Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ferne, Henry

FERNE, HENRY (1602–1662), bishop of Chester, eighth and youngest son of the antiquary, Sir John Ferne [q. v.], was born at York in 1602, while his father was secretary to the council of the north. After Sir John's death (about 1610) Lady Ferne married Sir Thomas Nevill of Holt, Leicestershire, by whose care Henry was educated at the free school of Uppingham, Rutlandshire. According to Wood (Athenæ, iii. 533, ed. Bliss), Ferne entered St. Mary Hall, Oxford, as a commoner, in 1618, where he remained two years under the tuition of a noted tutor; but there is no mention of his matriculation in Clark's ‘Registers.’ A George Ferne of Cambridge was incorporated M.A. at Oxford 21 Feb. 1617–18. In 1620 Henry was admitted pensioner, and was afterwards fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Soon after taking his B.D. (1633) he became domestic chaplain to Morton, bishop of Durham, who in about a year made him rector of Masham, Yorkshire. He was afterwards presented by his step-brother, Henry Nevill, to the living of Medbourne, Leicestershire, holding also from 1641 the archdeaconry of Leicester, to which post he was presented by the Bishop of Lincoln. In 1642 he went to Cambridge to take the degree of D.D., and spoke in answer to the Divinity Act at the Commencement. Returning to his living he first came under the king's notice by a sermon he preached before him at Leicester in July, when Charles marched through on his way to Nottingham. There also Ferne, who seems to have joined the royal forces, again preached, and so pleased the king that he made him his chaplain extraordinary, till an ordinary chaplaincy should fall vacant, which happening the next year Ferne received the promised post. Meantime he returned to Medbourne, and in the autumn published his first work, which was also the first pamphlet openly on the king's side, entitled ‘The Resolving of Conscience upon this question: Whether upon such a supposition or case as is now usually made (viz. the king will not discharge his trust, but is bent or seduced to un-bend religion), subjects may take arms and resist? and Whether that case is now?’ Cambridge, 1642, 4to (2nd ed. Oxford, 1643), ‘with an epistle to all the misse-led people of this land.’ Having thus declared himself, Ferne was obliged to abandon his living, and retire to Oxford for safety. Here in 1643 he took the degree of D.D., and employed himself by preaching constantly ‘gratis’ at St. Aldgate's Church, and also in writing pamphlets in reply to the storm of controversial literature which his first book had aroused: ‘Conscience Satisfied, by H. Ferne, D.D., by way of reply unto severall answers made to a treatise formerly published for the resolving of conscience … especially unto that which is entitled a Fuller Answer,’ Oxford, 18 April 1643, 4to; and ‘A Reply unto severall treatises pleading for the armes now taken up by subjects in the pretended defence of Religion and Liberty. By H. Ferne, D.D.,’ Oxford, 1643, 4to (Brit. Mus. and Bodl. Catalogues). As a further proof of royal favour, on a rumour reaching Oxford that the headship of Trinity, Cambridge, was vacant by the death of the master, Charles would have promoted Ferne to the post, but the news proving false he gave him a patent for it, ‘when it should prove void.’ Ferne was summoned, according to Walker, before parliament as a delinquent. In 1644 he took part in the negotiations at Uxbridge as chaplain to one of the lords commissioners, and there spoke by request upon the difference between episcopacy and presbyterianism, publishing his views upon the subject under the title of ‘Episcopacy and Presbytery considered; according to the severall respects we may commend a church government, and oblige good Christians to it,’ Oxford, 1644, 4to (Bodl. copy; 2nd ed. 1647, Brit. Mus.). A few months after his return to Oxford he accompanied the king to the siege of Leicester, probably hoping in the event of success to return to Medbourne; but when the defeat of Naseby (14 June 1645) shattered the royalist cause, Ferne slipped away from the battle-field to Newark, where he remained preaching to the garrison till the royal command came to them to surrender. He retired to some relatives in Yorkshire, where he remained till summoned to Carisbrooke by his royal master. Here he preached the last sermon Charles heard before he went up to London for his trial and execution, afterwards published: ‘A Sermon on Habak. ii. 3, preached before his Majesty at Newport, in the Isle of Wight, 29 Nov. 1648, being the fast day,’ London, 1648–9, 4to. Ferne was deprived of his living and again withdrew to Yorkshire (probably to Sandbeck, whence his will was dated in 1659). There he lived quietly upon his private means till the Restoration, publishing between 1647 and 1660 a series of theological pamphlets, chiefly in defence of the reformed church against the Roman catholic: ‘Of the Division between the English and Romish Churches upon the Reformation by way of answer to the seemingly plausible pretences of the Romish party,’ London, 20 July 1652; ‘Certain Considerations of Present Concernment touching this Reformed Church of England, with a particular examination of Anthony Champneys, Dr. of the Sorbonne,’ London, 1653, 12mo; ‘A Compendious Discourse upon the case as it stands between the Church of England and of Rome on the one hand, and again between the same Church of England and those Congregationalists which have divided from it on the other hand,’ London, 1655, 8vo, 2nd ed. Bodl.; ‘A Brief Survey of Antiquity for the Trial of the Romish Church;’ ‘An Enlarged Answer to Mr. Spencer's book, entitled “Scripture Mistaken,”’ London, 8vo, 1660.

In 1656 Ferne dared to censure ‘Oceana,’ a copy having been sent him by Harrington's sister, whereupon the author published the correspondence that passed between them, under the title of ‘Pian Piano; or intercourse between H.F., D.D., and J. Harrington, Esq., upon occasion of the Dr.'s censure of the Commonwealth of Oceana,’ 1656 (Bodl.). At the Restoration Charles II at once confirmed his father's patent to Ferne of the mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge, and during the eighteen months of his headship he was twice made vice-chancellor (1660 and 1661). He showed his moderation by readmitting all who had been made fellows of Trinity under the Commonwealth, and his consistency by only suffering those divines who were conformable and had renounced presbyterianism to preach at St. Mary's. Early in 1661 Ferne also received the deanery of Ely, promised to him by a royal warrant from Brussels in 1659 (Kennett, p. 644). He was installed 12 March 1660–1, and was twice prolocutor of the lower house of convocation during that year. In 1662 he resigned his mastership, deanery, and Medbourne (to which living he had been restored at the Restoration), on being promoted to the see of Chester, where he succeeded Dr. Walton, whom he is said to have helped in his Polyglot Bible. Ferne was consecrated bishop of Chester on Shrove Sunday (9 Feb. 1661–2), but died exactly five weeks afterwards (Sunday, 16 March) in the house of his kinsman, Mr. Nevill, in St. Paul's Churchyard. He was buried 25 March in St. Edmund's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, where he lies under a brass with his arms and a Latin inscription, which records that he attended Charles I during his imprisonments almost to the last. Two heralds, in token of royal respect, attended his funeral. A curious proof of his conscientiousness is given in his will: a bequest of 10l. to Trinity College, ‘by way of restitution, fearing that I did not discharge those petty stewardships (which I sometime bore there) so faithfully as I should.’ He left money to the poor of three Yorkshire parishes, and four ‘poor ministers,’ while his ‘beloved brother-in-law, Clement Nevill,’ at whose house he died, received his library (ib. p. 644). Wood and Kennett both give him an excellent character, not only for devotion and piety, but for a sweet temper under all his trials. ‘One who knew him from his youth’ told Wood that ‘his only fault was that he could not be angry’ (Athenæ, ed. Bliss, viii. 534). Besides the works given above he published ‘A Sermon on Judges v. 15, preached at the publique faste 12 April 1644, at St. Marie's, Oxford, before the members of the hon. House of Commons there assembled,’ Oxford, 1644, 4to; ‘An Appeal to Scripture and Antiquity on the Questions of the Worship and Invocation of Saints and Angels, &c., against the Romanists,’ London, 1665, 12mo.

[Brit. Mus. Cat. of Printed Books; Bodl. Cat.; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, pt. ii. p. 43; Nichols's Leicestershire, ii. 723; Chalmers's Biog. Dict.; Chester's Westminster Abbey Reg.]

E. T. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.122
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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373 i 3 f.e. Ferne, Henry: omit consecrated 10 Feb., and