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"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

British Calvinists: Walter Travers (c. 1548–1635)

Walter Travers (1548?–1635) was born in Nottingham and graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge in 1560. He obtained an MA from Trinity College and was made a senior fellow in 1567.

In 1570 he went to Geneva, he was forced to leave by John Whitgift who was the master of Trinity. There he became friends with other Marian exiles and with Thomas Beza. He wrote his main work Ecclesiasticae disciplinae et Anglicanae ecclesiae ab illa aberrationis, plena e verbo Dei, et dilucida explicatio in Geneva. This was subsequently translated by Thomas Cartwright in 1574 as A Full and Plaine Declaration of Ecclesisaticall Discipline Owt Off the Word Off God - it was a major presentation of nonconforming Calvinism.

Travers went back to England in 1576 but returned to the continent in 1578 where he became chaplain to the English Merchant Adventurers in Antwerp. 

In 1580 he once again returned to England and became chaplain to Lord Burghley, WilliamCecil.. In 1581 he became deputy to the master of the Temple Church in London. Richard Hooker became the master of the Temple in 1585 and this brought conflict. Travers disliked what he viewed as Hooker's leaning towards Rome.

Travers had hoped to reform the church from the inside, he with others sought to set up a form of presbyterian church within the Established church. To help towards this they produced a Book of Discipline. Later Travers wrote Defence of the Ecclesiastical Discipline. During this time many of the presbyterian Puritans were being hounded by the Established church, many were imprisoned and brought before the Star Chamber. Though Travers had managed to avoid arrest.  With Lord Burghley's help Travers was able to find sanctuary at the newly formed Trinity College in Dublin. Travers became the provost in 1594.

Alan Ford summarises Travers's contribution thus:
Although Walter Travers exerted a considerable influence on the development of English presbyterianism, decisively tying the movement to the strict position that their Calvinist framework was the sole biblical church polity, and seeking to Anglicize the presbyterian system of church government, he signally failed in his major aim—to create an established presbyterian church in England. Indeed, his main achievement was probably, and ironically, his role as the irritant that may have stimulated Hooker to produce one of the few great works of English theology, the Treatise on the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.

Further reading

Alan Ford, ‘Travers, Walter (1548?–1635)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 []

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