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Ecclesiastical benefices now fell fast upon him. In 1668 he became a prebendary of Westminster, and had afterwards the church of St. Margaret, adjoining to the Abbey. He was in 168o made canon of Windsor, in 1683 dean of Westminster, and in 1684 bishop of Ro. chester.
The Court having thus a claim to his diligence and gratitude, he was required to write the History of the Ryehouse Plot; and in 1685 published A true Account and Declaration of the horrid Conspiracy against the late King, bis prefent Majesty, and the present Government ; a performance which he thought convenient, after the Revolution, to extenuate and excuse,
The same year, being clerk of the closet to the king, he was made dean of the chapel royal; and the year afterwards received the last proof of his master's confidence, by being appointed one of the commissioners for eccleliastical affairs. On the critical day, when the Declaration distinguished the true sons of the church of England, he stood neuter, and permitted it to be read at Westminster; þut prefsed none to violate his conscience; and when the bishop of London was brought before them, gave his voice in his favour.
Thus far he suffered interest or obedience to carry him ; but further he refused to go. When he found that the powers of the ecclesiastical commission were to be exercised against those who had refused the Declaration, he wrote to the lords, and other commissioners, a formal profession of his unwillingness to exercise that authority any longer, and withdrew himself from them. After they had read his letter, they
adjourned for fix months, and scarcely evet met afterwards.
When king James was frighted away, and a new government was to be settled, Sprat was one of those who considered, in a conference, the great question, whether the Crown was vacant, and manfully spoke in favour of his old master.
He complied, however, with the new eftablishment, and was left unmolested; but in Į692 a strange attack was made upon him by oné Robert Young and Stephen Blackhead, both men convicted of infamous crimes, and both, when the scheme was lạid, prisoners in Newgate. These men drew up an association, in which they whose names were subscribed' declared their resolution to restore king James ; to seize the princess of Orange, dead or alive; and to be ready with thirty thousand men to meet king James; when he should land. To this they put the names of Sancroft, Sprat, Marl. borough, Salisbury, and others. The copy of Dr. Sprat's name was obtained by a fictitious request, to which an answer in his own band was desired. His hand was copied fo well, that he confessed it might have deceived himself. Blackhead, who had carried the letter, being sent again with a plausible message, was very curi. ous to see the house, and particularly impor. tunate to be let into the study; where, as is fupposed, he designed to leave the Association. This however was denied him, and he dropt it in a flower-pot in the parlour
Young now laid an information before the Privy Council; and May 7, 1692, the bishop was arrested, and kept at a messenger's under a strict guard eleven days. His house was search
ed, and directions were given that the flowerpots should be inspected. The messengers however missed the room in which the paper was left. Blackhead went therefore a third time; and, finding his paper where he had left it, brought it away.
The bishop, having been enlarged, was, on June the roth and 13th, examined again before the Privy Counsel, and confronted with his accusers. Young persisted with the most obdurate impudence, against the strongest evidence ; but the resolution of Blackhead by degrees gave way. There remained at last no doubt of the bishop's innocence, who, with great prudence and diligence, traced the progress, and detected the characters of the two informers, and published an account of his own examination, and deliverance; which made such an impression upon him, that he commemorated it through life by an yearly day of thanksgiving.
With what hope, or what interest, the villians had contrived an accusation which they must know themselves utterly unable to prove, was never discovered.
After this, he passed his days in the quiet exercise of his function. When the cause of Sacheverell put the publick in commotion, he honestly appeared among the friends of the church. He lived to his feventy-ninth year, and died May 20, 1713.
Burnet is not very favourable to his memory; but he and Burnet were old rivals. On some publick occasion they both preached before the house of commons. There prevailed in those days an indecent custom: when the preacher touched any favourite topic in a manner that delighted his audience, their approbation was
expressed by a loud bum, continued in proportion to their zeal or pleasure. When Burnet preached, part of his congregation hummed so loudly and so long, that he sat down to enjoy it, and rubbed his face with his handkerchief. When Sprat preached, he likewise was honoured with the like animating hum ; but he stretched out his hand to the congregation, and cried, “ Peace, peace, I pray you, peace.”
This I was told in my youth by an old man, who had been no careless observer of the passages of those times.
Burnet's sermon, says Salmon, was remarkable for sedition, and 'Sprat’s for loyalty. Burnet had the thanks of the house; Sprat had no thanks, but a good living from the king; which, he said, was of as much value as the thanks of the Commons.
The works of Sprat, besides his few poems, are, The History of the Royal Society, The Life of Cowley, The Answer to Sorbiere, The Hiftory of the Ryehouse Plot; The Relation of his own Examination, and a volume of Sermons. I have heard it observed, with great justness, that every book is of a different kind, and that each has its distinct and characteristical excellence.
My business is only with his poems. He confidered Cowley as a model; and supposed that as he was imitated, perfection was approached. Nothing therefore but Pindarick liberty was to be expected. There is in his few productions no want of such conceits as he thought excellent; and of those our judgement may be settled by the first that appears in his praise of Cromwell, where he says that Cromwell's fame, like man, will grow white as it grows old.
W ENTWORTH DILLON, earl of Rofcommon, was born in Ireland, during the lieutenancy of Strafford, who, being his godfather, gave him his own surname. His fa. ther had been converted by Usher to the pro. testant religion; and when the popish rebellion broke out, Strafford, thinking the family in great danger from the fury of the Irish, sent for his godson, and placed him at his own seat in Yorkshire, where he was instructed in Latin; which he learned so as to write it with purity and elegance, though he was never able to retain the rules of grammar.
Such is the account given by Mr. Fenton, from whose notes on Waller most of this account must be borrowed, though I know not whether all that he relates is certain. The instructer whom he assigns to Roscommon is one Dr. Hall, by whom he cannot mean the famous Hall, then an old man and a bishop.
When the storm broke out upon Strafford, his house was a shelter no longer; and Dillon, by the advice of Usher, went to Caen, where the Protestants had then an university, and continued his studies under Bochart.
Young Dillon, who was sent to study under Bochart, and who is represented as having al