James Ussher

Archbishop of Armagh (1581-1656)

James Ussher (December 15, 1581March 3, 1656) was the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, and Vice-Provost of Trinity College Dublin. He was a prolific scholar, a revered church leader, and a dedicated mediator – he maintained an esteemed reputation among all sides of the religious and political upheavals which wracked the British Isles throughout the early- and mid-17th century. He is most famous for his research in patristics (having identified the genuine letters of St. Ignatius), his influence in the composition of the Irish Articles of Religion, his defense of episcopacy, and his magnum opus: The Annals of the World – the most exhaustive scholarly work on ancient human history at its time. In his enduring search for knowledge, he traveled widely in Britain and Europe, seeking the earliest available manuscripts, buying those he could, and copying others. After his death, his extensive and valuable library formed the nucleus of the great library of Trinity College, Dublin. His legacy would be remembered as an outspoken advocate for a Reformed, Catholic, Protestant Church.

Ussher, circa 1654

Quotes from Ussher's Works


A Brief Declaration of the Universality of the Church (1624)


A Sermon Before the King’s Majesty, June 20, 1624, at Wanstead.[1]

  • It is a strange thing to me, that wise men should make such large discourses of the catholic Church, and bring so many testimonies to prove the universality of it, and not discern, that, while by this means they think they have gotten a great victory over us, they have in very truth overthrown themselves.
  • They who talk so much of the catholic Church, but indeed stand for their own particular, must of force sink as low in uncharitableness, as they have thrust themselves deep in schism. We who talk less of the universality of the Church, but hold the truth of it, cannot find in our hearts to pass such a bloody sentence upon so many poor souls that have given their names to Christ.
  • He, whose pleasure it was to spread the Church’s seed so far, said to east, west, north, and south, “Give”; it is not for us then to say, “Keep back.” He hath given to his Son “the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.” We for our parts dare not abridge this grant, and limit this great lordship, as we conceive it may best fit our own turns, but leave it to his own latitude, and seek for the catholic Church neither in this part, nor in that piece, but, as it hath been before said in the words of the Apostle, among “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.

The Causes of the Continuance of the Contentions Concerning Church Government


A treatise with notes from three sermons discussing the basis and history of ongoing arguments over Church polity.[2]

  • Contention arises either through error in men's judgments or else disorder in their affections. When contention does grow by error in judgment, it ceases not till men by instruction come to see wherein they err, and what it is that did deceive them; without this there is neither notice nor punishment that can establish peace in the Church.

The Original of Bishops and Metropolitans (1644)


A historical defense of episcopacy, published as a tract in the "pamphlet wars" over Church polity.[3]

  • The ground of episcopacy is derived partly from the pattern prescribed by God in the Old Testament, and partly from the imitation thereof brought in by the apostles, and confirmed by Christ himself in the time of the New. The government of the Church of the Old Testament was committed to the priests and Levites, unto whom the ministers of the New do now succeed; in like sort as our Lord’s Day hath done unto their Sabbath, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, touching the vocation of the Gentiles, “I will take of them for priests, and for Levites, saith the Lord.”

Quotes about Ussher

  • If it may now answer the expectation of many pious, and prudent persons, who have desired the publishing of it, as a seasonable preparative to some moderation in the midst of those extremes, which this age abounds with, it will attain the end intended by the author; and it is likely to be more operative, by the great reputation he had, and hath in the hearts of all good men, being far from the least suspicion to be biased by any private ends, but only aiming at the reducing of order, peace, and unity, which God is the author of, and not of confusion.
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  1. Snoddy, Richard, and James Ussher. James Ussher And A Reformed Episcopal Church. Moscow, ID: The Davenant Press, 2018.
  2. Ussher, James, 1581-1656, and Charles Richard Elrington. The Whole Works. Vol. 17. Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1847.
  3. Snoddy, Richard, and James Ussher. James Ussher And A Reformed Episcopal Church. Moscow, ID: The Davenant Press, 2018.
  4. Snoddy, Richard, and James Ussher. James Ussher And A Reformed Episcopal Church. Moscow, ID: The Davenant Press, 2018. (Kindle Locations 3240-3244). Kindle Edition.