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THE present edition of the Select Discourses of John Smith is based on the first edition, published in 1660, compared with the last, published in 1821. During the interval between these dates only one other complete edition made its appearance (1673). The Preface by Dr John Worthington, to whose care the Author's papers were committed after his death, contains all the requisite information respecting the preparation of them for the Press. Notwithstanding the learning and industry bestowed by him upon the task, the first edition of the Discourses abounds in errors, and of these scarcely one had been corrected by subsequent editors. The Discourse on Prophecy, the most learned of all, and that by which the Author is best known, was translated into Latin, and prefixed by Le Clerc to his Commentary on the Prophets, all the errors of the original, which are neither few nor trifling, still remaining.
In the present edition, the references have been carefully examined, and, in several instances, assigned to the right authors in place of others to whom they had been incorrectly attributed. The labour involved in such corrections has been considerable, and the Editor is largely indebted to his brother, James B. S. Williams, Esq., M.A.,
for extensive research and acute investigation in tracing out and correcting numerous quotations.
For the short account of the Author, the parish Register of Achurch, and the documents preserved in Emmanuel College and Queens' College have been examined, and have supplied the means of correcting and enlarging the former very brief memoir, while Patrick's Autobiography has furnished additional interesting facts.
PRESTON RECTORY, SUFFOLK,
MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.
THE materials for the Life of John Smith, the Author
of the Select Discourses, are few and scanty. While ample testimony is borne by his contemporaries to the high tone of his character, and while his published works bear the stamp of the mind of the philosopher, the learning of the divine, and the piety of the saint, the events by which his brief life was diversified are little known. His writings themselves fail, in any degree, to supply the deficiency. Conjecture alone can aid us in determining the steps by which the son of the humble Northamptonshire farmer became the valued friend of Cudworth and Patrick, the light and ornament of his generation, and the teacher of succeeding ages.
John Smith was the son of John and Catharine Smith, and was born at Achurch, a small village near Oundle, in Northamptonshire, not later than the early part of the year 1616. His parents were advanced in life at the time of his birth', and his mother died during his infancy. His father was a small farmer residing at
1 Patrick's Funeral Sermon. 2 The above facts, relating to the birth and parentage of John Smith, rest upon the following extracts from the Parish Register of Achurch.
Burials. April 4th, 1616, Katharine Smith, the wife of John Smith.' Christenings. Feb. 15th, 1617. John Smith, son of John Smith.'
If these names refer to our Author and his parents, and there can be no reasonable
doubt that they do so, John Smith was somewhat older at the time of his death than Patrick states. But Patrick is inconsistent with himself on this point in his autobiography, and his funeral sermon. In an extremely brief memoir of our Author by Lord Hailes, his birth is erroneously stated to have taken place in 1618. Kennet (Reg. and Chronicle, p. 127) states that his father's name was John Smith.
Achurch', and appears to have enjoyed the respect of those among whom he lived.
John Smith probably received the rudiments of his education at the Grammar School of Oundle, which had then been in existence considerably above half a century. But the paternal pursuits of agriculture do not seem to have possessed attractions for him. Whether the spark of genius had already begun to manifest itself, or the charms of literature to captivate him, or the desire for usefulness in the Church, which afterwards became so strong, to inflame him, we know not. On the 5th of April, 1636, he became a student of the University of Cambridge, being admitted as a sizar of Emmanuel College, a society which even at that period enjoyed the high character for the learning and good order of its members which it has since maintained.
There he pursued his studies with zeal and assiduity, endearing himself to those around him by his unassuming piety, and making rapid progress in the various branches of literature and science then most cultivated. Dr Whichcote, at that time Fellow of the College, and afterwards Provost of King's College, with that kindness of disposition, and ready patronage, that always distinguished him, particularly aided Smith in his studies, not only by valuable direction, but by furnishing the means which the small funds of the student could not supply. The timely assistance thus afforded was not only fully appreciated at the time, but gratefully remembered through life.
With that modesty and humility which formed prominent features in his character, he was satisfied with devoting the mighty powers he possessed, and employing to
1 Bishop Kennet, Register and Chronicle, p. 127. Patrick (Autobiog. p. 422, Oxford edit.) mentions, speaking of John Smith, 'his estate which he had of twenty pounds a year,' and states that he left 'his
land to a kinsman.' This land he proba bly inherited from his father.
2 He was Churchwarden in the years 1601, 1616, 1621, and 1622.
the best advantage the opportunity afforded him, in storing his mind with the treasures that lay within his reach, leaving to others the eager pursuit after advancement, and the greedy thirst for reputation. He sought rather to deserve honour than to be honoured.'
From some unknown cause, the time of his graduating was deferred a year beyond the usual period, as he did not become Bachelor of Arts before 1640, and Master of Arts before 1644. This circumstance probably altered his position in the University, and deprived the College which had fostered his rising talents of the honour of continuing to number him among her members.
At the same College, and contemporaneous with Smith, was William Dillingham, also a native of Northamptonshire, who had been elected a Sizar less than three weeks after Smith's admission. He took his degree of B.A. in 1639, and was elected Fellow in 1642, at a time when Smith was of insufficient standing to be eligible to a Fellowship. Dillingham subsequently became Master of the College.
By the original Statutes of the College, then in force, but since remodelled, no two natives of the same county could hold fellowships at the same time.
Thus the election of Dillingham precluded Smith from all prospect of advancement in his own College.
But his influence was not destined to be lost to the University, nor himself kept from filling an honourable position there. The Earl of Manchester, in virtue of the power entrusted to him by the Committee of Parliament, for regulating the University of Cambridge, having first removed Dr Edward Martin from his office of President of Queens' College, proceeded to eject a considerable number of the Fellows on the eighth, ninth, and eleventh days of April, 1644, for 'non-residence,' 'not returning to College on summonses,' 'refusing to take the solemn league and covenant.' On the last-mentioned