Amory, Thomas

, a dissenting minister of considerable note, was the son of a grocer at Taunton in Somersetshire, where he was born Jan. 28, 1701; and at that place acquired his classical learning, under the care of Mr. Chadwick. From Taunton he was removed to Exeter, that he might be instructed in the French language by Mr. Majendie, a refugee minister in that city. After this, he returned to Mr. Chadwick, where he had for his schoolfellow Mr. Micaiah Towgood; and at Lady-day 1717, they were both put under the academical instruction of Mr. Stephen James and Mr. Henry Grove, the joint tutors at Taunton for bringing up young persons to the dissenting ministry. Under these preceptors, Mr. Amory went through the usual preparatory learning; and in the summer of 1722 was approved of as a candidate for the ministry .*


When young men, among the dissenters, have passed through, or nearly finished their academical course, they undergo an examination either of the trustees and tutors of the seminaries in which they have been educated, or of some other ministers fixed upon for that purpose. Upon these occasions, they usually deliver a sermon, maintain a thesis, and submit to such exerrises besides as are thought needful and proper. If their qualifications and moral characters be approved of, they receive a testimonial signifying that approbation, accompanied with a recommendation of them to those societies among whom they may be called to officiate. This method of proceeding may be considered as answering, in a great measure, to the conferring of deacon’s orders in the church of England.

Being desirous of improvement, he removed, in the November following, to London, and attended a course of experimental philosophy, under Mr. John Eatnes. Upon his return to | Taunton, he preached alternately at several places in the neighbourhood; till, upon Mr. James’s death in 1724. or 1725, Mr. Amory was fixed as a stated assistant preacher to Mr. Datch of Hull Bishops; besides which, he had one monthly turn at Lambrook near South Petherton, and another at West Hatch, four miles from Taunton. At the same time, he was requested by his uncle, Mr. Grove, to take a part in the instruction of the pupils, in the room of Mr. James, with which request he complied. The business assigned him he discharged with great ability and diligence; being well qualified for it by his profound acquaintance with the Greek and Roman languages, his correct taste in the classics, and by his thorough knowledge of the best and latest improvements in sound philosophy. In 1730, he was ordained at Paul’s meeting in Tuutiton, and from this time was united, in the congregation at Taunton, with Mr. Batsen; but that gentleman ‘keeping the whole salary to himself, several of the ’principal persons in the society were so displeased with him, that, early in the spring of 1732, they agreed to build another meetinghouse, and to choose Mr. Amory for their pastor. In the beginning of 1738, on the deatli of Mr. Grove, he became chief tutor in the academy at Taunton, and conducted the business of it with the same abilities, and upon the same principles. He had the advantage of the lectures and experience of his excellent uncle, added to his own: and many pupils were formed under him, of great worth and distinguished improvements in literature. In 1741, he married a daughter of Mr. Baker, a dissenting minister in Southwark; an excellent lady, who survived him, and with whom he lived in the greatest affection and harmony. By this lady he had several children, four of whom survived him. During his residence in Taunton he was held in the greatest esteem, not only by his own society, but by all the neighbouring congregations and ministers; and even those who differed the most from him in religious opinions, could not avoid paying a tribtfte of respect to the integrity and excellence of his character. He was much respected, likewise, by the gentlemen and clergy of the established church, and was particularly honoured, when, very young, with the friendship of Mrs. Howe, with whom he kept up a correspondence by letters. One instance of the respect entertained for mm, and of his own liberal and honourable conduct, cannot be omitted. When some of | the principal persons of the Baptist society in Taunton, owing to the disgust they had received at their then pastor, would have deserted him, and communicated to Mr. Amory their intention of becoming his stated hearers, he generously dissuaded them from the execution of their design, as a step which would prove highly injurious to the reputation, members, and interest of the congregation they intended to leave. Mr. Amory was so happy with his people at Taunton, and so generally respected and beloved both in the town and the neighbourhood, that, perhaps, it may be deemed strange that he should be induced to quit his situation. This, however, he did, in October 1759, at which time he removed to London, to be afternoon preacher to the society in the Old Jewry, belonging to Dr. Samuel Chandler. But the grand motive, besides the hope of more extensive usefulness, seems to have been, that he might advantageously dispose of his children, in which respect he succeeded. It must, indeed, be acknowledged, that be did not, in the metropolis, meet with all that popularity, as a preacher, to which he was entitled by his reaj merit. His delivery was clear and distinct, and his discourses excellent; but his voice was not powerful enough to rouse the bulk of mankind, who are struck with noise and parade: and his sermons, though practical, serious, and affecting to the attentive hearer, were rather too philosophical for the common run of congregations. But Mr. Amory enjoyed a general respect; and he received every mark of distinction which is usually paid, in London, to the most eminent ministers of the presbyterian denomination. In 1767, he was chosen one of the trustees to the charities of Dr. Daniel Williams. In 1768, the university of Edinburgh conferred upon him the degree of D. D. and in the same year he was elected one of the six Tuesday lecturers at Sailer’s Hall. It ought to have been mentioned, that previous to these last events, he was chosen, at the death of Dr. Chandler, in 1766, a pastor of the society at the Old Jewry; in which situation he continued till his decease. In 1770, he became movning-preacher at Newington Green, an,d cqlleague with the rev. Dr. Richard Price. When the dissenting ministers, in 1772, formed a design of endeavouring to procure an enlargement of the toleration act, Dr. Amory was one of the committee appointed for that purpose; and none could be more zealous for the prosecution of the scheme, | Dr. Amory had the felicity of being able to continue his public services nearly to the last. June 16th, 1774, he was seized with a sudden disorder which left him nearly in a state of insensibility till his death, which happened on the 24th of that month, and in the 74th year of his age. He was interred in Bunhill Fields, on the 5th of July; and his funeral was attended by a respectable number of ministers and gentlemen. The discourse, on the occasion of his death, was preached in the Old Jewry, on the 10th of the same month, by the rev. Dr. Roger Flexman of Rotherhithe, who had been connected with him in an intimate friendship for more than 40 years; which friendship, Dr. Flexman assures us, had never once been interrupted bjr distaste, or darkened with a frown.

Dr. Amory’s character was excellent in every view. It seems, says Dr. Kippis, to have been formed upon that of his uncle, Mr. Grove; with whom he had been closely connected from his infancy, and his connection with whom he considered as the principal felicity of his life. His piety was equally rational and fervent. It was founded on the most enlarged sentiments concerning the divine providence and government; and was, therefore, displayed in a spirit of cheerful devotion, love, and confidence. None could excel him as a husband, a father, a master, and a friend. He was distinguished for his general benevolence and humanity; and as a companion he was remarkably pleasing and engaging. He abounded with a number of short stories, drawn from an extensive knowledge of books and inen, which, while they were entertaining, were calculated and designed to convey instruction.

In his public character, as a teacher of religion, Dr. Amory was greatly respectable. The devotional part of worship was conducted by him with admirable propriety, seriousness, and fervour. His sermons were close, accurate, solid, and affectionate. He never devoted the pulpit to trifling subjects. If any thing disputable was ever introduced by him, it was to expose the doctrines of rigid Calvinism; as his sentiments, with regard to both natural and revealed religion, nearly agreed with those of Dr. Samuel Clarke, and of the divines who were his coadjutors. As to his learning, it was solid, judicious, and extensive. He was well acquainted with every part of theology, and much conversant with ethics, natural and experimental | philosophy, and the best ancients, especially their moral writings. Nor was he above amusing himself with history, books of travels, poetry, and other entertaining species of composition. But his general application was to those more serious and important parts of study, that were immediately suited to his profession.

His works consist principally of Sermons preached on various occasions, some of which were after their first publication collected into volumes, and a volume was published after his death. Besides these he published “A Dialogue on Devotion,1733; “Forms of Devotion for the closet,1763, -8vo. He was also the editor of Dr. Grove’s posthumous works, and wrote his life, and the Life of Dr. Benson, and of Dr. Samuel Chandler. Some poetical pieces have been attributed to him, particularly a poem on the praises of Taunton, the place of his birth, published in 1724. .1


Biog. Brit.