Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beveridge, William
BEVERIDGE, WILLIAM (1637–1708), bishop of St. Asaph, son of the Rev. William Beveridge, B.D., was born early in 1636-7, and was baptised on 21 Feb. at Barrow, Leicestershire, of which place his grandfather, further, and elder brother John were successively vicars Nichols, Hist. of Leicestershire, iii. part i. pp. 77-8). He was first taught by his learned father. He was next sent to the New Free School at Oakham, Rutland, where William Cave [q. v.] was his school-fellow. Here he remained two years. On 24 May 1663 he was admitted a sizar in St. John's College, Cambridge, with Bullingham as his tutor. Dr. Anthony Tuckney was then head of the college, and took a special interest in young Beveridge. Beveridge specially devoted himself to the learned languages, including the oriental. In his twenty-first year he published a Latin treatise on the 'Excellency and Use of the Oriental Tongues, especially Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Samaritan, together with a Grammar of the Syriac Language,' 1658, 2nd ed. 1664. It was a somewhat too ambitious task, and is crudely executed. In 1666 he proceeded B. A., and in 1660 M.A. On 3 Jan. 1660-1 he was ordained deacon by Dr. Robert Saunderson, bishop of Lincoln (Biog. Brit. ii. 782, 1st ed.) By special favour he was ordained priest on the 3lst of the same month. Dr. Gilbert Sheldon at the same time collated him to the vicarage of Yealing (or Ealing), Middlesex (Kennett, Biog. Coll. lii. 392; Lansdowne MS. 987). His 'Private Thoughts' reveal the awe with which he entered on his duties as a clergyman. He resolved beforehand, by the grace of God, to feed the flock over which God shall set him with wholesome food, neither starving them by idleness, poisoning them with error, nor puffing them up with impertinences' (Resolution V.) For twelve years he remained in this living. The charge was not onerous, and left him leisure for learned pursuits. The fruits of his reading during this period appeared in his 'Institutiones Chronologicæ,' 1669. In 1672 he published at Oxford his great 'Συνοδυκόν,' a collection of the apostolic canons and decrees of the councils received by the Greek church, together with the canonical epistles of the fathers. These two huge folios of Greek and Latin are a monumental evidence of the compiler's erudition, although, not content with reproduction of an accurate text, he claimed apostolic origin and sanction for what were long post-apostolic. His 'Vindication of his Collection of the Canons' (1679), in answer to an anonymous Latin attack (as it is now known) by Matthieu de Larroque of Rouen, demonstrates that he lacked the instinct of the genuine scholar as distinguished from the merely largely-read man. It is to be regretted that this 'Vindication' has been reproduced in the Anglo-catholic collection of the bishop's works. Hartwell Home more judiciously excluded it.
In 1672 he was presented by the lord mayor and aldermen to the living of St. Peter's, Cornhill. Thereupon he resigned Ealing. He had daily service in his church and the Lord's Supper every Sunday. On 22 Dec. 1674 he was collated to the prebend of Chiswick in St. Paul's, London. In 1679 he proceeded D.D. On 3 Nov. 1681 he was appointed archdeacon of Colchester (Kennett, Biog. Coll. liii. 292). He personally visited every parish, and made himself the friend and adviser of every clergyman (Biog. Brit. ii. and note b). On 27 Nov. 1681 he preached a sermon on the 'Excellency and Usefulness of the Common Prayer.' It rapidly went through four editions. In 1683 he preached another popular sermon on the anniversary of the great fire of 1666. On 5 Nov. 1684 he was made prebendary of Canterbury in succession to Du Moulin. In 1687-8 he joined with Dr. Horneck and others in forming religious societies for 'reformation of manners (Woodward, Account of the Rise and Progress of the Religious Societies). In 1689 he became president of Sion College.
Beveridge, who was not in advance of his age, stood aloof from the scheme of comprehension of 1668, first projected by the Lord keeper of the great seal (Sir Orlando Bridgman). Bishop Wilkins and Lord Chief-justice Hale, with the view of 'relaxing the terms of conformity to the established church.' The project was revived in 1674 by Tillotson and Stillingfleet, and settled by them to the satisfaction of the leading nonconformists, but again was defeated, and unsupported by Beveridge. So with William III's scheme of a synod of divines. Tillotson was prompted by Beveridge's attitude to these reforms to address to him the words: 'Doctor, doctor, charity is better than rubrics.' Beveridge spoke vehemently against the Act of Union between England and Scotland, on the ground that the presbyterianism of Scotland would endanger the national church of England.
In 1691 Beveridge was selected to fill the see of Bath and Wells vacated by the deposition of Ken, who with other bishops refused to take the oath of allegiance to King William and Queen Mary. He took three weeks to consider, and at first accepted the preferment, but he ultimately declined it. It was the pressure brought to bear upon him by the Jacobites that caused him to take this final decision, and he appears to have repented of it when too late. His refusal gave great offence at court (Kennett, Eng. iii. 634; D'Oyly, Life of Sancroft, i. 463), and he was roughly dealt with in the pamphlet: 'A Vindication of their Majesties' Authority to fill the Sees of the Deprived Bishops. In a Letter out of the Country, occasioned by Dr. B——'s refusal of the Bishoprick of Bath and Wells,' 1691.
Beveridge had reached a good old age before he wore the mitre. It was not until 1704 that he was again invited to become a bishop. He was installed bishop of St. Asaph on 16 July 1704. His new dignity left the man unchanged. He addressed a pathetic letter to his clergy on catechising, and prepared a kind of text-book for it. On 5 Nov. 1704 he preached before the House of Lords on the gunpowder treason, and again on the martyrdom of Charles I. In his place in the house he opposed the union with Scotland (Burnet). His last public appearance was on 20 Jan. 1707-8. He died in apartments in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey on 5 March 1707-8. He left 100l. to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, he gave his books to found a library at St. Paul's, and gave the vicarage of Barrow to St. John's. His wife was sister to William Stanley, of Hinckley, Leicestershire. They had no issue. After his death his executor published (1) 'Private Thoughts upon Religion,' 1709; (2) 'Private Thoughts upon a Christian Life,' 1709; (3) 'The Great Necessity ... of Public Prayer and Frequent Communion,' 1710; (4) 'Defence of the Book of Psalms (preferring Steinhold and Hopkins to Tate and Brady),' 1710; (5) 'Exposition of the 39 Articles,' 1710; (6) 'Thesaurus Theologicus,' 1711. There have been two modern collected editions of the works of Beveridge: (a) by the Rev. T. Hartwell Home, 9 vols, 8vo, 1824; (b) in the 'Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology,' 12 vols. 8vo, 1842-6. Neither is complete nor critically careful. The largest proportion consists of sermons—chiefly of a poor type. Their authorship explains their translation into German by Engleschall (1732) and others. The later edition gives a much more accurate text than any previous of his 'Ecclesia Anglicana Ecclesia Catholica; or the Doctrine of the Church of England' (1846), from the original manuscript. His posthumously published 'Private Thoughts' alone continues to be read. Dr. Whitby (Short View of Dr. Beveridge's Writings, 1711) said severely of him: 'He delights in jingle and quibbling, affects a tune and rhyme in all he says, and rests arguments upon nothing but words and sounds.'
[Life, by Home, also in Anglo-Cath. edition of Theological Works; Biog. Brit.; Burnet's Own Times; Le Neve's Fasti; Patres Apost. of Cotelerius; Baker's Hist. of St. John's, 703-5; Ayscough's Catal.; Add. MSS. 4724, 11, and 4275; Rawlinson MSS. fol. 9, ii. 176.]