Lewis, John

, a learned English divine and antiquary, was the eldest son of John Lewis, wine-cooper, in the parish of St Nicholas, Bristol, where he was born, Aug. 29, 1675. His father dying while he was in his infancy, he was committed to the care of his maternal grandfather John Eyre, merchant of Poole in Dorsetshire, who instilled into his infant mind the first principles of religion. Losing this relation, however, before he was seven years old, he was taken into the house of the rev. Samuel Conant, rector of Liichet Matravers (an intimate acquaintance of his grandfather Eyre), and educated along with a nephew whom Mr. Conant was preparing for a public school. This was an assistance peculiarly acceptably | to Mr. Lewis’s mother, who appears to have been left in circumstances which were not adequate to a liberal education. After remaining with Mr. Conant two years, he was placed under the instruction of the learned Mr. John Moyle, at the grammar-school of Winborne, in 1687, upon whose decease the year following, he was removed to Poole, but reaped little benefit there, until he was put under the care of Mr. John Russel, who was encouraged to establish a grammar-school there. Mr. Russel, finding him to be a youth of talents and industry, employed him as his assistant: and after his removal to Wapping in London, conr tinued his favours to him, placing him at the free-school of Ratcliffe-cross, belonging to the Coopers’ company.

Two years after, when he was about sixteen years old, Mr. Daniel Wigfall, a merchant, took him into his family as tutor to his sons, and after continuing here until 1694, he went to Oxford, and was admitted batteler of Exetercollege: but his scanty fortune not allowing him to reside constantly, he was recommended to Mr. William Churchey, then minister at Poole, to be assistant in the free-school of that town. By this gentleman’s indulgence in allowing him to keep his terms in the university, he proceeded A. B. in 1697, when he returned to Mr. Russel at Wapping, and was ordained deacon by bishop Compton soon after. In April following he took upon him the cure of Acryse in Kent, and lived at the same time in the family of Philip Papillon, esq. to whom his behaviour rendered him so acceptable, that although he had left the parish, and was then chaplain to Paul Foley, esq. upon the recommendation of Dr. Barton, prebendary of Westminster, yet, upon the death of the incumbent, he procured him a presentation from the lord chancellor Somers, upon which he was instituted Sept. 4, 1699. He now applied himself to re-, pair a dilapidated parsonage-house, as well as to discharge his pastoral duties with all diligence, particularly that of catechising the young, which he looked upon as a very important part of his ministry. While here, he soon after met with a singular instance of unfair dealing. Being appointed to preach at the archdeacon’s visitation at Canterbury in 1701, his sermon (on 2 Cor. vi. 4.) was lent to William Brockman, esq. upon his earnest request, wb.o printed it under the title of a “Summary,” &c. with a preface calculated to injure him. | He found a kinder friend, however, in archbishop Tenison, who had heard a good character of him, and granted him the sequestration of the little rectory of Hawkinge, near Dover, in 1702, telling him at the same time, that he hoped he should live to consider him farther. It was at that time his acquaintance began with Mr. Johnson of Margate, who recommended him for his successor in that laborious cure; but his old friend and patron Mr. Papillon being unwilling to part with him, he excused himself to the archbishop at that time: afterwards, upon Mr. Warren’s resignation, he accepted it in 1705. On his becoming a member of the society for promoting Christian knowledge, he was desired to draw up a short and plain exposition of the Church Catechism, fit for the children educated in charity-schools; and this, which he executed to the entire satisfaction of the society, has passed through many editions. In 1706, archbishop Tenison collated him to the rectory of Saltwood with the chapel of Hythe, and the desolate rectory of Eastbridge; but, being here disturbed by a dispute with a neighbouring ’squire, his patron removed him to the vicarage of Mynstre, on the cession of Dr. Green, in March 1708, where he rebuilt the house, in a more elegant and commodious manner.

In his “Apology for the Clergy of the Church of England,” published in 1711, he attacked the veracity of the historian of the nonconformists, by asserting, “that Mr. Calamy was too much biassed to have any thing he said concerning the party he espoused believed on his bare word.” This harsh opinion naturally provoked Calamy to make some very severe reflections on him, both in the preface to the second edition of “Baxter’s Life abridged,” in 1714, and in his “Continuation,” in 1727; against which Mr. Lewis had drawn up a vindication; but, Mr. Calamy’s death intervening, he would not war with the dead, and desisted from publishing it.

In May 1712, he was appointed to preach at the archbishop’s visitation, and took his subject from Isa. xi. 9. but such was the violence of party spirit at that time, that both he and his sermon were roughly treated by some of the audience. It was this year that he commenced M. A. as a member of Corpus Christi college, Cambridge. Not long after he incurred the displeasure of his friend Mr! Johnsou by writing against his “Unbloody Sacrifice,” and | was treated by him with more contempt than he deserved. Archbishop Tenison, however, and Dr. Bradford approved of his pamphlet, and Dr. Waterland considered it as containing much in a little, and as being close, clear, and judicious. His sermon preached at Canterbury cathedral on January 30, 1717, being severely reflected upon, he printed it in his own defence, and it was so highly approved by archbishop Wake that he rewarded him with the mastership of Eastbridge- hospital soon after. From that time he was continually employed on his various publications and correspondence with the literary men of his time. He died Jan. 16, 1746, and, at his own desire, was buried in the chancel of his church at Mynstre (where he had been vicar upwards of thirty-seven years), under a plain black marble with an inscription.

Archbishop Wake’s character of him was that of vir sobrius, et bonus pradicator: and a considerable dignitary in the church used to say, that he looked upon his life to have been spent in the service of learning and virtue, and thought the world to be more concerned for its continuance than himself: that it would be happy for us if there were many more of the profession like him, &c. It was his misfortune, however, to live in a time of much party violence, and being a moderate man, he met with ill usage from both parties, particularly from the clergy of his own diocese. His only object was the security of our church-establishment as settled at the Revolution. He was so diligent a preacher, that we are told he composed more than a thousand sermons. He was always of opinion that a clergyman should compose his own sermons, and therefore ordered his executor to destroy his stock, lest they should contribute to the indolence of others. Having no family, for his wife died young without issue, he expended a great deal of money on his library and the repairs of his dilapidated parsonage-houses; and was, at the same time, a liberal benefactor to the poor. His chief, and indeed only, failing was a warmth of temper, which sometimes hurried him on to say what was inconsistent with his character and interest, and to resent imaginary injuries. Of all this, however, he was sensible, and deeply regretted it. Hearne and Mr. Lewis Vvere, it appears, accustomed to speak, disrespectfully of each other’s labours, but posterity has done justice to both. The political prejudices of antiquariss are of very little consequence. | Mr. Lewis’s works are, 1> “The Church Catechism efcplained,” already mentioned, 1700, 12mo. 2. A short Defence of Infant Baptism,“1700, 8vo. 3.A serious Address to the Anabaptists,“a single sheet, 1701, with a second in 1702. 4.A Companion for the afflicted,“1706. 5.” Presbyters not always an authoritative part of provincial synods,“1710, 4to. 6.” An apologetical Vindication of the present Bishops,“1711. 7.” The Apology for the Church of England, in an examination of the rights of the Christian church,“published about this time, or perhaps in 1714. 8.” The poor Vicar’s plea against- his glebe being assessed to the Church,“1712. 9.A Guide to young Communicants,“1715. 10.A Vindication of the Bishop of Norwich(Trimnell), 1714. 11.” The agreement of the Lutheran churches with the church of England, and an answer to some exceptions to it,“1715. 12.” Two Letters in defence of the English liturgy and reformation,“1716. 13.Bishop Feme’s Church of England man’s reasons for not making the decisions of ecclesiastical synods the rule of his faith,“1717, 8vo. 14.” An Exposition of the xxxivth article of Religion,“1717. 15.” Short Remarks on the prolocutor’s answer, &c.“16.” The History, &c. of John Wicliffe, D. D.“1720, 8vo. 17.” The case of observing such Fasts and Festivals as are appointed by the king’s authority, considered,“1721. 18.A Letter of thanks to the earl of Nottingham, &c.“1721. 19.” The History and Antiquities of the Isle of Thanet in Kent,“1723, 4 to, and again, with additions, in 1736. 20.A Specimen of Errors in the second volume of Mr. Collier’s Ecclesiastical History, being a Vindication of Bur-net’s History of the Reformation,“1724, 8vo. 21.” History and Antiquities of the abbey church of Faversham, &c.“1727, $to. 22.” The New Testament, &c. translated out of the Latin vulgate by John WicklifFe; to which is prefixed, an History of the several Translations of the Holy Bible,“&c. 1731, folio. Of this only 160 copies were printed by subscription, and the copies unsubscribed for were advertised the same year at I/. 1*. each. Of the” New Testament“the rev. H. Baber, of the British Museum, has lately printed an edition, with valuable preliminary matter, in 4to. 23.” The History of the Translations, &c.“reprinted separately in 1739, 8vo. 24.” The Life of Caxton,“1737, 8vo. For an account of this work we may refer to Dibdiu’s new edition of Ames. 25.A brief History of the Rise | and Progress of Anabaptism, to which is prefixed a defence of Dr. Wicliffe from the false charge of his denying Infant-baptism,“1738. 26.A Dissertation on the antiquity and use of Seals in England,“1710. 27.A Vindication of the ancient Britons, &c. from being Anabaptists, with a letter of M. Bucer to bishop Hooper on ceremonies,“1741. 28.A Defence of the Communion office and Catechism of the church of England from the charge of favouring transubstantiation,“1742. 29.” The Life of Reynold Pecock, bishop of St. Asaph and Chichester,“1744, 8vo. Mr. Lewis published also one or two occasional sermons, and an edition of Roper’s Life of sir Thomas More. After his death, according to the account of him in the‘ Biog. Britannica (which is unpardonably superficial, as Masters’s History of Bene’t College had appeared some years before), was publishedA brief discovery of some of the arts of the popish protestant Missioners in England,“1750, 8vo. But there are other curious tracts which Mr. Lewis sent for publication to the Gentleman’s Magazine, and which, for reasons stated in vol. X. of that work, were printed in” The Miscellaneous Correspondence," 1742 1748, a scarce and valuable volume, very little known to the possessors of the Magazine, no set of which can be complete without it. Of these productions of Mr. Lewis, we can ascertain, on the authority of Mr. Cave, the following: an account of William Longbeard, and of John Smith, the first English anabaptist; the principles of Dr. Hickes, and Mr. Johnson; and an account of the oaths exacted by the Popes. Mr. Lewis left a great many manuscripts, some of which are still in public or private libraries, and are specified in our authorities, 1

1 Masters’s Hist, of C. C. C. C. Biog. Brit. Dibdiu’s Typographical Antiquities, vol. I. and Bibliomania. —Gent. Mag. vol. I. p, ^5i), and vol. XVII pp. 41, 47. ResUtuta, pp. 69, 73. Nichols’s Bowycr,