Sherlock, Thomas

, eldest son to the preceding, and bishop of London, was born in that city in 1678. He was sent at an early age to Eton school,*


Sir Robert Walpole, who was Sherlock’s contemporary at Eton, used to relate that, when some of the scholars, going to bathe in the Thames, stood shivering on the bank, Sherlock plunged in immediately over his head and ears. This, Warton thinks, is the reason why Pope, in the Dunciad, calls Sherlock, “The plunging prelate.” It has been said that Sherlock’s talents did not shew themselves till he was more advanced in life; but it appears from the testimony of those who knew him in his early youth, that in this, as in all other parts of his life, he stood on the highest ground, and that, in the course


course of his education, he was always at the head of his class, and never failed to lead his equals and companions, even in their puerile sports and amusements. Like other men of eminence, he was the subject of those petty anecdotes which, having originally little or no foundation, are transferable at the pleasure of the narrator. In an anonymous life of Sherlock prefixed to an edition of his sermons, printed in 1775, 12mo, we have the following: “Hoadly and he were both contemporaries at this very small college (Katherine hall): and it should seem that the seeds of rivalry between those two very great men were sown at that time. One day, as they came away fromn their tutor’s lecture on Tilly’s offices, Hoadly said, ”Well, Sherlock, you figured away finely to-day by help of Cocktnan’s translation.“” No, really,“says Sherlock, ” I did not; for I tried all I could to get one: and could hear of only one copy, and that you had secured," This story was printed in the newspapers and magazines eleven years before (1764) with this difference, that L’Estrange is made to be the translator, and Sherlock the person who had secured the translation!

where he laid | the foundation of that classical elegance which is visible in most of his works, especially in his much-admired sermons, About 1693 he was removed to Cambridge, and admitted of Katherine-hall, under the tuition of Dr. Long, afterwards bishop of Norwich. Here he took his degree of B. A. in 1697, and that of M. A. in 1701, and between these periods was elected to a fellowship, and entered into holy orders. How highly he must have been esteemed even at this early period, appears from his first preferment in the church, which was to one of its highest dignities, under the bench, the mastership of the Temple, to which he was appointed in 1704. That such a rapid elevation should have given offence, can excite no surprize. It was probably unprecedented, and in so young a man, might be thought unjustifiable, yet it took place at a time when preferments were not lightly bestowed, and Mr. Sherlock in a very short time exhibited such talents as removed all prejudices against him. Indeed he appears to have felt it necessary to justify the authors of his promotion, both upon his own account and that of the church. He exerted the utmost diligence, therefore, in the cultivation of his talents and the display of his learning and eloquence, and in the course of a few years became one of the most celebrated preachers of his time; and notwithstanding some decree of natural impediment (what is called a thickness of speech), he delivered his sermons with such propriety and energy as to rivet the attention of his hearers, and command their admiration.

In 1714, at which time he took his doctor’s degree in divinity, he succeeded sir William Dawes in the mastership of Katherine-hall, and when appointed | vice-chancellor, in his turn, discharged the duties of that office in a manner the most beneficial to the university. In particular he exerted himself in inspecting and bringing into order the public archives, and in the course of this employment acquired such a knowledge of the constitution, history, power, and immunities of the university, as gave his opinion a very great weight in all subsequent disputes. He likewise, during his residence in Katherine-hall, discovered not only very superior abilities with deep and extensive learning, but also much wisdom, policy, and talents for governing. It was in allusion to this political sway, that Dr. Bentley during his disputes at Cambridge, gave Dr. Sherlock the nickname of cardinul Alberom, while about the same time Bentley’s antagonist, Middleton, called Sherlock, “the principal champion and ornament of both church and university.” This was very high praise from one who reflected so little honour on either.

In 1716 he obtained the deanery of Chichester, and soon after this promotion appeared as an author, for the first time, in the memorable Bangorian controversy, during the course of which he published several tracts. One of the principal is entitled “A Vindication of the Corporation and Test Acts: in answer to the Bishop of Bangor’s Reasons for the Repeal of them. To which is added a second part, concerning the Religion of Oaths,1718, 8vo. The bishop of Bangor answered him in a piece entitled “The common Rights of Subjects defended, and the Nature of the Sacramental Test considered,1719, 8vo: yet, while he opposed strenuously the principles of his antagonist, he gave the strongest testimony that could be of his abilities; for, in the beginning of his preface, he calls his own book “An Answer to the most plausible and ingenious Defence, that, he thinks, has ever yet been published, of excluding men from their acknowledged civil Rights, upon the account of their differences in Religion, or in the circumstances of Religion.” Sherlock replied to the bishop, in a small pamphlet, in which he sets forth “The true Meaning and Intention of the Corporation and Test Acts asserted, &c.1719, 8vo. It has been said, by the writer of his life in the Biog. Brit, that in his latter days, Dr. Sherlock did not approve of these writings against bishop Hoadly, and that he told a friend, “that he was a young man when he wrote them,” and he would never have them collected into a volume. That Dr. | Sherlock might have changed his sentiments in his latter days is not improbable, but it could not be asserted that he was at this time a young man, for he had passed his fortieth year*. Some part, however, which he took in this controversy, before he published on it, seems to have given offence at court, for in 1717, he and Dr. Snape were removed from the list of king’s chaplains.

In 1724 Collins published his insidious attack, entitled “A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion” in which he endeavours to fix the evidences of it chiefly, if not solely, upon the prophecies of the Old Testament; and then explains these prophecies in such a manner, as to make it appear that they have no better foundation than the Divination among the heathens “who learnt,” says he, “that art in schools, or under discipline, as the Jews did prophesying in the schools and colleges of the prophets.” This work occasioned many pieces to be written upon the subject of prophecy; and, though Sherlock did not enter directly into the controversy, yet he took an opportunity of communicating his sentiments, in six discourses delivered at the Temple church, in April and May 1724, which he published the year after, with this title, “The Use and Intent of Prophecy, in the several ages of the world,” 8vo. In these we have a regular series of prophecies, deduced through the several ages from the beginning, and presented in a connectecj view; together with the various degrees of light distinctly marked out, which were successively communicated in such a manner, as to answer the great end of religion and the designs of providence, till the great events to which they pointed should receive thtir accomplishment. These discourses have been exceedingly admired, and gone through several editions. The fourth, corrected

* It seems asserted on better fbun- of the people according to it. I have

dation that bishop Sherlock would have lived long enougn to know by expeexpunged the Athnn:i<ian creed to re- r.ence the truth of what xve are taught,

eoncile a particular class of dissenters. "That thpre is no other name by which

But this, it appears, he was inclined to we may bo saved, but the name of

do, rather upon account of its style Christ only.‘ 1 have seen the true

than its subject. Of his general sen- spirit, and the comfortable hopes of

timents on leligion, we have the fol- religion, lost in the abundance of spelowing testimony in a letter which he culation, and the v;in pretences of

wrote in 1749 to Dr. Doddridge: setting up natural religion in opposi­" Whatever points of difference there lion to revelation; and there will be

are between us, yet I trust that we little hopes of a reformation, till we

are united in an hearty zea! for spread- are humble enough to know Christ

ing the knowledge of the gospel, and and him crucified." Doddridge’s LeU

for reforming the lives and manners ters, 1790, 8vo, p. 457. | and enlarged, was published in 1744, 8vo; to which are added, “Four Dissertations: I. ‘The Authority of the second Epistie of St. Peter.’ 2. ‘ The Sense of the Ancients before Christ, upon the Circumstances and Consequences of the Fall.’ 3. ‘ The blessing of Judah,’ Gen. xlix. 4. ‘ Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem’.” Three of these dissertations, if we mistake not, accompanied the discourses from their first publication; the fourth was added afterwards. In 1749, Sherlock, then bishop of London, published “An Appendix to the second Dissertation, being a farther enquiry into the Mosaic account of the Fall,” 8vo. An advertisement is prefixed, setting forth, that the dissertation was drawn up some years since, and intended as an examination of the objections made to the History of the Fall by the author of “The Literal Scheme of Prophecy;” but that author being dead, was now published, not in answer to him, but to all who call in question, or are offended with, the History of the Fall, as it stands recorded by Moses. Whether Dr. Middleton, who had ridiculed the “Literal History of the Fall,” considered himself as particularly aimed at here, or whether he acted from other private motives of resentment, which has been asserted, we know not, but he published the year after, 1750, a sharp and satirical “Examination of the Discourses upon Prophecy, with Animadversions upon this Dissertation:” in which he undertakes to explain and affirm these four points: 1. “That the use of Prophecy, as it was taught and practised by Christ, his Apostles, and Evangelists, was drawn entirely from single and separate predictions, gathered by them from the books of the Law and the Prophets, and applied, independently on each other, to the several acts and circumstances of the life of Jesus, as so many proofs of his Divine Mission; and, consequently, that his Lordship’s pretended chain of Antediluvian Prophecies is nothing else but a fanciful conceit which has no connection at all with the evidences of the Gospel.” 2. “That the Bishop’s exposition of his text is forced, unnatural, and inconsistent with the sense of St. Peter, from whose epistle it is taken.” 3. “That the historical Interpretation, which he gives to the account of Fall, is absurd and contradictory to reason; and that the said account cannot be considered under any other character than that of Allegory, Apologue, or Moral Fable.” 4. “That the Oracles of the Heathen World, which his | Lordship declares to have been given out by the, Devil, in the form of a Serpent, were all impostures, wholly managed by human craft, without any supernatural aid or interposition whatever.

From the notice of this controversy we must now return to the succession of those preferments to which Dr. Sherlock was thought entitled for his able services as a divine. In 1728 he was promoted to the bishopric of Bangor, in which he succeeded Dr. Hoadly, as he did also in the see of Salisbury, in 1734; in both which stations his abilities were so conspicuous, that on the death of archbishop Potter in 1747, the see of Canterbury was offered to him, but he declined it on account of bad health. The following year, however, he was so much recovered, as to accept a translation to the see of London, in room of the deceased bishop Gibson.

On tins pro.notion, he had the misfortune to differ with Dr. Herring, then archbishop of Canterbury, who had made his option for the rectory of St. George’s Hanoversquare, which being one of the most valuable livings in his diocese, the bishop was very unwilling to relinquish it, and drew up a pamphlet respecting the nature of the archbishop’s options, and resolved to oppose the present claim. The matter, however, was accommodated by his giving up the living of St. Anne’s, Solio, which the archbishop accepted. Dr. Sherlock printed fifty copies of his thoughts on the subject, in 1757, for private distribution, in a folio pamphlet, entitled “The Option; or an Inquiry into the grounds of the claim made by the archbishop, on all consecrated or translated bishops, of the disposal of any preferment belonging to their respective sees that he shall make choice of.” The chief argument of the author, deduced from the registers, &c. of the archbishops, is that the archbishop of Canterbury never had, nor at this tune has a right to an option from a translated bishop; but he allows that the claim on consecrated bishops is well founded, for it is properly a consecration fee, and becomes due ratione consecrationis. Archbishop Herring, to whom he had sent a ms copy, in 1749, reprinted the whole afterwards in 4to, with a short answer in onu page, and distributed it among his friends. Dr Sherlock, however, we see, virtually gave up the point, by giving up the living of St. Anne’s.

Bishop Sherlock held the mastership of the Temple, | where he was much beloved, and in which he generally resided, until 1753; anil when his resignation was accepted by his majesty, he addressed an affecting letter to the treasurer and masters of the bench, gratefully acknowledging their goodness to him, during the long course of his ministry among them; assuring them that he should always remember the man) and distinguished instances of their favour to him; and declaring that he esteemed his relation to the two societies of the Temple to have been the greatest happiness of his life, as it introduced him to some of the greatest men of the age, and afforded him the opportunities of living and conversing with gentlemen of a liberal education, and of great learning and experience.

Bodily infirmities now began to affect him very much, and, though for three or four years he applied himself to business, and made one general visitation of his diocese in person, yet he was then visited with a severe illness, which deprived him almost first of the use of his limbs, and then at times of his speech, insomuch that he could not be understood but by those who were constantly about him. Still the powers of his understanding and his accustomed cheerfulness continued; and under this weak state of body, in which he lay many years, he revised, corrected, and published, 4 vols. of “Sermons” in 8vo. The last time in which he probably used his pen, was in an affectionate congratulatory letter to his present majesty on his accession, being incapable of waiting on him in person *. He


`` Sire, Nov. 1, 1760. “Amidst the congratulations that surround the throne, permit me to lay before your majesty a heart, which, though oppressed with age and infirmity, is no stranger to the joys of my country. ``When the melancholy news of the late king’s demise reached us, it naturally led us to consider the loss we had sustained, and upon what our hopes of futurity depended r The first part excited grief, and put all the tender passions into motion; but the second brought life and spirit with it, and wiped the tears from every face. Oh how graciously did the providence of God provide for a successor, able to bear the weight of government in that unexpected event. ”You, Sir, are the person whom the people ardently desire which affection of theirs is happily returned, by your majesty’s declared concern for their prosperity; and let nothing disturb this mutual consent. Let there be but one contest between them, whfther the king loves the people best, or the people him; and may it be a long, a very long contest; may it never be decided, but let it remain doubtful; and may the paternal affection on the one side, and the filial obedience on the other, be had in perpetual remembrance. ``This will probably be the last time I shall ever trouble your majesty. I beg leave to express my warmest wishes and prayers on your behalf. May the God of heaven and earth have you always under his protection, and direct you to seek his honour and glory in all you do; and may you reap the benefit of it, by an increase of happiness in this world, and in the next.’‘

| He died July 18, 1761, in his eighty-fourth year, and was interred in the church-yard at Fulham, in a vault made for that purpose: where likewise a monument was erected to his memory, with an inscription drawn up by Dr. Nicholls, who succeeded him, in the mastership of the Temple, and speaks thus of his character:

His learning was very extensive: God had given him a great and an understanding mind, a quick comprehension, and a solid judgment. These advantages of nature he improved by much industry and application; and in the early part of his life had read and digested well the ancient authors, both Greek and Latin, the philosophers, poets, and orators: from whence he acquired that correct and elegant style, which appears in all his compositions. His knowledge in divinity was obtained from the study of the most rational writers of the church, both antient and modern: and he was particularly fond of comparing scripture with scripture, and esperially of illustrating the epistles and writings of the apostles, which he thought wanted to be more studied, and of which we have some specimens in his own discourses. His skill in the civil and canon law was very considerable; to which he had added such a knowledge of the common law of England, as few clergymen attain to. This it was that gave him that influence in all causes where the church was concerned; as knowing precisely what it had to claim from its constitutions and canons, and what from the common law of the land.” Nicholls then mentions his constant and exemplary piety, his warm and fervent zeal in preaching the duties and main* taining the doctrines of Christianity, and his large and diffusive munificence and charity. “The instances of his public charities,” says he, “both in his life-time and at his death, are great, and like himself.” He has given large sums of money to the corporation of clergymen’s sons, to several of the hospitals, and to the society For propagating the gospel in foreign parts: and at the instance of the said society, he consented to print at his own charge an Impression of two thousand sets of his valuable discourses at a very considerable expence; and they have been actually sent to all the islands and colonies in America; and, by the care of the governors and clergy, it is hoped that by this time they are all properly distributed among the people of those respective colonies, to their great improvement in the knowledge of rational and practical Christianity. And, | to mention one instance more of his great charity and care for the education of youth, ne has given to Catherine-hall in Cambridge, me place of his education. his valuable library of books, anu uonations for the founding a librarian’s place, a.’^d a scholarship."

Bishop Sherlock hud acquired mu< h knowleage of the laws and constitution of England, which enabled him to appear with great weight, both as a governor of the church, and a lord of parliament. In cases of ecclesiastical law, brought before the House of Peers, he had sometimes the honour of leading the judgment of that august assembly, in opposition to some of the great luminaries of the law, who had at first declared themselves of a different opinion: and in general when he assisted at the deliberations of that house, he entered freely into many other questions of importance, as appears by his speeches printed in the parliamentary debates.

In 1707, he married Miss Judith Fountaine, descended from a goud family in Yorkshire, a very amiable woman; but they had no children. She survived him, and died in 1764, aged seventy-seven, and was interred in the same vault with her husband. By the death of his younger brother, he acquired a fortune of 30,000l. and notwithstanding his many charities, died possessed, as it is said, of upwards of 100,000l. the bulk of which came to sir Thomas Gooch, his sister’s son, by Dr. Thomas Gooch, bishop of Ely.

Besides the works already enumerated, a fifth volume of his “Sermons” was published in 1776: this consists of fourteen occasional sermons, printed at the expense of Lockyer Davis and Thomas Davies, two well-known booksellers, whose initials D. D. are subscribed to the preface, and but for this notice, may perhaps perplex some future inquirer. He was also the author of “The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus,” first published in 1729, without his name, and which went through fourteen editions. Dr. Leland remarks that this piece has been “very justly admired for the polite and uncommon turn, as well as the judicious way of treating the subject.” It is indeed a very ingenious effort both of argument and imagination, and places Sherlock’s talents in a new light*. On

* Mr. Woolston having bent his ef- evidences of the resurrection are exforts with particular virulence against amined in the form of a judicial proour Saviour’s resurrection Dr. Sher- ceeding. In 1749 was published lock wrote this pamphlet, io which the “The sequel of the Trial of the | Witoccasion of the earthquake at Lisbon in 1750, which alarmed, this country, he addressed an excellent” Pastoral Letter" to the clergy and inhabitants of Lon 'on, of which fifty- five thousand were dispersed, besides pirated editions to nearly the same amount. The effect of this letter was for some time visible in the repression of public licentiousness, and in a remarkable show of outward penitence and decency, but all this abated as the danger disappeared.

In bishop Sherlock’s sermons are many passages of uncommon animation. It is said that when Dr. Nichblls waited upon lord chancellor Hardwicke with the first volume of these sermons, in Nov. 1753, his lordship asked him whether there was not a sermon on John xx. 30, 31 and, on his replying in the affirmative, desired him to turn to the conclusion, and repeated verbatim the animated contrast between the Mahometan and Christian religion, beginning, “Go to your natural religion,” &c. to the end. Yet it was thirty years since that sermon had been published singly. Such was the impression it made on lord Hardwicke. This interesting anecdote, however, would want some of its effect, if we did not add, that at a later period, Dr. Blair, in his “Lectures on Rhetoric,” pointed out this identical passage, as an instance of personification, carried as far as prose, even in its highest elevation, will admit. After transcribing it, Blair adds, “this is more than elegant: it is truly sublime.” The frequency of such coincidences of sentiment between men of real taste, renders it unnecessary to question whether Blair had heard the anecdote of lord Hardwicke. 1


Biog. Brit. Moss’s Charge to the archdeaconry of Colchester in 1764. Dr. Nicholls’s Sermon on his death. Nichols’s Bowyer, both Indexes. —Leland’s Deistical writers.