Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brevint, Daniel
BREVINT or BREVIN, DANIEL, D.D. (1616–1695), dean of Lincoln, polemical and devotional writer, was born in the parish of St. John's in the island of Jersey, of which his father was the minister, and baptised in the parish church 11 May 1616. He proceeded to the protestant university of Saumur on the Loire, and studied logic and philosophy with great success, and took there the degree of M.A. in 1624. In 1636 three fellowships were founded by Charles I at Oxford, at the colleges of Exeter, Pembroke, and Jesus, at the instance of Archbishop Laud, for scholars from Guernsey and Jersey (Heylyn, Life of Laud, p. 336; Laud, Works, Anglo-Cath. Lib., vol. v. part i. p. 140), and Brevint was appointed in 1637 to that at Jesus, on the recommendation of the ministers and chief inhabitants of his native island (Wilkins, Concilia, iv. 534). On becoming resident at Oxford he requested the confirmation of his foreign degree. This was opposed by Laud, 'things being at Saumur as they were reported.' Writing to the vice-chancellor, on 19 May and 3 Nov. 1637, he expresses his satisfaction at hearing that 'the Guernsey [Jersey] man is so well a deserver in Jesus College,' but wishes 'that he should be made to know the difference of a master of art at Oxford and Saumur,' and 'the ill consequences' which might follow if his degree were confirmed, and begs the vice-chancellor to 'persuade the young man to stay, and then give him his degree with as much honour as he pleases ' (Laud, Works, Anglo-Cath. Lib. pp. 170, 186). Laud's objections, however, were overruled, and Brevint was incorporated M.A. on 12 Oct. 1638 (Wood, Fasti Oxon. i. 503), the authorities of the university having decided, upon due consideration, that there was no statutable bar to exclude him (Laud, Works, 210). On the visitation of the university by the parliamentary commissioners Brevint was deprived of his fellowship, and retired to Jersey, whence, on the reduction of the island by the parliamentary forces, he took refuge in France, and officiated as minister of a protestant congregation in Normandy. On Trinity Sunday, 22 June 1651, he was ordained deacon and priest, 'in reguard of the necessitie of the time,' writes Evelyn, by Dr. Thomas Sydserf, bishop of Galloway, in Paris, in the private chapel of Sir Richard Browne, in the Faubourg St. Germain, at the same time as his fellow-islander, Dr. John Durell, afterwards dean of Windsor. Both were presented by Cosin, then dean of Peterborough (Evelyn, Diary, i. 244, ed. 1819 ; Baker MSS. xxxvi. 329; Smith MSS., Bodl. xxxiii. 7, p. 29). Brevint secured the confidence of Cosin and the other principal English churchmen, both lay and clerical, then living in exile in Paris, and became known to Charles II. At this time Turenne was perhaps the most influential person in France, and Brevint received the high honour of being appointed his chaplain. Turenne's wife was a zealous protestant, and Brevint became her spiritual director, and for her use, and that of the Duchesse de Bouillon, he composed some of his devotional tracts, especially his 'Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice.' He was employed by Madame Turenne and the duchess in many of their religious undertakings, and he took a leading part in the vain endeavour to compromise the differences between the church of Rome and the protestant church (see Preface to Saul and Samuel). Upon the Restoration Brevint returned to this country. On Cosin's elevation to the see of Durham he succeeded him, on the nomination of the crown, in his stall in that cathedral (17 Dec. 1660) and in his rectory of Brancepeth, both of which he held till his death. These preferments were in some measure due to Cosin's influence with the king. He received the degree of D.D, at Oxford on 27 Feb. 1662-3. From a letter printed in the 'Granville Correspondence' (part ii. p. 92, Surtees Soc., vol. xlvii.), drawn up to be laid before the dean and chapter, it is evident that he earnestly supported Granville in his endeavour to restore the weekly communion in the cathedral. On the death of Dr. Michael Honywood, dean of Lincoln, in 1681, Charles II signified his desire to Archbishop Sancroft, through Sir Leoline Jenkins, that Brevint should have the vacant preferment (Tanner MSS. xxxvi. 17). He was installed dean and prebendary of Welton Paynshall on 7 Jan. 1681-2. As he continued to hold his stall at Durham, his name occurs pretty frequently in the Granville and Cosin Correspondences, which have been published by the Surtees Society (vols. xxxvii. xlvii. lii. lv.), but chiefly on matters of chapter business or chapter news. His tenure of the deanery of Lincoln was uneventful. He died in the deanery house, on Sunday, 5 May 1695, in the seventy-ninth year of his age, and was buried in the retro-choir of his cathedral. His wife, Anne Brevint, survived him thirteen years. She died on 9 Nov. 1708, also in her seventy-ninth year, and was buried in the same grave. Brevint's writings are chiefly directed against the church of Rome, which he attacked with much virulence and no little coarseness. He professes to speak from intimate personal knowledge, having had 'such an access given him into every corner of the church' when engaged on the design of reconciliation with the protestants, that he had a perfect acquaintance 'with all that is within its entrails' (Preface to Saul and Samuel). His works manifest a thorough acquaintance with the points at issue between the church of England and that of Rome, and his language is nervous and his arguments powerful ; but he cannot be acquitted of gross irreverence, both of words and conception, when dealing with the eucharistic tenets of his opponents. His 'Missale Romanum' was printed at the Sheldonian Theatre, and we can hardly be surprised that his Romish antagonist, who, under the initials R. F., published 'Missale Romanum vindicatum' (London, 1674), should express his surprise that 'such an unseemly imp' as Dr. Brevint's calumnious and scandalous tract should have been 'hatched under the roof of Sheldon's trophy and triumph.' Brevint's published works were : 1. 'Missale Romanum ; or the Depth and Mystery of the Roman Mass laid open and explained, for the use both of Reformed and Unreformed Christians,' Oxford, 1672, 8vo. 2. 'Saul and Samuel at Endor : the new Waies of Salvation and Service which usually temt (sic) men to Rome and detain them there, truly represented and refuted,' Oxford, 1674, 8vo. 3. 'The Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice ; by way of Discourse, Meditation, and Prayer, upon the Nature, Parts, and Blessing of the Holy Communion,' Oxford, 1673, 12mo. The 'Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice' is a devotional work, originally 'one of many tracts made at Paris at the instance' of his noble patronesses for their private use, and intended for the reading of such as may be 'desirous to contemplate and embrace the Christian religion in its original beauty, freed of the encumbrance of controversy.' The view of the Eucharist put forth in this beautiful little work is, in the main, that expressed by the church of England in her Catechism and Liturgy. This devotional treatise was so highly esteemed by John and Charles Wesley that they published an abridgment of it for the use of communicants, as an introduction to their collection of Sacramental Hymns, pitched in a somewhat higher key in point of eucharistic doctrine than Brevint's works. Of this many successive editions have been published.
In addition to these English works, Anthony à Wood enumerates : 1. 'Ecclesiæ Primitivæ Sacramentum et Sacrificium, a pontificiis corruptelis et exinde natis controversiis liberum' the Latin original of the last-named work. 2. 'Eucharistiæ Christianæ præsentia realis, et Pontificia ficta, . . . hæc explosa, illa suffulta et asserta.' 3. 'Pro serenissima Principe Weimariensi [the Princess of Weimar] ad Theses Jenenses accurata responsio.' 4. 'Ducentæ plus minus prælectiones in S. Matthæi xxv. capita,' &c. Brevint is more deserving of admiration as a devotional writer than as a controversialist.
[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iv. 426-7; Kippis's Biog. Brit.; Laud's Chancellorship, Ang.-Cath. L., vol. v.; Evelyn's Diary, i. 244; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, p. 120; Hunt's Religious Thought in England, iii. 402.]