Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Walker, George (1581?-1651)

WALKER, GEORGE (1581?–1651), divine, born about 1581 at Hawkshead in Furness, Lancashire, was educated at the Hawkshead grammar school, founded by his kinsman, Archbishop Edwin Sandys [q. v.] He was a near relative of John Walker (d. 1588) [q. v.] Fuller states that George Walker 'being visited when a child with the small-pox, and the standers-by expecting his dissolution, he started up out of a trance with this ejaculation, "Lord, take me not away till 1 have showed forth thy praise," which made his parents devote him to the ministry after his recovery.' He went to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1608 and M.A. in 1611. His former tutor, Christopher Foster, who held the rectory of St. John Evangelist, Watling Street, the smallest parish in London, resigned that benefice in favour of Walker, who was inducted on 29 April 1614 on the presentation of the dean and chapter of Canterbury Cathedral (Hennessy, Nov. Report. Eccl. p. 310). There he continued all his life, refusing higher preferment often proffered him. In 1614 he accused Anthony Wotton [q. v.] of Socinian heresy and blasphemy. This led to a 'conference before eight learned divines,' which ended in a vindication of Wotton. On 2 March 1618-19 he was appointed chaplain to Nicholas Felton [q. v.], bishop of Ely. He was already esteemed an excellent logician, hebraist, and divine, and readily engaged in disputes with 'heretics' and 'papists.' On 10 July 1621 he was incorporated B.D. of Oxford.

On 31 May 1623 he had a disputation on the authority of the church with Sylvester Norris, who called himself Smith. An account of this was published in the following year under the title of 'The Summe of a Disputation between Mr. Walker … and a Popish Priest, calling himselfe Mr. Smith.' About the same time Walker was associated with Dr. Daniel Featley [q. v.] in a disputation with Father John Fisher (real name Percy), and afterwards published 'Fisher's Folly Unfolded; or the Vaunting Jesuites Vanity discovered in a Challenge of his … undertaken and answered by G. W.,' 1624, 4to. On 11 March 1633-4 he undertook to contribute 20s. yearly for five years towards the repair of St. Paul's (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1633-4, p. 498). His puritanism was displeasing to Laud, who in 1636 mentions him in his yearly report to Charles I as one 'who had all his time been but a disorderly and peevish man, and now of late hath very frowardly preached against the Lord Bishop of Ely [White] his book concerning the Lord's Day, set out by authority; but upon a canonical admonition given him to desist he hath recollected himself, and I hope will be advised' (Laud, Troubles and Tryal, 1695, p. 536). In 1638 appeared his 'Doctrine of the Sabbath,' which bears the imprint of Amsterdam, and contains extreme and peculiar views of the sanctity of the Lord's day. A second edition, entitled 'The Holy Weekly Sabbath,' was printed in 1641. His main hypothesis was refuted by H. Witsius in his 'De Oeconomia Foederum,' 1694.

Walker was committed to prison on 11 Nov. 1638 for some 'things tending to faction and disobedience to authority' found in a sermon delivered by him on the 4th of the same month (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658-9, p. 98). His case was introduced into the House of Commons on 20 May 1641, and his imprisonment declared illegal. He was afterwards restored to his parsonage, and received other compensation for his losses. At the trial of Laud in 1643 the imprisonment of Walker was made one of the charges against the archbishop (Laud, Troubles, p. 237). When he was free again he became very busy as a preacher and author. Four of his works are dated 1641:

  1. 'God made visible in His Works, or a Treatise on the Eternal Works of God.'
  2. 'A Disputation between Master Walker and a Jesuite in the House of one Thomas Bates, in Bishop's Court in the Old Bailey, concerning the Ecclesiastical Function.'
  3. 'The Key of Saving Knowledge.'
  4. 'Socinianisme in the Fundamentall Point of Justification discovered and confuted.'

In the last, which was directed against John Goodwin [q. v.], he revived his coarse imputations against Wotton, who found a vindicator in Thomas Gataker, in his 'Mr. Anthony Wotton's Defence against Mr. George Walker's Charge,' Cambridge. 1641, 12mo. In the following year Walker replied in 'A True Relation of the Chiefe Passages between Mr. Anthony Wotton and Mr. George Walker.' Goodwin in his 'Treatise on Justification,' 1642, deals with the various doctrinal points raised by Walker.

Walker joined the Westminster assembly of divines in 1643, in the records of which body his name often appears as that of an active and influential member. On 29 Jan. 1644-5 he preached a fast-day sermon before the House of Commons, which was shortly afterwards published, with an 'Epistle' giving some particulars of his imprisonment. In the same year (1646) he printed 'A Brotherly and Friendly Censure of the Errour of a Dead Friend and Brother in Christian Affection.' This refers to some utterance of W. Prynne. On 26 Sept. 1645 parliament appointed him a 'trier' of elders in the London classis. There is an interesting undated tract by him entitled 'An Exhortation to Dearely beloved countrimen, all the Natives of the Countie of Lancaster, inhabiting in and about the Citie of London, tending to persuade and stirre them up to a yearely contribution for the erection of Lectures, and maintaining of some Godly and Painfull Preachers in such places of that Country as have most neede.' He himself did his share in the direction indicated, for, in addition to spending other sums in Lancashire, he allowed the minister of Hawkshead 20l. a year, and the parsonage-house and glebe there were long called 'Walker Ground,' from their being his gift. He was also a benefactor to Sion College library and a liberal supporter of the assembly of divines.

Wood justly styles Walker a 'severe partisan,' but he was also. as Fuller said, 'a man of an holy life, humble heart, and bountiful hand.'

He died in his seventieth year in 1651, and was buried in his church in Watling Street, which was destroyed in the fire of 1666.

[Fuller's Worthies; Wood's Fasti, i. 399, ed. Bliss; Newcourt's Repartorium, i. 375; Ward's Gresham Professors, p. 40; Dodd's Church History, 1739, pp. 394, 402; Neal's Puritans, 2nd edit. ii. 416; Brook's Puritans, ii. 347; House of Commons' Journals, ii. 151, 201, 209, iv. 288, 346; House of Lord's Journals, iv. 214, 457, vi. 469; Hist.. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. App. p. 170; Jackson's Life of John Goodwin, 2nd edit. 1872, p. 38; Gastrell's Notitia Cestriensis (Chetham Soc.), ii. 519; Cox's Literature of the Sabbath Question, 1853; Mitchell and Struthers's Minutes of the Westminster Assembly, 1874; Mitchell's Westminster Assembly, 1874; Hennessy's Novum Repertorium. p. 310.]

C. W. S.