Lindsey, Theophilus

, a Socinian writer, was born at Middlewich, in Cheshire, June 20th, 1723, old style. His father, Mr. Robert Lindsey, was an opulent proprietor of the salt-works in that neighbourhood; his mother’s name was Spencer, a younger branch of the Spencer family, in the county of Buckingham. Theophilus was the second of three children, and so named after his godfather, Theophilus earl of Huntingdon. He received the rudiments of grammar-learning at Middlewich, and from his early attachment to books, and the habitual seriousness of his mind, he was intended by his mother for the church. He lost | some time by a change of schools, until he was put under the care of Mr. Barnard of the free-school of Leeds, under whom he made a rapid progress in classical learning. At the age of eighteen he was admitted of St. John’s college, Cambridge, where, by exemplary diligence and moral conduct, he obtained the entire approbation of his tutors. As soon as he had finished his studies at college, taken his first degree, and had been admitted to deacon’s orders, he was nominated by sir George Wheler to a chapel in Spital-square London. Soon after this, he was, by the recommendation of the earl of Huntingdon, appointed domestic chaplain to Algernon duke of Somerset. The duke, from a great regard for his merit, determined to procure him a high rank in the church, but an early death deprived Mr. Lindsey of his illustrious patron. In 1754, be accompanied the present duke of Northumberland to the continent, and on his return he supplied, for some time, the temporary vacancy of a good living in the north of England, called Kirkby-Wisk: here he became acquainted with Mr. archdeacon Blackburne, and in 1760 married his daughter-in-law. From Kirkby Mr. Lindsey went to Piddletown, in Dorsetshire, having been presented to the living of that place by the earl of Huntingdon: this, through the interest of the same patron, he exchanged, in 1764, for the vicarage of Catterick, in Yorkshire. Here he resided nearly ten years, an exemplary pattern of a primitive and conscientous pastor, highly respected and beloved by the people committed to his charge. Besides his various and important duties as a parish clergyman, Mr. Lindsey was ever alive, and heartily active, in every cause in which a deviation from the formularies and obligations of the church was considered as necessary. With this view, in 1771 he zealously co-operated with Mr. archdeacon Blackburne, Dr. John Jebb, Mr. Wyvil, and others, in endeavouring to obtain relief in matters of subscription to the thirty-nine articles. Mr. Lindsey had, probably, for some years, entertained doubts with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, and other leading topics of the established faith; and these pressed so heavy upon him that he could no longer endure to remain in a church, partaking of its emoluments, which he could not deserve, and preaching its doctrines, which he could not believe. He therefore, in November 1773, wrote to the prelate of his diocese, informing him of his iateiuion to quit the | church, and signifying, that in a few days he should transmit to him his deed of resignation. The bishop endeavoured to persuade him to remain at his post, but he had made up his mind that duty required the sacrifice, and he was resolved to bear the consequences. When the act was done, he said he felt himself delivered from a load which had long lain heavy upon him, and at times nearly overwhelmed him. Previously to his quitting Catterick, Mr. Lindsey delivered a farewell address to his parishioners, in which he stated his motives for quitting them in a simple and very affecting manner, pointing out the reasons why he could no longer conduct, nor join in their worship, without the guilt of continual insincerity before God, and endangering the loss of his favour for ever. He left Catterick about the middle of December, and after visiting some friends in different parts of the country, he arrived in London in January 1774, where he met with friends, who zealously patronized the idea which he entertained of opening a place of worship, devoted entirely to unitarian principles. A large room was at first fitted up for the purpose in Essex-street in the Strand, which was opened April 17, 1774. The service of the place was conducted according to the plan of a liturgy which had been altered from that used in the established church by the celebrated Dr. Samuel Clarke, whose conscience was not quite so delicate as that of Mr. Lindsey. Mr. Lindsey published the sermon which he preached on the opening of his chapel, to which was added an account of the liturgy made use of. About the same time he published his “Apology,” of which several editions were called for in the course of a few years. This was followed by a still larger volume, entitled “A Sequel to the Apology,” which was intended as a reply to his various opponents, and likewise to vindicate and establish the leading doctrines which he professed, and on account of which he had given up his preferment in the church. This work was published in 1776; and in 1778 he was enabled, by the assistance of his friends, to build the chapel of Essex-street, and to purchase the ground on which it stands. Till the summer of 1793, Mr. Lindsey, with the aid of his friend the Rev. Dr. Disney, conducted the services of the place, upon strict unitarian principles, to a numerous congregation. He then resigned the whole into the hands of his coadjutor, notwithstanding the, earnest wishes of his hearers that he | should still continue a part of the services, Though he had quitted the duties of the pulpit, he continued to labour in the cause, by his publications, till he had attained his 80th, year. In 1802, he published his last work, entitled “Conversations on the Divine Government, shewing that every thing is from God, and for good to all.” The professed object of this piece is to vindicate the Creator from those gloomy notions which are too often attached to his providence, and to shew that the government of the world is the wisest that could have been adopted, and that afflictions and apparent evils are permitted for the general good. From this principle Mr. Lindsey derived consolation through life, and upon it he acted in every difficult and trying scene. On his death-bed he spoke of his sufferings with perfect patience and meekness, and when reminded, by a friend, that he doubtless was enabled to bear them with so much fortitude in the recollection of his favourite maxim, that “Whatever is, is right; w “No,” said he with an animation that lighted up his countenance, “Whatever is, is best.” This was the last sentence which he was able distinctly to articulate: he died Novembers, 1808. Besides the works already referred to, he published two dissertations: 1. On the preface to St. John’s Gospel; 2. On praying to Christ:” An Historical View of the State of the Unitarian Doctrine and Worship from the Reformation to our own Times;“and several other pieces. Among controversial writers Mr. Lindsey takes a place as his” Vindiciae Priestleianae,“and his” Examination of Mr. Robinson’s Plea for the Divinity of Christ," will shew. Two volumes of his Sermons have been published since his death.

Mr. Lindsey was a man of mild and amiable manners, and very highly respected by every person who knew him. As a writer on the side of unitarianism, it cannot be said that he brought many accessions of new matter and argument, but his honourable conduct in the resignation of his preferment rendered him peculiarly an ornament to the sect he joined, and the loss of such a man might be justly regretted by the church he left. 1


Athenaeum, vol. V. —Rees’s Cyclopædia. Memoirs by Mr. Behhaoi, 1812, 8vo.