Sherlock, Dr. William

, a learned English divine, was born in South wark about 1641, and educated at Eton 1 school, where he distinguished himself by the vigour of his genius and application to his studies. Thence he removed to Peter-house in Cambridge in May 1657, where he took a bachelor of arts degree in 1660, and a master’s in 1665. He now went into holy orders, and officiated as a curate until 1669, when he was preferred to the rectory of St. George’s, Botolph-lane, in London. In this parish he discharged the duties of his function with great zeal, and was esteemed an excellent preacher. In 1673, he.published “A discourse concerning the knowledge of Christ, | and our union and communion with him,” which involved him in a controversy with the celebrated nonconformist Dr. John Owen, and with Mr. Vincent Alsop. In 1680, he took the degree of D. D. and about the same time published some pieces against the nonconformists. Soon after he was collated to a prebend of St. Paul’s, was appointed master of the Temple, and had the rectory of Therfield in Hertfordshire. In 1684 he published a pamphlet, entitled “The case of Resistance to the Supreme Powers stated and resolved, according to the doctrine of the holy Scriptures;” and continued to preach the same opinion after the accession of James II. when it was put to the test. He engaged also in the controversy with the papists, which shews that he was not a servile adherent to the king, but conscientious in his notions of regal power. This likewise he shewed at the Revolution, when he refused to take the oaths to William and Mary, and was therefore suspended from all his preferments. During his suspension, he published his celebrated treatise, entitled “A practical discourse on Death,1690, which has passed through at least forty editions, and is indeed the only one of his works now read. But before the expiration of that year, he thought proper to comply with the new government, and taking the oaths, was reinstated in all his preferments, of which, though forfeited, he had not been deprived. Being much censured for this step by those who could not yield a like compliance, he endeavoured to vindicate himself in a piece entitled “The Case of the Allegiance due to the Sovereign Princes stated and resolved, according to Scripture and Reason, and the principles of the Church of England, with a more particular respect to the Oath lately enjoined of Allegiance to their present Majesties king William and queen Mary, 1690,” quarto. This was followed by twelve answers. His design was to lay down such principles as would prove the allegiance due to William and Mary, even supposing them to have no legal right, which the celebrated Mr. Kettlewell could by no means agree with, and therefore wrote, upon another principle, “The duty of Allegiance settled upon its true grounds.” The dispute is perhaps now of little consequence; but Sherlock persisted in preaching his doctrine of non-resistance in the new reign, and had undoubtedly some merit in this kind of consistency, and in rendering that plausible in any degree, which the other nonjurors thought contradictory in | every degree. In 1691, he published his “Vindication of the doctrine of the holy and ever blessed Trinity;” but his attempt to explain this mystery was not satisfactory, and involved him in a controversy with Dr. South. What was more mortifying, a fellow of University-college, Oxford, having preached his doctrine in a sermon at St. Mary’s, the university issued a decree, censuring that doctrine as false, impious, and heretical, and warned all persons under their jurisdiction not to preach or maintain any such notions. The controversy being exasperated by this indignity, the king at last interposed, and issued directions “to the archbishops and bishops,” ordaining, that “all preachers should carefully avoid all new terms, and confine themselves to such ways of explanation as have been commonly used in the church.” After this, it is but fair to state Dr. Sherlock’s notion: he thought that there were three eternal minds 9 two of these issuing from the father, but that these three were one by a mutual consciousness in the three to every one of their thoughts. Dr. Sherlock was promoied to the deanery of St. Paul’s in 1691. He died at Hampstead June 19, 1707, in his 67th year; and was interred in the cathedral of St. Paul. He left two sons and two daughters; the eldest of his sons was Dr. Thomas SherLck, bishop of London. Burnet says, that “he was a clear, polite, and a strong writer, but apt to assume too much to himself, and to treat his adversaries with contempt. This created him many enemies, and made him pass for an insolent haughty man.” He was, however, a man of considerable learning and abilities, and conscientious, however mistaken, in those peculiar opinions which engaged him in such frequent controversies with his brethren. 1


Biog. Brit. —Burnet’s Own Times. Birch’s Life of Tillotson. Nichols’s Correspondence of Atterbury, &c.