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Gilbert Burnet

Gilbert Burnet (September 18, 1643-March 17, 1715) was a Scottish divine and historian, and Bishop of Salisbury. He was fluent in Dutch and French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Gilbert was respected as a cleric, a preacher, and an academic, as well as a writer and historian.

He was born at Edinburgh, Scotland in 1643. His father was his first tutor until he began his studies at Aberdeen where he earned a Masster of Arts in Philosophy at the age of thirteen. He studied law briefly before changing to theology, and earned his D.D. by the age of eighteen. He did not enter into the ministry at that time, but traveled for several years. He visited Oxford and Cambridge, London, the Netherlands and France. By 1665 he returned to Scotland and was ordained by the Bishop of Edinburgh.

He began his ministry in the rural church at Salton, and served this community devoutly for four years. In 1669, without his asking or even consent, he was named to the vacant chair of Divinity at the University of Glasgow. At first he declined, since his congregation unanimously asked him to remain. But, when Archbishop Leighton of Edinburgh urged him, he accepted the post. With the unsettled political times, he left the University in 1674 and moved to London. In London, his political and religious sentiments prompted him to support the Whigs. Facing persecution he fled to the Netherlands in 1683.

Literary and Historical Works

His most durable work is his History of the Reformation of the Church of England, published in three volumes. For over a century this was the standard reference work in the field, although Catholics disputed some of its content. His History of My Own Times was published after his death in 1724. The strength of this work was such that it has had modern (although abridged) reprints as The History of His Own Times.