Sir:

     I am always thrilled to read Jason Loh’s letters-cum-articles and consider him one of the best informed churchmen of this age. However, there was a slight slip of the pen in his letter of 12th /26th March referring to John Overall’s influence under Charles I. As Overall (1559-1618) was long dead by 1625, the year of Charles I’s accession, and as Mr Loh returns to James I in the same paragraph, the reference must be to Overall during the earlier reign of James.

     Overall deserves to be remembered for his part in the Hampton Court Conference, whose 40oth anniversary we are remembering this year, and for his part in the production of the King James’ Bible. Overall is often made to wear the dunce’s cap in the Arminian Corner but his history suggests that this picture needs to be corrected. He followed Alexander Nowell as Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge in 1596. Nowell was a thorough-going Reformer, more Calvinistic than Calvin on justification, election and atonement, who loved the doctrines of grace. Whitgift made Nowell’s catechism mandatory for all theological students and clergy, so it is nigh impossible to imagine that Puritan Whitgift would have given Nowell’s post to an Arminian.

     Overall was admired by everyone for his saintly life and great scholarship. His fault, if he had any, was that he could hardly speak English, being so used to reading, writing and speaking the ancient languages. When he became Dean of St. Paul’s and had to preach before the Queen in English, he was quite tongue-tied. He held to the more revolutionary Puritan view of government, believing that after a revolution or conquest, once a new government was formed, a Christian was duty-bound to support it. When the Anglican Non-jurors refused to take the oath of allegiance to William III having already given it to James II, Bishop Sherlock had them read Overall’s treatise on the subject and several altered their opinions. Overall’s Convocation Book shows that his Reformed stand cannot be doubted. He firmly refutes the novelties of Trent in this work in the light of the Reformed Church of England’s Thirty-Nine Articles. Furthermore, when the more Puritan representatives at Hampton Court asked for an alteration of the Catechism on the Lord’s Supper, it was Overall’s suggestions and wording which they accepted.