Page images


IT has frequently been a subject of complaint, that a
Collection of the best English Divines, from the scarcity of
good editions, and the expense of procuring them, is rarely
met with in the Libraries even of our Clergy, although
these are the sources to which, after the Holy Scriptures,
they must apply for instruction and edification. A few
select volumes of some favorite Authors are perhaps found
on their shelves; but a regular series, exhibiting the pro-
found researches, the luminous expositions, the interesting
criticisms, and the noble eloquence of British Theologians,
falls to the lot of few: indeed our great public repositories
themselves are not unfrequently deficient in so important
a branch of literature. This observation is made from pain-
ful experience, since the Editor has not been able to col-
lect the scattered works of the illustrious Sherlock in
all the Libraries of Cambridge, including the Public
Library itself; nor has it been without extraordinary
pains and difficulty, that his Publisher has completed this
Edition even in our Metropolis. To remedy the defects

above mentioned, and to enable both Clergy and Laymen
to possess a treasure of real excellence, at a time when
the Church of England requires the best exertions of her
sons, is the great object of the present undertaking.

It would indeed be discreditable to an age, in which the

works of so many Authors have been reprinted in a form

combining both economy and convenience, if those of the

great ornaments of our Church should be withheld from

an extended circulation. It has been determined there-

fore to publish a series in which the following plan will

be observed.

Each Work will be preceded by a Biographical Memoir

of its Author, comprising a general account of the times in
which he lived, with a particular reference to the state of
religious opinions.

An Argument or concise Summary of Contents will be

prefixed to every Sermon, Tract, or Disquisition, con-

tained in each Volume; so that not only direct access may

be had to any portion required for perusal or consultation,

but the Summary of each Sermon may be considered as a

Skeleton, well calculated to assist the young Divine in


Notes and observations will be added wherever they

may appear necessary or useful; and at the end of each
Author will be given an Index of passages in Scripture,
which have been commented on in such Author.




THE illustrious prelate with whose works we begin our series, was a younger son of Dr. WILLIAM SHERLOCK, Master of the Temple, and Dean of St. Paul's, a divine who, having passed the greater part of his life in the excitement of polemics, became celebrated in his day for the multiplicity of his controversial writings, but is more advantageously known to posterity by his admirable Treatise on Death. After living to see his son Thomas, who is the subject of this Memoir, rapidly advancing in a course honorable to himself and useful to mankind, he died at Hampstead, June 19, 1707, and was buried in his own cathedral, leaving a very considerable property to his surviving family, which consisted of two sons and as many daughters.

Bishop SHERLOCK was born in London, A. D. 1678. Of his infancy and childhood I find no traces, nor can I discover that he showed any precocity of intellect, though his genius soon distinguished him at Eton, a school well SHERL. b


adapted to excite and bring out those qualities of emulation and ambition which continued always to distinguish him there he laid the foundation of that classical elegance and purity of style, which shine so conspicuously in his writings; there he acquired an early knowlege of character, an anticipated experience of society, which was of great service to him in after life; and there also he formed powerful connexions, which materially contributed to advance him in his profession. Among the friends of his early youth, who became promoters of his future interests, may be reckoned Lord Viscount Townshend, Mr. Pelham, and Sir Robert Walpole; the latter of whom not only entertained, but invariably expressed, the highest opinion of his talent and integrity. Nor was it in the studies of the place only, and at the head of his class, that young Sherlock was seen to advantage: he was equally eminent for his skill in athletic exercises; and never failed to lead his companions in those sports and amusements, over which Hygeia herself may be said to preside, and which, while they strengthen the body, add vigor also to the mental powers. It is always understood that Pope's expression of the plunging prelate,'* in the Dunciad, bears an allusion to those early habits of promptitude and decision, of which he exhibited an example in the exercise of bathing; for when other boys stood hesitating and shivering on the bank of Father Thames,' Sherlock plunged in headlong,

-Foremost to cleave

With pliant arm his glassy wave.

[ocr errors]

This at least is the interpretation given to it by Warton on the authority of Sir Robert Walpole.

*Book ii. 1. 323.

When he quitted those delightful scenes, so calculated to impress indelibly their images on the youthful mind, he was removed to Cambridge in 1693, and admitted of Catherine Hall, under the tuition of Dr. Leng. What induced his father, who was himself a member of Peter House, to place him at this college, I am unable to determine; but it is a curious circumstance, that the master, and the tutor under whom he was admitted, his great rival and contemporary Hoadley, whom he found there, as well as Sherlock himself, were all promoted to the episcopal bench.*

It redounds much to his credit, that in so small a society, where the incentives to emulation are necessarily curtailed, at a time also when no prizes were instituted, as at present, to call forth the powers and exercise the genius of academic youth, he neglected not the study of those ancient authors, whose very language affords constant exercise to the mind, in struggling with intellectual difficulties, whilst they abound with sentiments and images of the greatest beauty and sublimity. But though that powerful stimulus to exertion which numbers give, was now withdrawn, still even in the circumscribed limits of his present society, Sherlock found one strenuous candidate, who

* Sir W. Dawes, the Master, was made Bishop of Chester, 1707; Archbishop of York, 1714. Dr. Leng, Bishop of Norwich, 1723; Hoadley, Bishop of Bangor, 1715; Hereford, 1721; Salisbury, 1723; Winchester, 1738. Sherlock, Bishop of Bangor, 1727; Salisbury, 1734; London, 1748. The present worthy Master of Catherine Hall, when he showed me the order-book, pointed out to my notice the solitary instance in which Sherlock signed it as Fellow, on occasion of the Audit, Nov. 7. 1798; when the signatures of the three above-mentioned distinguished persons appear with only one other, that of Mr. Thomas Tillson.

« PreviousContinue »