Towgood, Micajah

, a protestant dissenting divine of considerable eminence, was born at Axminster, in Devonshire, Dec. 6, 1700. His father was a physician of the same place, and the son of Mr. Matthew Towgood, one of the ministers ejected by the act of uniformity in 1662. He had his grammar learning under the rev. Mr. Chadwick of Taunton: and in 1717 entered upon a course of academical studies in the same place, under the direction of Mr. Stephen James and Mr. Grove. Soon after he had commenced a preacher, he settled with a congregation of dissenters at Moreton-Hampsted in Devonshire, and was ordained there in August 1722, and the following year married the daughter of James Hawker, esq. of Luppit. He removed to Creditor], in the same county, in 1735, and soon after published, without his name, a pious tract entitled “Recovery from Sickness.” He likewise published without his name, a pamphlet entitled “High flown episcopal and priestly claims freely examined, in a dialogue between a country gentleman and a country vicar,1737. Dr. Warren, rector of St. Mary Stratford, Bow, a zealous champion of the church of England, having in a volume of posthumous sermons, compared the schism of the dissenters to that of the Samaritans, Mr. Towgood wrote “The Dissenters Apology,1739, in which he endeavours to vindicate a separation from the church. In 1741, when the nation was engaged in a war with Spain, he assumed a different character, by publishing “Spanish cruelty and injustice, a justifiable plea for a vigorous war with Spain.” 1 In this pamphlet, he encourages Britons to hope for success from the justice of the war on our part: the cruelty of our enemies towards Pagans, Jews, Mahometans, and Christians: and from their trusting in false protectors. He published afterwards several occasional sermons; and during the rebellion in 1754, a pamphlet against the legitimate birth of the Pretender. The work, however, by which he is held in highest esteem among his party, is “The Dissenting Gentleman’s answer to Mr. White,” a clergyman of the diocese of Norwich, who had written against the principles of the dissenters with -so much ability as to demand the exertions of their best writers. Mr. | Towgood’s letters to him appeared separately from 174 to 1748, and have passed through six editions; the last, in 1787, is accompanied by a portrait of the author, from a painting by Opie. In 1748 he published a pamphlet intended to diminish the respect paid to the memory of king Charles I. It consists principally of extracts from historians, but is deficient in impartial investigation. He was more successful in 1750, when settled at Exeter, in some pamphlets in defence of infant baptism. In 1761 he became a teacher in an academy at Exeter for the education of dissenting ministers. His office was to lecture on the New Testament, which he continued till 1769. In 1784 the infirmities of age obliged him to resign his public ministry; he enjoyed, however, a moderate share of health and spirits until Jan. 31, 179-2, when he died at Exeter, in the ninety-second year of his age. His private character is represented as highly amiable, and his learning had a very extensive range. His public character may be collected from the contents of his publications. “His religious sentiments,” we are told, “were such as were deemed highly heretical when he first entered upon public life; on which account he found some difficulty in procuring ordination, and experienced the resentment of bigots long after: but they would be esteemed what is termed orthodox, by many in the present day, as he attributed to Christ a high degree of pre-existent dignity, and considered him as a proper object of religious worship.” It appears by this account that, in departing from the creed of his forefathers, Mr. Towgood went farther than his contemporaries, and not so far as his successors. 1


Life by Jamea Manning, 1792, 8vo.