Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lake, John

LAKE, JOHN (1624–1689), bishop of Chichester, son of Thomas Lake, ‘grocer,’ of Halifax in Yorkshire, was born there in the autumn of 1624. He was educated in the Halifax grammar school, and at the age of thirteen was admitted to St. John's College, Cambridge (4 Dec. 1637). Soon after he had graduated B.A., ‘his college being made a prison for the royal party, he was kept a prisoner there,’ for, being a staunch royalist, he refused to take the ‘covenant.’ He managed to make his escape and fled to Oxford, where he joined the king's army and continued to serve in it as a volunteer for four years. He was at Basing House when it was taken, and at Wallingford, which was one of the last garrisons that held out for Charles I. In 1647 he received holy orders from one of the deprived bishops, probably Skinner, bishop of Oxford. He seems to have purposed settling in his native place, Halifax, where he preached his first sermon, but he was not permitted to remain there, because he refused to take the ‘Engagement.’ He consequently removed to Oldham, whence Robert Constantine had been ejected, holding the living at first as a supplier, and then by order of the committee for plundered ministers. In spite of charges of malignancy brought by the Constantine party in 1652, he managed to remain at Oldham till the close of 1654, when Constantine was restored (Shaw, Manchester Presbyterian Classis, Chetham Soc., iii. 375 sq.) Immediately after the Restoration he was presented to the vicarage of Leeds, but the puritans, who desired to have a Mr. Bowles as vicar, raised such opposition that at his induction soldiers had to be called in to keep the peace. In 1661 the degree of D.D. was conferred upon him by the university of Cambridge by royal mandate. He was appointed to preach the first ‘synod sermon’ at York after the Restoration. Dr. Hitch, afterwards dean of York, showed a copy of the sermon, without Lake's knowledge, to the Bishop of London, Dr. Sheldon, who sent for the preacher, and on 22 May 1663 collated him to the important living of St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate. In this post he remained for some years and was made prebendary of Holborn (4 June 1667). While in London he formed an intimate friendship with Sancroft, who was then dean of St. Paul's. In 1669 he was appointed to the living of Prestwich in Lancashire, and in 1671 to the prebend of Fridaythorpe in York Cathedral. In 1680 he was installed archdeacon of Cleveland, but none of these preferments were of his own seeking. He attacked a bad custom of lounging about the nave of York Minster during divine service in the choir by going into the nave and pulling off the hats of all whom he found wearing them. He determined to put a stop to a revel held by the apprentices in the church on Shrove Tuesday, and defied the rabble, saying that he had faced death in the field too often to dread martyrdom. Although advised to retire to his country living, he stayed at his post until he succeeded in putting a stop to the desecration of the minster. In 1682 he was nominated by the Earl of Derby to the bishopric of Sodor and Man, and ‘sacrificed a rich prebend for a poor bishopric.’ In 1684, through the influence of Bishop Turner with the Duke of York, he was translated to the bishopric of Bristol, and soon after was entrusted by his old friend, now Archbishop Sancroft, with a commission to visit the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry. During the Monmouth rebellion he gave great satisfaction to the king by leaving his parliamentary duties in London to keep order in Bristol. James was so much pleased with his conduct as to promise him advancement. Lake had been opposed by the dean of Bristol in projects for improving the cathedral, and especially in an attempt to establish the weekly communion. He complained piteously to his friend Sancroft, and this may have been one of the reasons why Sancroft strongly urged James II to remove his friend from Bristol. In 1685 the king gladly appointed Lake to the see of Chichester. While at Chichester he established the weekly communion and restored the old custom of preaching in the nave of the cathedral. After his first visitation he wrote to Sancroft a lamentable account of the state of the diocese and exerted himself to rectify it. In September 1688 he made ‘a visitation extraordinary throughout his diocese,’ and was received by the gentlemen of the district with such respect as ‘was wont to be paid to the primitive bishops.’ Lake, however, declined to sanction King James's illegal acts; he petitioned to be excused from reading the king's declaration of liberty of conscience, and was one of the seven committed to the Tower in 1688. He was also one of the bishops who refused to take the oaths of allegiance to William and Mary. ‘He considered that the day of death and the day of judgment were as certain as the first of August [the day of suspension] and the first of February [the day of deprivation], and acted accordingly.’ Lake did not live to suffer actual deprivation. On 27 Aug. 1689, feeling his end was drawing near, he dictated a declaration to Jenkin, his chaplain. In this he solemnly and impressively asserted his fidelity to the church of England and his adherence to its distinctive doctrine of non-resistance. Holding this belief, he would rather have died than taken the oaths. The bishop signed this in the presence of the five gentlemen who communicated with him, and died three days later (30 Aug.) He was buried 3 Sept. in the church of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate. The paper was published as ‘The Dying Profession of Bishop Lake on the Doctrine of Passive Obedience as the Distinguishing Character of the Church of England.’ It produced many answers and defences, one of the latter being published anonymously by Robert Jenkin [q. v.], who gives the earliest account of the bishop's life.

Lake's whole life shows that he said truly, ‘He thanked God he never much knew what fear was, when he was once satisfied of the goodness of his cause.’ In 1670 he printed a sermon which was preached at Whitehall before the king on 29 May 1670, and in 1671 one entitled ‘Στέφανος πιστοῦ, or the true Christian Character and Crown described,’ a funeral sermon on William Cade. He also wrote a life of his tutor at St. John's, Cambridge, John Cleveland the poet [q. v.], which was prefixed to ‘Clievelandi Vindiciæ,’ 1677, an edition of the poet's works prepared by Lake in conjunction with his friend Samuel Drake, d 1673 [q. v.]

[A Defense of the Profession which John, Bishop of Chichester, made upon his Death-bed, &c., together with an Account of some Passages of his Life, 1690; Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Seven Bishops committed to the Tower; Hearne's Collections, ed. Doble (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), iii. 12, 51, 68; Admissions to St. John's College, Cambridge, ed. Mayor, p. 38; T. Lathbury's History of the Nonjurors; information kindly supplied by Mr. W. A. Shaw.]

J. H. O.