Bates, William

, an eminent nonconformist divine of the seventeenth century, was born in November 1625, and after a suitable school education, was sent to Cambridge, where he was admitted of Emanuel college, from which he removed to King’s, in 1644. He commenced bachelor of arts in 1647, and applying himself to the study of divinity, became a distinguished preacher among the Presbyterians. He was afterwards appointed vicar of St. Dunstan’s in the West, London; and joined with several other divines in preaching a morning exercise at Cripplegate church. At this exercise Dr. Tillotson preached, in September 1661, the first sermon which was ever printed by him. Upon the restoration of Charles II. Mr. Bates was made one of his majesty’s chaplains; and, in the November following, was admitted to the degree of doctor in divinity in the university of Cambridge, by royal mandate. The king’s letter to this purpose was dated on the 9th of that month. About the same time, he was offered the deanery of Lichfield and Coventry, which he refused; and it is said that he might afterwards have been raised to any bishopric in the kingdom, if he would have conformed to the established church. Dr. Bates was one of the commissioners at the Savoy conference in 1660, for reviewing the public liturgy, and was concerned in drawing | up the exceptions against the Common Prayer. He was, likewise, chosen on the part of the Presbyterian minfoters, together with Dr. Jacomb and Mr. Baxter, to manage the dispute with Dr. Pearson, afterwards bishop of Chester, Dr. Gunning, afterwards bishop of Ely, and Dr. Sparrow, afterwards bishop of Ely. In 1665, he took the oath required of the nonconformists by the act commonly called the Five Mile Act, and which had passed in the parliament held that year at Oxford, on account of the plague being in London.*

*

When the parliament sat at Oxford, during the plague in London, they passed an act to oblige the nonconformists to take an oath, “That it was not lawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to take arms against the king; and that they abhorred the treacherous position of taking arms by his authority against his person, or against those that are commissioned by him, in pursuance of such commission; and that they would not at any time endeavour any alteration in the government of church and state.” Those who refused to take this oath were to be restrained from coming (except upon the road) wjthin five miles of any city or corporation, or any place which sent burgesses to parliament. The ministers finding the pressure of the act very great, studied how to take the oath lawfully. Dr. Bates consulted the lord keeper Bridgman, who promised to be present at the next sessions, and to declare from the bench, that by “endeavour to change the government in church, was meant only unlawful endeavour.” This satisfied Dr. Bates, who upon this took the oath with several others. He wrote a letter thereupon to Mr. Baxter; but the latter tells us, that all the argunients contained thereto seemed to him not sufficient to enervate the objections against taking the oath.

When, about January 1667-8, a treaty was proposed by sir Orlando Bridgman, lord keeper of the great seal, and countenanced by the lord chief baron Hale, for a comprehension of such of the dissenters as could be brought into the communion of the church, and for a toleration of the rest, Dr. Bates was one of the divines who, on the Presbyterian side, were engaged in drawing up a scheme of the alterations and concessions desired by that party. He was concerned, likewise, in another fruitless attempt of the same kind, which was made in 1674. His good character recommended him to the esteem and acquaintance of lord keeper Bridgman, lord chancellor Finch, and his son, the earl of Nottingham. Dr. Tillotson had such an opinion of his learning and temper, that it became the ground of a friendship between them, which continued to the death of that excellent prelate, and Dr. Bates, with great liberality, used his interest with the archbishop, in procuring a pardon for Nathaniel lord Crewe, bishop of Durham, who, for his conduct in the ecclesiastical commission, had been excepted out of the act of | indemnity, which passed in 1690. When the dissenters presented their address to king William and queen Mary, on their accession to the throne, the two speeches to their majesties were delivered hy Dr. Bates, who was much respected by that monarch; and queen Mary often entertained herself in her closet with his writings. His residence, during the latter part of his life, was at Hackney, where he preached to a respectable society of Protestant dissenters, in an ancient irregular edifice in Mare-street, which was pulled down in 1773. He was also one of the Tuesday lecturers at Salter’s hall. He died at Hackney, July 14, 1699, in the 74th year of his age. After his death, his works, which had been separately printed, were collected into one volume fol. besides which a posthumous piece of his appeared in 8vo, containing some “Sermons on the everlasting rest of the Saints.” He wrote, likewise, in conjunction with Mr. Howe, a prefatory epistle to Mr. Chaffy’s treatise of the Sabbath, on its being reprinted; and another before lord Stair’s vindication of the Divine Attributes. Dr. Bates is universally understood to have been the politest writer among the nonconformists of the seventeenth century. It is reported, that when his library came to be disposed of, it was found to contain a great number of romances; but, adds his biographer, it should be remembered that the romances of that period, though absurd in several respects, had a tendency to invigorate

the imagination, and abounded in heroic sentiments of honour and virtue. Dr. Bates’s works, however esteemed about a century ago, are not among those which have been of late years revived among the dissenters by republication. Besides those included in the folio edition, he was the editor of a valuable collection of lives of eminent persons, princes, and men of rank, churchmen, and men of learning, amounting to thirty-two, all in Latin, under the title of “Vitse selectorum aliquot virorum qui doctrina, dignitate, aut pietate inclaruere,” Lond. 4to, 1681. Six of them are anonymous, and the rest are taken from very scarce tracts. The life of B. Gilpin by Carleton, written in English, was translated into Latin by Dr. Bates and another written in French, translated by another person, at his request. Dr. Bates’s name is not in the title page, but it is at the end of the dedication to the celebrated lord Russel, and the work is generally quoted by the title of “Batesii Vitse selects.| It is now, although scarce, much less valued than such a collection deserves. 1

1

Biog. Brit. Life prefixed to his wqrks. Palmer’s Nonconformists’ Me morial, vol. I.