Billingsley, John (1657-1722) (DNB00)

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BILLINGSLEY, JOHN, the younger (1667–1722), nonconformist divine, son of John Billingsley [q. v.], was bom at Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in 1667. First trained by his father, he proceeded to the university of Cambridge, being entered of Trinity College. Wilson (History of Dissenting Churches, i. 77) says : 'When neither his inclination nor circumstances allowed his longer continuance at the university, he was placed under the care of the famous Mr. Edward Baynes, of Lincoln.' On leaving Lincoln he completed his theological and classical preparations under his father, and under an uncle Whitlock of Nottingham. He was afterwards duly ordained.

He first preached at Chesterfield. On the death of his father — for whose monument he composed an elegant and pathetic Latin inscription (given by Calamy) — he appears to have served with the celebrated Rev. Edward Prime, of Sheffield. For seven years he was settled at Selston with 'a plain but serious auditory.' From this he removed to Kingston-upon-Hull, where he ministered for about ten years. About 1706 he was chosen colleague of Dr. William Harris at Crutched Friars, and accepting the call was thus placed practically in the foremost place among protestant dissenters. He was associated with Dr. Harris for fifteen years. 'I ever esteemed him,' says Dr. Harris, 'a great blessing to the congregation, and I believe he was thought so by everyone in it. We lived together through that course of time in a most perfect uninterrupted friendship and endearment; his labours and his memory will be always precious in my account.'

Besides his work at Crutched Friars, he spent Sunday evening during the winter 'in a catechetical exercise to a numerous congregation at Old Jewry.' His text-book was 'The Larger and Shorter Catechisms' of the assembly of divines. He also went over the main points in the popish controversy.

When the unhappy controversy concerning the Trinity agitated England at the commencement of the eighteenth century, the protestant dissenters convened a synod at Salters' Hall in 1719. They split upon the rock of subscription. Billingsley sided with those who opposed subscription. This was the more honourable to him, as personally he was rigidly orthodox. He declined to approve of subscription on the broad principle of opposition to all tests in matters of religion. He died 22 May 1722, in his sixty-fifth year, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. He does not appear to have published anything. A son John, originally a dissenting minister at Dover, married a sister of Sir Philip Yorke, afterwards Lord-chancellor Hardwicke, conformed and accepted a good living in the national church with a prebend in Bristol Cathedral. It is to his honour that, notwithstanding his conformity, he remained 'moderate, and maintained friendly intercourse with the dissenters to the last.'

[Wilson's Hist, of Dissenting Churches, i. 77-82; Palmer's Nonconf. Mem. i. 402; Harris's Funeral Sermon for Billingsley; Le Neve's Fasti; and authorities on his father.]

A. B. G.