Tenison, Thomas

, a learned and worthy prelate, the son of the rev. John Tenison, B. D. by Mary, daughter of Thomas Dowson of Cottenham in Cambridgeshire, was born at that place Sept. 29, 1636. His father was rector of Mundesley in Norfolk, whence he was ejected for his adherence to Charles I. At the restoration, according to Dr. Ken.net, he became rector of Bracon-Ash, and died there in 1671, but Mr. Masters apprehends that he was rector of Topcroft in Norfolk in 1646, and by Le Neve we find that in 1712, his son, the subject of the present article, at the expeuce of 340l. rebuilt the chancel of Topcroft church, where his father and mother are buried.

Young Tenison was first educated at the free-school at Norwich, which was then in great reputation, under Mr. Lovering, the master. From this school, at the age of seventeen, he was admitted a scholar upon archbishop Parker’s foundation, of Bene’t college, Cambridge, where he took his degree of A.B. in Lent term, 1656-7; and the study of divinity being at that time interrupted, at least as to its ordinary process, he began to study medicine, but on the eve of the restoration he procured himself to be privately ordained at Richmond in Surrey, by Dr. Duppa, bishop of Salisbury. In 1660, the year following, he proceeded M. A. and being by virtue of a pre-election, admitted fellow of his college, March 24, 1662, he became tutor, and in J 665 was chosen one of the university preachers, and about the same time was presented by the dean and chapter of Ely to the cure of St. Andrew the Great in Cambridge.

He had not long held this last situation before the plague broke out and dispersed the members of the college, and probably some of the inhabitants of his parish, but Mr. Tenison remained in college, with only two scholars,‘ and a few servants, during the whole of the calamity, and conscientiously performed his parochial duties, without neglecting such precautions as the faculty at that time prescribed. His parishioners were so sensibly struck with this | effort of piety and courage, as to present him with a handsome piece of plate when he left them in 1667. In remembrance of their kindness, he gave them, a short time before his death, the sum of 50l. towards repairing their church.

In this last mentioned year, 1667, he proceeded B. D. He had for some time served his father’s cure at Braconashe, and quitted St. Andrew’s in Cambridge on being presented to the rectory of Holy well and Nedingworth in Huntingdonshire, by Edward, earl of Manchester. This nobleman had before that time placed his son Thomas under his tuition in the college, and afterwards appointed him his chaplain, in which relation he was likewise continued by his successor, earl Robert. About the same time he married Anne, daughter of Dr. Richard Love, some time master of Bene’t college. In 1670 his first publication appeared, under the title of “The creed of Mr. Hobbes examined, in a feigned conference between him and a student in divinity,” 8vo. This, which is said to have been published to obviate an absurd calumny, that he was a favourer of Hobbes, affords a very excellent refutation of that author’s principles.

In 1674, the parishioners of St. Peter’s Manscroft, in Norwich, chose him their upper minister, with a salary of 100l. a year. In 1678 he published his “Discourse of Idolatry,” and the year following, some unpublished remains of lord Bacon, under the title “Baconiana,” with a preface giving an excellent analysis of his lordship’s works. In 1680 he took his degree of D. D. and in October of the same year, was presented by Charles II. being then one of his majesty’s chaplains, to the vicarage of St. Martin’s in the Fields. Here he continued the measures which Dr. Lloyd his predecessor had adopted to check the growth of popery, and became the founder of our parochial charity-schools. He also founded a library. Dr. Kennet says that in this office, Dr. Tenison did as much good as perhaps it was possible for one man to do, and the writer of his Hie assures us that there were not above two persons in his parish who turned Roman catholics while he was vicar. Indeed this large and important cure extending to Whitehall, and the whole court, rendered an unusual portion of courage and perseverance necessary in watching the proceedings of the popish party, who had too many friends in the highest station. Dr. Tenison, however, undauntedly took his share in the controversy which their conduct produced, and was | soon marked as an antagonist not to be despised. In 1681 he preached and published “A Sermon of Discretion in giving- alms,” which being attacked by Andrew Pulton, who was at the head of the Jesuits in the Savoy, Dr. Tenison wrote a defence of it. In June 1684 an attempt was made to entrap him into an obscure house, on pretence of his receiving there some information respecting the murder of sir Edmondbury Godfrey; but by the precaution he taok, this design, whatever it might be, was defeated. In this year he published “The difference between the protestant aad the Socinian methods,” in answer to a book written by a papist entitled " The Protestant’s plea fora Socinian/ 1 In the mean time, in 1683, he had rivalled that party in their grace of charity, by distributing upwards of 300l. for the relief of his poor parishioners during the hard frost. He also now completed the designs before mentioned, of endowing a charity-school, and setting up a public library, both which still exist.

In 1685, he attended the unfortunate duke of Monmouth, by his grace’s desire, both before, and at the time of his execution; and Burnet tells us that he spoke to his grace with a freedom becoming his station, both as to the duke’s public conduct and private life, yet with such prudence and circumspection, as to give no offence. In 1687, Dr. Teiiison held a conference with Andrew Pulton, his opponent before mentioned, respecting the protestant religion, a detail of which he afterwards published under the title of “A true account of a Conference held about Religion at London, Sept. 29, 1687, between Andrew Pulton,*


Dodd, in his Church History, mentions this Andrew Pulton slightly, and as distinguished only for his conference with Dr. Tenison. See Dodd, vol. III.

Jesuit, and Thomas Tenison, D. D. as also that which led to it, and followed after it,” Lond. 1687. Soon after Dr. Tenison published the following tracts, arising from this conference, or connected with the popish controversy in general: “A Guide in matters of Faith, with respect especially to the Romish practice of such a one as is infallible;” “Mr. Pulton considered in his sincerity, reasonings, and authorities; or, a just answer to what he has hitherto published in his true and full account of a conference, &c. his re,marks, and in them his pretended confutation of what he calls Dr. T.’s (Dr. Tillotson’s) Rule of Faith;” “Six Conferences concerning the Eucharist, wherein is shewed, that | the doctrine of Transubstantiation overthrows the proofs of the Christian religion,” from the French of La Placette “The Difference between the Church of England and the Church of Rome; in answer to a book written by a Romanist, entitled The Agreement between them;” and “An Examination of Bellarmine’s tenth note of holiness of life.

About this time Dr. Tenison preached a sermon at the funeral of the famous Neil Gwynn, one of Charles Ji.V mistresses, whom he represented as a penitent. This drew upon him some censure; and perhaps the measure was not a very prudent one, even supposing the fact of her penitence to be as he represented. His enemies, however, could not have many just objections to what he said, as they were reduced to the meanness of publishing a false copy of the- sermon, against which Dr. Tenison advertised. In 1680 a considerable sum of money, we are not told by whom, was deposited in his hands, jointly with Dr. Simon Patrick, to be laid out in works of charity, according to their discretion; and after distributing some part of it accordingly in charitable uses, they settled the remainder as a kind of fund for augmenting the insufficient maintenance of poor vicars. This they managed themselves for some years, dividing the sum of 100l. among twenty vicars, half of the diocese of Canterbury, the other of Ely, at the equal rate of 5l. to each vicar; but in 1697 they assigned over the whole stock, amounting to 2400l. to sir Nathan Wright, lord keeper of the great seal, and other trustees, for the same purposes.

Resuming his pen against popery, Dr. Tenison now published five more treatises or tracts on the subject, entitled “The Introduction to Popery not founded in Scripture;” “An answer to a letter of the Roman catholic soldier;” “Speculum Ecclesiasticum or an ecclesiastical prospective glass considered in its false reasonings and quotations” “The incurable Scepticism of the Church of Rome,” translated from Placette; and “The Protestant and Popish way of interpreting Scripture, impartially compared, in answer to Pax vobis, &c.” all in 4to, and published in 1688 or 1689. We are told that, notwithstanding his zeal in this cause, he was so much respected at court, that James II. was induced, out of regard to him, to take off the suspension which that infatuated monarch had laid upon Dr. John Sharp (See Shakp, vol. XXVII. p. 400); but there is more reason to think that this, on the king’s part, was an attempt at | conciliation, when he found how unpopular that and his other measures in favour of popery were.

In the succeeding reign, Dr. Tenison is said to have acquired favour at court, on account of his moderation towards the dissenters. He was one of those who dwelt fondly on the hopes of a comprehension, as it was called, to be effected partly by a review of the Liturgy. Immediately after the revolution, he was promoted to be archdeacon of London, and was appointed one of the commissioners to prepare matters towards reconciling the dissenters for the convocation. He even wrote a defence of it, entitled “A Discourse on the Ecclesiastical commission, proving it agreeable to the word of God, useful to the convocation, &c.1689, 4to, but he soon found the main object to be unattainable, neither party being satisfied with the proposed alterations in the liturgy. It was this endeavour to conciliate the dissenters which is said to have induced queen Mary to solicit that he might have the bishopric of Lincoln, to which he was accordingly nominated Nov. 25, 1691, and consecrated at Lambeth, Jan. 10 following. The writer of his life, in 8vo, tells us that the earl of Jersey, then master of the horse to her majesty, endeavoured as much as possible to prejudice Dr. Tenison in her majesty’s opinion, in order to gain her interest for his friend Dr. John Scott, rector of St. Giles’s in the fields; and represente*d to her majesty, who was speaking of Dr. Tenison in terms of respect, that he had preached a funeral sermon, in which he had spoken favourably of Mrs. Eleanor Gwyn, one of king Charles lid’s mistresses. “What then” said the queen, “I have heard as much. This is a sign, that that poor unfortunate woman died penitent; for if I can read a man’s heart through his looks, had she not made a truly pious and Christian end, the doctor could never have been induced to speak well of her.

He had not been seated in this see above two years, when, upon the death of Dr. Marsh, he was offered the archbishopric of Dublin; but he made it the condition of his acceptance, that the impropriations belonging to the estates then forfeited to the crown, should be all restored to the respective parish churches. The king thought this very reasonable, but the difficulties were found so great that it never could be carried into execution; and instead of being translated into Ireland, bishop Tenison was raised in 1694, upon the death of Dr. Tillotson, to the see of | Canterbury. Dr. Kennet observes, that upon the death of archbishop Tillotson, “it was the solicitous care of the Court to fill up the see of Canterbury. The first person that seemed to be offered to the eye of the world, was Dr. Stillingfleet, bishop of Worcester; but his great abilities had raised some envy and some jealousy of him: and, indeed, his body would not have borne the fatigues of such a station. Even the bishop of Bristol, Dr. John Hall, master of Pembroke college, Oxford, was recommended by a great party of men, who had an opinion of his great piety and moderation. But the person most esteemed by their majesties, and most universally approved by the ministry, and the clergy, and the people, was Dr. Tenison, bishop of Lincoln, who had been exemplary in every station of his life, had restored a neglected large diocese to somo discipline and good order, and had before, in the office of a parochial minister, done as mu^h good as, perhaps, was possible for any one man to do. It was with great importunity, and after rejecting better offers, that he was prevailed with to take the bishopric of Lincoln; and it was with greater reluctancy, that he now received their majesties’ desire and command for his translation to Canterbury. Burnet speaks much to the same purpose, although his opinion of Dr. Tenison seems never to have been very high; and adds, that at this time” he had many frieods, and no enemies."

Soon after his promotion to the archbishopric, queen Mary was seized with the small pox, which proved fatal, and at her desire archbishop Tenison attended her during her illness, was present at her death, and preached a fr.nrral sermon, which is said to have given seme offence, and was severely censured in a letter to his grace by Dr. Ken, the deprived bishop of Bath and Wells, who maintained that the archbishop was guilty of neglect of duty in not having represented to her majesty when on her death-bed “the great guilt she lay under by her conduct at the revolution.” Of this letter, Dr. Tenison took no notice, for which few will now blame him. ADefence of his Sermon” was afterwards published by his friend Dr. John Williams. But if Dr. Tenison failed in bringing the queen to repentance for “the revolution,” he is said to have produced some good effects on the king’s disposition. When the queen died, William was deeply affected, and impressed with very serious notions, which, we are told, Dr. Tenison | encouraged, and in one instance (the king’s illicit connection with lady Villiers) urged the heinousness of that crime with such power, that, if we may believe Whiston, his majesty promised never to see that lady more. The archbishop is also said to have been instrumental in healing some differences in the royal family, especially respecting the settlement of the princess Anne of Denmark.

The several injunctions and circular letters to his clergy for preserving the order and discipline of the church, and for healing the animosities that arose in his time respecting the doctrine of the Trinity, are such as have been thought to reflect honour on his high station. It was in his time, too, that the disputes occurred respecting the distinct powers of the two houses of convocation, which proved ultimately the ruin of that assembly, so that, as has been justly remarked, while every other church and every sect, has its synods, or other assemblies of the kind, the church of England has no longer any thing preserved but the mere form of meeting and breaking up.

In 1696, he gave a signal proof of his zeal for the revolution in the case of sir John Fenwick’s attainder. On this occasion, when the celebrated Mr. Nelson requested his vote against that bill, the equity of which was much disputed, the archbishop said, “My good friend, give me leave to tell you, that 1 know not what spirit this man, nor I, am of. I wish for his, nor no man’s blood: but how can I do my duty to God and the king, should I declare a man innocent (for my not being on the side of the bill will convince the world that I think him so) when I am satisfied in my conscience, not only from Goodman’s evidence, but all the convincing testimonies in the world, that he is guilty. Laws ex post facto may indeed carry the face of rigour with them: but, if ever a law was necessary, this is.

In 1700, his grace obtained a commission, authorizing him, jointly with the archbishop of York, and four other prelates, viz. Burnet of Salisbury, Lloyd of Worcester, Patrick of Ely, and Moor of Norwich, to recommend to his majesty, proper persons for all the ecclesiastical preferments in his gift, above the value of 20l. per aim. in the book of first fruits and tenths. He continued in the same favour at court until the death of king William, whom he constantly attended in his illness, and prevailed with him to put the last hand to a bill for the better security of the protestant succession. In consequence of his station, he | had the honour of crowning queen Anne, but did not enjoy much favour at her court. During the first three years of her reign he steadily opposed the bill to prevent occasional conformity. At the same time he was not neglectful of what concerned the welfare of the established church, and engaged Dr. White Kennet, afterwards bishop of Peterborough, to write “The case of Impropriations, &c.” in consequence of the queen’s having given the first fruits for augmenting the maintenance of the poorer clergy. In 1705, he wrote a letter to the princess Sophia, acquainting her with his own zeal in particular, and that of her friends, for the security of the Hanover succession, to which he received an answer, in which her highness gave some intimation of her desire to come to England at that juncture. This letter of hers was published some time after, together with one from sir Rowland Gwynn to the earl of Stamford, upon the same subject of the princess’s coming over; which last being voted by both houses to be a scandalous libel, tending to create misunderstandings between her majesty and the princess Sophia, the publisher, Charles Gildon, was fined \00l. by the court of queen’s bench. But notwithstanding that our archbishop’s zeal in this matter could not be very agreeable to her majesty, who was always averse to the notion of a visit from the electress, yet in April 1706 he was nominated first commissioner in the treaty of union between England and Scotland. The same year, he concurred with the majority of the lords in their resolution against those who insinuated that “the church was in danger.

On the death of queen Anne he was appointed one of the three officers of state in whose hands were lodged, by authority of parliament, one of those instruments empowering her successor, if abroad at the time of her demise, to appoint such regents as he should think proper, to continue the administration in his name till his arrival. He bad afterwards the honour of crowning George I. and of being admitted to a private conference with him. This was, however, his last attendance on that prince, as his infirmities, and particularly frequent attacks of the gout, rendered it necessary for him to live as retired as possible at his palace at Lambeth, where he died Dec. 14, 1715, in the seventyninth year of his age. He was interred privately in the chancel of the church of Lambeth, and in the same vault 'with his wife, who died the preceding year, leaving him | without issue. By his will he bequeathed very large sums to charitable purposes, and proved a liberal benefactor to Bene’t college, Cambridge, the library of St. Paul’s cathedral, the society for the propagation of the gospel, queen Anne’s bounty, Bromley college, &c. The residue of his fortune, which was very considerable, he ordered to be equally divided among the children of his kinsmen, Dr. Edward Tenison (afterwards bishop of Ossory), Mr. Richard Tubby, and Mr. George Fage.

The author of the “Memoirs of his Life” says, he was a prelate “who, through the whole course of his life, always practised that integrity and resolution he first set out with; nor was he influenced by the changes of the age he lived in, to act contrary to the pure and peaceable spirit of the gospel, of which he was so bright an ornament.” He adds, that he was “an exact pattern of that exemplary piety, chanty, steadfastness, and ^ood conduct requisite in a governor of the church.” Dr. Richardson, in his edition of Godwin’s Lives of the Bishops, at first brought a serious charge against Dr. Tenison for neglecting the fairest opportunity of introducing the ecclesiastical polity of the church of England into the kingdom of Prussia; but he was afterwards so fully convinced of the injustice of this charge, as to alter the page of his work in which it was brought forward, and lay the blame upon those to whom it more properly belonged. Swift appears to have spoken with great disrespect of archbishop Tenison, for which no better reason can be given than his prejudices against the whigs, to which party Tenison was supposed to belong; and is said to have furnished some hints for Steeled memorable “Crisis,” for which the latter was expelled the House of Commons. The archbishop, however, had admirers in many of his contemporaries, especially Dr. Garth, who has introduced him in the 2nd canto of the Dispensary, with a handsome compliment, in the form of a complaint from Envy:

"Within this isle for ever must I find

Disasters to distract my restless mind?

Good Tenison’s celestial piety

At last has raised him to the sacred see."

The celebrated nonconformist Baxter likewise held him in admiration. Besides the works already mentioned, he published some occasional sermons, and is supposed to have been the author of a tract entitled “Grievances of the | Church of England, which are not in the power of the governors to remedy.1


Memoirs of the Life and Times of, 8vo, no date.—Biog. Brit.—Master’s Hist, of C. C. C. C.