Manton, Thomas

, one of the most learned and eminent nonconformists of the seventeenth century, was born at Lawrence Lydiard, in Somersetshire, in 1620. His | father and grandfather were both clergymen, but of them we have no account, except that his father was settled at Whimpole in Devonshire, and sent his son to the freeschool at Tiverton. Here his progress was such that he was thought qualified to begin his academical studies at the age of fourteen, and about a year after, in 1635, he was entered of Wadham college, Oxford. From thence, in 1639, he removed to Hart-hall, where he took his bachelor’s degree in arts. Wood says, he was accounted in his college, “a hot-headed person,” a character very remote from that which he sustained throughout life, and when all eyes were upon him. After studying divinity, he was admitted to deacon’s orders by the celebrated Dr. Hall, bishop of Exeter, and although this was sooner than Mr. Man ton approved upon maturer thought, bishop Hall appears to have thought him duly qualified, and predicted that “he would prove an extraordinary person.” As he came into public life when principles of disaffection to the church were generally prevalent, it appears that he entered so far into the spirit of the times, as to be content with deacon’s orders, and to deny the necessity of those of the priest

His ministerial functions were exercised in various places, first at Sowton near Exeter, and then at Colyton in Devonshire, where he was much respected. Removing to London, he became more admired for his talents in the pulpit, and about 1643 was presented to the living of Stoke Newington, by colonel Popham, and here preached those lectures on the epistles of St. James and St. Jude, which he afterwards published in 1651 and 1652, 4to. During his residence at Newington, he often preached in London, and is said to have preached the second sermon before the sons of the clergy, an institution then set on foot, chiefly through the influence of Dr. Hall, son to the bishop, who preached the first. He was also one of those who were called occasionally to preach before the parliament, but being a decided enemy to the murder of the king, he gave great offence by a sermon in which he touched on that subject. In 1651 he shewed equal contempt for the tyranny of the usurpers, by preaching a funeral sermon for Mr. Love (see Christopher Love), and in neither case allowed the fears of his friends to prevent what he thought his duty. | In 1650 he removed from Stoke-Newington, on being presented to the living of Covent garden by the earl, afterwards duke of Bedford, who had a high respect for him. At this church he had a numerous auditory. Archbishop Usher, who was one of his hearers, used to say that he was one of the best preachers in England, and had the art of reducing the substance of whole volumes into a narrow compass, and representing it to great advantage. Although he had already, by the two sermons above noticed, shewn that he was far from courting the favours, of government, Cromwell, who well knew how to avail himself of religious influence and popular talents, sent for him in 1653, when he assumed the protectorate, and desired him to pray at Whitehall on the morning of his installation; and about the same time made him one of his chaplains. He was nominated also by parliament one of a committee of divines to draw up a scheme of fundamental doctrines. In the same year he was appointed one of the committee for the trial and approbation of ministers, and appears to have acted in this troublesome office with considerable moderation. What influence he had with Cromwell, he employed for the benefit of others, and particularly solicited him to spare the life of Dr. Hewit, a loyalist, whom Cromwell executed for being concerned in a plot to restore Charles II. In 1660, when the days of usurpation were over, Mr. Manton co-operated openly in the restoration of Charles, was one of the ministers appointed to wait upon his majesty at Breda, and was afterwards sworn one of his majesty’s chaplains. In the same year he was, by mandamus, created doctor of divinity at Oxford.

He was then one of the ministers who waited upon the king after his arrival, to beg his majesty’s interposition for reconciling the differences in the church j and afterwards joined several of his brethren, in a conference with the episcopal clergy, at the lord chancellor’s house; preparatory to the declaration of his majesty, who was likewise present. Being satisfied with this declaration, Dr. Manton continued in his living of Covent-garden, and received episcopal institution from Dr. Sheldon, bishop of London, Jan. 16,1661, after having first subscribed the doctrinal articles only of the church of England, and taken the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and of canonical obedience in all things lawful and honest. He also allowed that the common-prayer should be read in his church. Soon after | he was offered the deanery of Rochester, which he might have held until 1662, and enriched himself by letting leases; but, either dissatisfied with the advances he bad already made towards conformity, or foreseeing that greater would soon be expected, he honourably refused to enrich himself by accepting a dignity, the very existence of which he and his brethren were prepared to oppose. In 1661 he was one of the commissioners at the Savoy conference, and continued preaching until St. Bartholomew’s day in 1662, when he was obliged to resign his living. After this he preached occasionally, either in private or public, as he found it convenient, particularly during the indulgence granted to the nonconformists from 1668 to 1670, but was imprisoned for continuing the practice when it became illegal. From this time his history is too generally involved with that of his brethren to admit of being separated. He preserved, amidst all vicissitudes, the friendship of the duke of Bedford, the duke of Richmond, lord Wharton, and many other persons of rank. To this they were probably induced by a congeniality of principle; but independent of this, Dr. Manton was a man of great learning and extensive reading, and his conversation as much recommended him to men of the world, as to those who admired his pious services. Waller, the poet, said “that he never discoursed with such a man as Dr. Manton in all his life.” He was also a person of extraordinary charity, and supplicated the assistance of his great friends more for the poor than for himself, being perfectly disinterested. Wood has misrepresented his character in all these respects. His constitution, although a man of great temperance, early gave way; and his complaints terminating in a lethargy, he died Oct. 18, 1677, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. He was buried in the chancel of the church at Stoke Newington, where his intimate friend Dr. Bates preached his funeral sermon, which includes a very copious character of him.

He published in his life-time only some occasional sermons, and the Commentaries on St. Jude and St. James, already mentioned, except a controversial work, entitled “Smeetymnuus Redivivus, being an answer to a book entitled An humble remonstrance.” After his death, various treatises and collections of sermons were printed separately, all of which, if we are not mistaken, were | afterwards incorporated in an edition of his “Works” in five large volumes, 1681—1691, folio. 1

1

Memoirs of Dr. Manton by Wm. Harris, 1725, 8vo. Calarny. Neal’s Puritans. Alh. Ox. vol. II. Wilson’s Hist, of Dissenting churches and meetings.