Edwards, Thomas

, a learned divine of the church of England, was born at Coventry, August 10, O.S. 1729, and was the son of the Rev. Thomas Edwards, M. A. vicar of St. Michael’s in that city, and of Katharine his wife. His grammatical education he received partly under the tuition of Edward Jackson, D. D. master of the free grammar-school in Coventry, but principally under the care of his own father; and such was his eagerness for the acquisition of knowledge, that he seldom engaged in the diversions common to boys. In 1747, at the age of eighteen, he was matriculated at the university of Cambridge, and entered of Clare hall, where he took the degree of B. A. in 1750, and of M. A. in 1754. He was likewise a fellow of his college. In the younger part of his life he was a self-taught musician, and became no mean performer on the spinnet and the bass-viol: but, finding that this amusement encroached too much upon his studies, he entirely relinquished it. On the 22d of September, 1751, he was ordained deacon, and on the 23d of September, 1753, he was ordained priest, both which orders he received from the hands of Dr. Frederick Cornwallis, at that time bishop of Litchfield and Coventry. In the spring of 1755, when Mr. Edwards was not yet twenty-six years of age, he gave a striking proof of the diligence with which he applied himself to the study of the learned languages, and the acquisition of sacred literature. This was his publication of “A new English Translation of the Psalms from the original Hebrew, reduced to metre by the late bishop Hare with notes, critical and explanatory, illustrations of many passages, drawn from the classics, and a preliminary dissertation, in which the truth and certainty of that learned prelate’s happy discovery is stated, and proved at large,| 8vo. It was Mr. Edwards’s design to make Dr. Hare’s system of Hebrew metre better known, and to prove, that, by a judicious application of it, great light might be thrown upon the poetical parts of the Hebrew scriptures. He was of opinion that Dr. Hare’s hypothesis was rejected by many persons, partly from an over-hasty determination, and partly from too scrupulous a veneration for the Hebrew text. The notes, which comprehend more than one third of this book, chiefly contain emendations of the Hebrew text, pointed out by the metre, and illustrations of some passages, drawn from the classics, together with an explanation of the most difficult places. Considerable use is made by our author of Hare and Mudge, but with no servile adherence to their authority. Mr. Edwards’s next publication was only a single sermon, which he had preached at St. Michael’s in Coventry, on the 6th of February, 1756. On the 2d of May, 1758, he was nominated, by the corporation of Coventry, master of the free grammar-school, and presented to the rectory of St. John, the Baptist in that city. This promotion was- followed by his marriage, November 27th, in the same year, to Anne Parrott, daughter of Stony er Parrott, esq. of Hawkesbury, in the parish of Foleshill, in the county of Warwick, by whom he had one son, Dr. Edwards of Cambridge. Early in 1759, Mr. Edwards published one of his principal works, “The doctrine of irresistible Grace proved to have no foundation in the writings of the New Testament.” This was levelled at the opinions of the Calvinists on that subject. Our author’s next publication, which appeared in 1762, was entitled “Prolegomena in Libros Veteris Testamenti Poeticos; sive dissertatio, in qua viri eruditissimi Francisci Harii nuper Episcopi Cicestriensis de antiqua Hebraeorum poesi hypothesin ratione et veritate niti, fuse ostenditur, atque ad objecta quaedam respond etur. Subjicitur Metricae Lowthianae Confutatio, cum indicibus necessariis,” 8vo. This attack upon Dr. Lowth’s “Metricae Harianaj brevis Confutatio,” which had been annexed to the first edition of his admirable “Praelectiones de sacra Poesi Hebraeorum,” did not pass unnoticed by that gentleman. In the second edition of his “Praelectiones” he added a note, in which he strenuously maintained his own opinion, in opposition to that of Mr, Edwards. In reply to this note our author published, in 1765 t “Epistola ad doctissimimi Robertum Lowthium, S. T. P., | In qua nonnulla, quae ad nuperae siur de sacra Hebraeorum Poesi Prielectionum editionis calcem habet, expenduntur.” In this he indulged himself in some severity of language, which the subject did not merit, and which ought not to have been used towards such an antagonist as Dr. Loath. The doctor thought the “Epistola” of consequence enough to deserve a reply; and therefore he printed, in 1766, “A larger Confutation of bishop Hare’s System of Hebrew Metre in a letter to the reverend Dr. Edwards in answer to his Latin cpisile,” 8vo. Here the controversy ended and the general opinion of the learned world gave the preference to Dr. Lowth’s arguments.

In 1766, Mr. Edwards was admitted to the degree of doctor in divinity not long after which (early in 1767) he published “Two Dissertations the first, on the absurdity and injustice of religious bigotry and persecution their utter contrariety to the temper and conduct of Christ and his Apostles; and their mischievous and fatal consequences: the second, on the principal qualifications and canons, necessary for the right and accurate interpretation of the New Testament,” 8vo. These dissertations reflect just credit on our author’s reputation. The first of them shows him to have been possessed of an enlarged and liberal mind; and the second contains a variety of judicious and useful directions to theological students, and to such persons in general as are desirous of attaining an exact und critical knowledge of the evangelical and apostolical writings. Dr. Edwards’s next publication was in Latin, being “Duae Dissertationes: in quarum priore probatur, variantes lectiones et menda, quae in Sac ram Scripturam irrepserunt, non labefactare ejus auctoritatem in rebus quae ad fidem et mores pertinent: in posteriore vero, praedestinationem Paulinam ad Gentilium vocationern totam spectare,1768, 8vo; both, particularly the first, written with great ability. The latter is on a subject which will ever be contested.

In 1770, he was presented by the crown to the valuable vicarage of Nuneaton in Warwickshire; which preferment he is understood to have obtained through the interest of the corporation of Coventry, and some private friends, with the earl of Hertford, lord lieutenant of the county. Our author, in 1773,. published a sermon, entitled “The indispensable Duty of contending for the Faith which was once delivered to the Saints,” preached before the | university of Cambridge, on the 29th of June, 1766, being commencement Sunday. In 1779, he resigned the mastership of the free grammar-school of Coventry, and the rectory of St. John’s, and retired to Nuneaton, where he resided during the remainder of his life. His last publication was given to the world in the same year. The title of it is “Selecta quaedam Theocrki Idyllia. Recensuit, variorum notas adjecit, suasque animadversiones, partim Latine, partim Anglice, scriptas immiscuit, Thomas Edwards, S. T. P.” 8vo. This work reflects honour on the accuracy and extent of our author’s classical literature. Though, the original text of what is selected from Theocritus consists only of about three hundred and fifty lines, the notes are extended through upwards of two hundred and fifty pages, besides more than twenty pages, consisting of addenda, corrigenda, collationes, &c. Dr. Ed wards’ s reason for his being so minute and particular in many of his animadversions, was, that he might- give every possible kind of assistance to young persons, for whom the book was principally intended. Having written the notes sometimes in Latin, and sometimes in English, as chance or inclination directed, he thought proper to publish them in that promiscuous form. It would, however, undoubtedly have been preferable uniformly to have composed them in the Latin language. There are two appendiculae at the end of the volume; one containing the editor’s reasons for not prefixing the accentual marks to his own and Mr. Warton’s notes; and the other affording hints of a new method which he had discovered, of scanning Greek and Latin hexameters, the usual mode of doing it being, as he thought, erroneous. A fuller explanation of his system was intended to be given by him in avork which he had in contemplation, designed to be entitled “Miscellanea Critica,” but which was not carried into execution. He had also made collections for an edition of Quintus Curtius. 1 In May 1784, Dr. Edwards lost his wife, a lady of distinguished good sense, and of the most engaging manners; and he, who had passed his life in his study, and was totally unacquainted with domestic concerns, and indeed with worldly affairs of every kind, never enjoyed himself after this event. What aggravated his distress was, that, previously to Mrs. Edwards’s death, he had been afflicted with a stroke of the palsy, from which, however, he so far recovered as to be capable of discharging part of his | parochial duties. But, within a few months after her decease", he had a second stroke, for which he was advised to go to Bath, but received no benefit from his journey. He departed this life at Nuneaton, on the 30th of June, 1785, in the fifty -sixth year of his age; and on the 7th of July, was interred in the church-yard belonging to the parish of Foleshill, in the same grave with his wife. An inscription on a mural marble, contains nothing of moment excepting the dates already specified.

In his temper, Dr. Edwards- was sometimes subject to starts of anger; but otherwise he was remarkably mild, benevolent, and humane. His generosity was great and extensive; and his dealings with others were conducted on the principles of the most rigid honesty and integrity. Such were his assiduity and ability in the instruction of youth, and so conscientious his discharge of his parochial duties, that no praise can exceed his merits. He was fond of retirement, and went Bfjklom from his place of abode; on which account, though he occasionally corresponded with many of the literati, he was not in the habits of much intimacy with any. The person with whom he had most conversed was the late excellent and learned bishop of Carlisle, Dr. Edmund Law. Their sentiments were congenial, and their pursuits similar; being principally deToted to the prosecution and promotion of sacred literature. 1


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