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JOHN TILLOTSON,

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY.*

[1630–1694.]

HAD not the danger of losing the established religion and laws, as Dr. Wordsworth judiciously remarks after Dr. Powell, animated some of the last age with a zeal which despised all other dangers ; instead of living under a well-constituted government, mild and regular beyond the example of any other kingdom, we should either have been subject to an arbitrary and illegal dominion at home, or (which is more probable) have long ago submitted, with all the nations round us, to those powerful enemies, who for a century past have been attempting to enslave the world. And what other human blessings can be compared with that, which is the security and preservation of them all, the liberty of Laws? What other, except that, which secures to us more than human blessings, the liberty of Religion? What praise, and esteem, and veneration are due to those, who obtained them for us? In the foremost ranks of

* AUTHORITIES. Birch's Life of Tillotson ; Burnet's Fistory of his own Times; and Biographia Britannica.

that illustrious number stands the illustrious subject of this Memoir.

John Tillotson was descended from a family originally named Tilston, of Tilston in Cheshire, where they had been settled from the time of Edward III. His father, Mr. Robert Tillotson, was a considerable clothier of Sowerby in the Parish of Halifax, York. shire, where he was born in the latter end of September or the beginning of October, 1630; and his mother, the daughter of Mr. Thomas Dobson, bore an excellent character, but unhappily was for many years of her life deprived of her understanding. They were both Non-conformists. /

After rapidly attaining a skill in the learned languages superior to his years, he was sent to Cambridge in 1647, and admitted a pensioner of Clare Hall. His tutor, whom he subsequently succeeded as Fellow, was Mr. David Clarkson,* an antagonist of Dr. Stillingfleet, and himself answered by Dr. Henry Maurice, upon the subject of Primitive Episcopacy. He became B. A. in 1650, in the year following was chosen Fellow of his College, and commenced M. A. in 1654.

His father having at an early period of the son's life become an Anabaptist, his first religious impressions were received among those, who were then called Puritans; and yet, even in early life, he felt somewhat within him disposing him to more enlarged and liberal opinions. The heavy elementary books of

* Mr. Clarkson was, according to Baxter, “a divine of extraordinary worth for solid judgement, healing moderate principles, acquaintance with the fathers, great ministerial abilities, and a godly upright life.” To his zeal for non-conformity he sacrificed the living of Mortlake in Surrey, in August 1662.

that day he could scarcely endure, even before he knew better things: but he soon met with the immortal work of Chillingworth, the glory of his age and nation, entitled, “The Religion of Protestants a safe Way to Salvation.' This admirable book gave his mind the bias, which it ever afterward preserved.

From his first prejudices he was speedily freed, or rather indeed he was never mastered by them; yet he still adhered to that strictness of life in which he had been educated, retained a just value and due tenderness for those eminent Non-conformists with whom he had contracted a youthful friendship, and by the strength of his reasoning with the clearness of his principles conciliated or attached more serious persons to the communion of the Church of England, than any other person probably of his age.

As he adopted a new line of study, so he entered into intimacies with some of the greatest theologians* at that time residing in Cambridge, which contributed not a little to the improving of his own mind. But that, which gave him his last and principal advantage, was his close and long friendship with Dr. John Wilkins, subsequently Bishop of Chester.f He copied all the best qualities of that distinguished man, so as to render them all more perfect: for though

* Dr. Ralph Cudworth, Master of Christ's College ; Dr. Benjamin Whichcot, Provost of King's; Dr. Henry More, and Dr. George Rust (subsequently Bishop of Dromore) Fellows of Christ's; Dr. John Worthington, Master of Jesus; and Mr. John Smith, Fellow of Queen's, and author of Select Discourses ; ' “ a volume, less known at present (says Dr. Birch) than it's sense and profound learning deserve."

+ Tillotson was related to Wilkins, having married his daughter-in-law, Elizabeth French, who was niece to Cromwell.

was the

more

his son.

Wilkins had a large stock of general knowledge, Tillotson the greater divine; and, if the former was more spirited, the latter was correct.

Tillotson left his college in 1656, or 1657, according to his virulent adversary Dr. Hickes ; * who informs us, that he was invited by Edmund Prideaux, Esq., † of Ford Abbey in Devonshire, to instruct

How long he remained in that capacity, does not appear.

At the time of Oliver Cromwell's death, he was in London, and about a week afterward witnessed a very remarkable scene at Whitehall. Happening to be there upon a fast-day of the Household, and going from curiosity into the presence-chamber where the solemnity was observed, he beheld on one side of a table the new Protector with the rest of his family, and on the other six preachers, including Dr. John Owen, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford; Dr. Thomas Goodwin, President of Magdalen College; Mr. Joseph Caryl, author of the voluminous commentary on Job and Lecturer of St. Magnus in London; and Mr. Peter Sterry. By the bold sallies of enthusiasm uttered upon this occasion, he was absolutely disgusted. God was, as it were, reproached with the services of the deceased Usurper, and challenged for having prematurely taken him away.

* Several of his imputations against the young Roundhead, whom he represents as “ seasoned at his very entrance at Cambridge with the principles of resistance and rebellion,” have been investigated, and found to be wholly without foundation!

+ This gentleman had been Commissioner of the Great Seal under the Long Parliament, and was then Attorney General to Oliver Cromwell. He died in 1659.

Goodwin in particular, who had frequently asserted only a few minutes before he expired, that he was not to die, had the assurance to exclaim to his Maker, “ Thou hast deceived us, and we were deceived:” and Sterry, praying for Richard, dared to use the profane parody, “Make him the brightness of his father's glory, and the express image of his person.

The time of Tillotson's entering into holy orders, and the person by whom he was ordained, are unknown; but the first sermon of his, which appeared in print, was preached at the morning-exercise at Cripplegate, on Matt. vii. 12. At this period he was still among the Presbyterians, whose Commissioners he attended (though as an auditor only) at the Savoy, when they assembled for the review of the Liturgy, in 1661; but he submitted to the Act of Uniformity, which commenced on St. Bartholomew's Day in the year ensuing.

Upon dedicating himself to the service of the church, sensible of the importance of a plain and simple manner of preaching, he formed for himself what has been usually considered as an excellent model for succeeding ages.

His great improvements in this important branch of public instruction, will best be estimated by those, who consider the state of the pulpit at the time when he entered upon his professional function. Oppressed with an unnecessary mixture of various languages, affected wit, and puerile rhetoric, the discourses of the day neglected the general sense of the text, while every single word of it was separately considered under all it's possible meanings. The history of preaching in our own country and language, which cannot properly

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