Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Durie, John (1596-1680)

DURIE, JOHN (1596–1680), protestant divine, fourth son of Robert Durie [q. v.], was born at Edinburgh in 1596. He was educated for the ministry at Sedan under his cousin Andrew Melville, and at Leyden, where his father had settled. In 1624 he came to Oxford. In 1628 he was minister to the English Company of Merchants at Elbing, West Prussia, then in the hands of Gustavus Adolphus. In 1630, the factory failing, he returned to England on the advice of the English ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, who had met him at Elbing, and who favoured his plan of negotiation with the reformed and Lutheran churches. He obtained some support from Archbishop Abbot, and Bishops Bedell and Hall. With letters from them he visited Gustavus Adolphus. Gustavus showed sympathy, and promised him letters to the protestant princes of Germany. He attended the courts and churches, the state assemblies and synods of Hesse, Hanau, the Wetterau, and Leipzig in 1631, and of Heilbronn (where an evangelical league was formed), Frankfort, and Holland in 1632. Gustavus fell at Lutzen, and Oxenstiern refused ‘formal’ sanction to Durie's scheme for a general assembly of the evangelical churches.

At the end of 1633, being heavily in debt (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1633–4), he returned to England, and in 1634 was ordained priest with a license of non-residence. He was made one of the king's chaplains, and preferred to a small living in Lincolnshire, which cost him more for a curate than he received. The same year he attended the great Frankfort assembly. The Transylvanian States sent him counsel and advice, and having the credentials of Archbishops Laud and Ussher, Bishops Hall, Morton, and Davenant, and twenty English doctors of divinity, he published his ‘Declarations of English Divines,’ along with his Latin treatise, ‘Sententiæ de Pacis rationibus Evangelicis.’ Though he was supported at Frankfort by Roe, he obtained only a general acknowledgment of his services, and the defeat of the Swedes at Nordlingen put an end to the meeting. After a short sojourn in England he started in July 1635 for the continent, and laboured for a year in the Netherlands. In June 1636 he went to Sweden, whither he had been invited by Matthia, chaplain to Gustavus Adolphus, and propounded his views to the Lutherans at Stockholm and Upsala. For two years he carried on a voluminous correspondence with Hamburg and the Free Cities. His Swedish negotiations failed. Queen Christina ordered him out of the kingdom in February 1637–8. Although ill in bed, he vowed never to slacken his efforts for religious unity. In 1639 he visited Denmark without success, and afterwards went to Brunswick, Hildesheim, and Zelle, where the reigning dukes countenanced his views, and a treaty of alliance between all the Brunswick and Luneburg churches was planned, with the aid of Calixtus. Early in 1640 he held meetings at Oldenburg and Hainault, and again at Hamburg and the Free Cities, but the joint views of himself and Calixtus were strongly opposed. He now passed through North and South Holland, sent memorials and letters throughout France and Switzerland, and at length arrived in England in 1640–1.

Durie attached himself to the royalists, and accepted office at the Hague as chaplain and tutor to Mary, princess of Orange. In 1642–3 he resigned this ‘uncomfortable position,’ and became minister to the Merchant Adventurers at Rotterdam. He was summoned to attend the assembly of divines, and after two years' delay he returned to London, arriving in November 1645. He was one of those who drew up the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.

He remained in England till 1654, continuing his negotiations throughout Europe for christian unity. In 1645 he preached before parliament ‘Israel's Call to march out of Babylon,’ published in 1646. The parliament granted him a sum of money equivalent to the value of his offices, but he declares he never received a penny. He was married about April 1645 to an Irish lady, ‘an aunt of Lady Ranelagh,’ who had taken great interest in his christian work. This lady's estate was worth 400l. a year; no rents for a long time were forthcoming, yet she provided a garrison for parliament against ‘the rebels’ in Ireland. In 1650 Durie was appointed library-keeper, under Whitelocke, of the books, medals, and manuscripts of St. James's, and had lodgings there.

To carry out his second plan of negotiations, Durie left England in April 1654. He now had the approbation of Cromwell and the assistance of the English universities. Labouring through the Low Countries and part of High Germany he reached Switzerland, and presented Cromwell's letters to the assembled divines at Aargau, and his scheme was well entertained. He then visited the churches of the reformed cantons, passed on to Frankfort-on-the-Maine, Weimar, Gotha, Brunswick, Hesse, Hanau, Nassau, Hainault, and the Netherlands, and was favourably received at synods and meetings in all these states from 1654 to 1656–7. He made Amsterdam his headquarters until the latter year. His acceptance of the new ecclesiastical system in England under the Commonwealth brought on him many reproaches. He now limited his ground to unity of opinion on the Apostles' Creed, Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer, but being neglected, and acrimoniously attacked, chiefly by Lutherans, he was compelled to seek rest in England, whither he returned early in 1656–7. At the Restoration (1660) he endeavoured to renew his work through Lord-chancellor Hyde and the Duke of Manchester. His letter to the king in vindication of his action under the Commonwealth was unanswered, and Bishop Juxon declined an interview.

In 1661–2 he proceeded to Cassel, where the landgrave of Hesse favoured his plans. The landgrave's widow, after her husband's death in 1663, continued to favour Durie and assigned him comfortable quarters at Cassel. From 1663 to 1668 Durie disputed in South Germany, Switzerland, and Alsace. In the latter year the Great Elector rejected all his plans; and although he continued to travel from his home at Cassel to all parts of Germany and back until 1674, his labour was in vain. ‘The only fruit,’ he says, ‘which I have reaped by all my toils is that I see the miserable condition of christianity, and that I have no other comfort than the testimony of my conscience.’

His life was an incessant round of journeyings, colloquies, correspondence, and publications. He died at Cassel 26 Sept. 1680. His only child, a daughter, married to Henry Oldenburg [q. v.], succeeded to an estate of her father's in the marshes of Kent, valued at 60l. a year.

Baxter, Mede, Bishop Hall, and Robert Boyle attest Durie's learning, benevolence, perseverance, and moral worth.

Durie's works are: 1. Petition to Gustavus Adolphus in 1628. 2. ‘Hypomnemata de studio pacis ecclesiasticæ,’ 1636. 3. ‘A Briefe Relation,’ 1641. 4. ‘Motives to induce Protestant Princes,’ 1641. 5. Letter (on Confession of Faith) to Lord Forbes, 1641. 6. ‘Consultatio theologica … pacis ecclesiasticæ,’ 1641. 7. ‘A Summary Discourse [on] Peace Ecclesiasticall,’ 1641. 8. ‘A Memoriall concerning Peace,’ 1641. 9. ‘A brief Declaration [on Reformed Churches abroad],’ 1641. 10. ‘Motion tending to the Publick good,’ 1642. 11. Petition to the House of Commons (on True Religion), 1642. 12. ‘Certain Considerations,’ 1642. 13. ‘Epistolary Discourse [on Toleration],’ 1644. 14. ‘Of Presbytery and Independents,’ 1646. 15. ‘A Demonstration [on] Gospel Government,’ 1646, 1654. 16. ‘Model of Church Government,’ 1647. 17. ‘A Peacemaker without Partiality and Hypocrisie,’ 1648. 18. ‘Peace makes the Gospel Way,’ 1648. 19. ‘Seasonable Discourse [on] Reformation,’ 1649. 20. ‘Epistolary Discourse [on Israelitish Origin],’ 1649. 21. ‘A Case of Conscience,’ 1650. 22. ‘Objections … answered,’ 1650. 23. ‘Considerations since the Present Engagement,’ 1650. 24. ‘Just Re-proposals to Humble Proposals,’ 1650. 25. ‘A Pack of Old Puritans,’ 1650. 26. ‘A Disingag'd Survey,’ 1650. 27. ‘Epistolary Discourse [on Americans being Israelites],’ 1650. 28. Letters to the Lady Ranelagh concerning his marriage, 1650. 29. ‘The Reformed School,’ 1650. 30. ‘The Reformed Library Keeper,’ 1650. 31. ‘The unchang'd, constant, and single-hearted Peacemaker,’ 1650 (written in reply to Prynne's satire, ‘The time-serving Proteus and ambidexter Divine uncased to the World’). 32. ‘Conscience eased,’ 1651. 33. ‘Earnest Plea for Gospel Communion,’ 1654. 34. ‘A Summary Platform of Practical Divinity,’ 1654. 35. ‘A Demonstration [on] Gospel Government,’ 1654. 36. ‘Earnest Plea for Gospel Communion,’ 1654. 37. ‘A Summary Account [of] former and latter Negotiation,’ 1657. 38. ‘Capita de Pace Evangelica,’ 1657. 39. ‘The Earnest Breathings of Foreign Protestants,’ 1658. 40. ‘A Declaration of John Durie,’ 1660. 41. ‘The Plain Way of Peace and Unity,’ 1660. 42. ‘Irenicorum Tractatuum Prodromus,’ 1662. 43. ‘Consultationum Irenicarum Προδιόρθωσις,’ 1664. 44. ‘Axiomata Communia,’ 1671. 45. ‘De Veris Fundamentalibus,’ 1672. 46. ‘Le Véritable Chrétien,’ 1676. 47. ‘On Christian Union,’ 1676. In 1658 he printed his ‘Letters to Du Moulin on the State of all the Churches in England, Scotland, and Ireland;’ and in 1674 he published his extraordinary work on the Book of Revelation, ‘Maniere d'expliquer l'Apocalypse,’ in which, prompted by the views of Calixtus, he widened his scheme of union to embrace all christians, protestant and Roman catholic.

[Ayscough's Index to Sloane MSS.; Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. (Stubbs), pp. 111, 183, 310; Brook's Puritans, iii. 369; Gesselius's Hist. Eccl. ii. 614; Seelen's Deliciæ Epist. p. 353; Böhm's Englische Reform. Hist. p. 944; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 866, 961, 1043, iv. 578; Fasti, ii. 197; Frederick H. Brandes in the Catholic Presbyterian Review, July and August 1882; C. A. Briggs in the Presbyterian Review for April 1887, where is printed Durie's Summarie Relation of his journey in 1631–3 from his own manuscript; Benzelius's Dissertatio … Duræo, 1744; Burnet's Life of Bedell, p. 137; McCrie's Life of A. Melville, ii. 3, 177–8, 205–8, 448; Museum Helveticum, vol. ii. pt. vii. 1746; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1631–4; Reid's Westminster Divines, 1811; Christian Remembrancer, January 1855.]

J. W.-G.