Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

James Ussher and John Bramhall: The Theology and Politics of Two Irish Ecclesiastics of the Seventeenth Century

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

James Ussher and John Bramhall: The Theology and Politics of Two Irish Ecclesiastics of the Seventeenth Century

Article excerpt

James Ussher and John Bramhall: The Theology and Politics of Two Irish Ecclesiastics of the Seventeenth Century. By Jack Cunningham. (Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate, 2007, Pp. xx, 233. $99.95.)

James Ussher and John Bramhall have always been marked out as two of the most influential, and controversial, figures in the history of the Protestant Church of Ireland. They were both powerful theologians and intellectuals, both prolific writers, and both leaders of the minority church at a time of great crisis. Ussher, a stern Calvinist, succeeded to the archbishopric of Armagh in 1627, and spent the last years of his life in exile in England during the Civil War. Bramhall, a protégée of the Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, became bishop of Meath in 1634. He played a key role in reconstructing the Irish Church in that decade; went into exile on the Continent in the Interregnum; and spent his last two years as archbishop of Armagh after the Restoration.

Cunningham begins his volume with Bramhall's fine analogy of the Levitical candle to describe their relationship: "we were like the candles in the Levitical Temple, looking toward one another, and all towards the stem" (vii). The parallels, and contrasts, between their careers and views have long fascinated historians and never more so than in a current burst of publication, which has seen studies by John MacCafferty on Bramhall in the 1630s, and by Alan Ford on Ussher, as well as the present text. There is some risk that Cunningham's volume will be overshadowed by these offerings from established scholars: that would be a matter of considerable regret because in some ways this is the most ambitious and original of the three texts. …

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