subject to which the temper and tumult of the times providentially directed so many others — the primitive records and history of the Church, its original constitution, government, discipline, and worship. Both were afterwards settled as parish priests in the same diocese; Beveridge, as vicar of Ealing, to which he was presented in 1661; and Cave, as vicar of Islington, to which he was admitted in 1662. Subsequently they held benefices in the same neighbourhood, in the City of London; Beveridge, that of St. Peter's, Cornhill, which he held from 1672 till raised to the see of St. Asaph in 1704; and Cave, that of Allhallows the Great, in Thames Street, which he held from 1679 till 1691, when he resigned it for the living of Isleworth. Beveridge died Bishop of St. Asaph in 1708 ; Cave, Canon of Windsor, in 1713.
Beveridge's attention seems, in the first instance, to have been directed to Oriental learning and Chronology; his first publication being a “Treatise on the Excellency and Uses of the Oriental Tongues and a Syriac Grammar," in 1658, and his second, “ Institutiones Chronologicæ," published in 1669. But the two great works by which he is best known are, his “ Luvoðixov, sive Pandectæ Canonum SS. Apostolorum et Conciliorum, necnon Canonicarum SS. Patrum Epistolarum cum Scholiis,” printed at the Theatre,
Oxford, 1672, and the “Codex Canonum Eccl. Primitiva Vindicatus, ac Illustratus,” which followed in 1679, and is inserted in the second volume of the “ Patres Apostolici” of Cotelerius.
The great work on which Dr. Cave's reputation mainly rests, the “ Historia Literaria,” though it was not until late that it grew to its present bulk, was conceived and commenced early in life.
The Prefaces to these volumes alike shew the working of minds weary of the controversies amongst which they lived, deploring the decay of all Christian piety in the din and strife of tongues around them, gradually feeling back their way, as best they could, to primitive doctrine and practice, and tracing these back to their source through the Catholic tradition of the Church.
That this was the pervading feeling of their minds will be evident, not only from the prefaces to those works, the “Codex Canonum Illustratus," and the “Historia Literaria," but from the tone and subject - matter of their English works also. The “ Primitive Christianity” of Dr. Cave, which he said had lain by him many years before its publication, and his “Lives of the Apostles and Fathers," and the Dedications and Prefaces to these volumes, evidence a mind throwing itself back upon the contemplation of the Primitive Church, as seen in its government and worship, and exemplified in the lives of the early Christians; whilst the English works of Beveridge, especially his Sermons on the Church, and that, perhaps, best specimen of these, on “The Exemplary Holiness of the Primitive Christians,” together
with his work on “ The Great Necessity of Public Prayer and Frequent Communion," and his little book on the Catechism, evidence the yearnings of a heart, not content with merely contemplating that picture, but bent on conforming the Church of England to that model. Nor, indeed, did any one on record more nearly succeed in realising his wish, or was, in his measure, so deeply and widely influential, as Beveridge.
His labours earned for him, in his day, the title of “ The great Reviver and Restorer of Primitive Piety,” and, doubtless, are not lost to us. They are amongst the seeds which have long lain hidden, and are now again springing up and bringing forth fruit an hundredfold. Of course, he speaks of the Church of England in high and glowing language; but he speaks of her, be it remembered, as one of those watchmen who should never hold their peace day nor night, and should give the Lord no rest till He“ establish, and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” He contemplated her as a true branch of the Church Catholic; and as such, cannot bear it should be said of her, in any sense, “ Laudatur et alget;" but would fain see her evincing her Primitive and Catholic character, by acting up to her acknowledged rules, by supplying a constant round of Daily Services and Frequent Communions, exercising a more vigorous discipline, and awakening her members to a higher and livelier estimation of the ministration and ordinances of the Church. He saw, what has been well called, an “intrinsic excellence" as yet undeveloped, which he did his best, first by deep piety and learning, and after
wards by active zeal and constant watchfulness as a parish priest, and as a bishop, to develope, and exemplify, and improve into “practical influence.”
Hence his firmness in maintaining things as he found them, and endeavouring to give life and vigour to her whole existing system, and his resolute opposition to the “ Scheme of Comprehension,” as it was called, and the projected alterations in the Liturgy. Hence, though one may well wonder how any one could tax Beveridge with want of piety or charity, or deem him a formalist or a bigot, yet he incurred on one occasion the taunt of Tillotson,—“Doctor! doctor! charity is better than Rubrics."
However, what was the main object of his life — the restoration of primitive piety and zeal in the English Church -- we may see from the tone and subject-matter of his pastoral works before mentioned, his Sermons, his book on the Catechism, and that on Prayer and Frequent Communion, and from the very last act of his life, a bequest to his native parish of Barrow, and to the neighbouring curacy of Mount Sorrell, for the maintenance of the daily service, and, should that fail, " which God forbid !” for the catechising of poor children. His simplicity and godly sincerity in pursuing this end, and his entire disinterestedness and freedom from all ambition, is plain from his known character, and especially from the fact of his conscientious refusal to succeed Bishop Ken, when deprived at the Revolution, in the Bishoprick of Bath and Wells. He asked the advice of Sancroft. He was bidden in answer to say, “ Nolo," and to say it from the heart. He did so;