Boyse, Joseph (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06
Boyse, Joseph

by Alexander Gordon
"Thorn's Liverpool Churches and Chapels" is an error: the work is by David Thom.

BOYSE, JOSEPH (1660–1728), presbyterian minister, born at Leeds on 14 Jan. 1660, was one of sixteen children of Matthew Boyse, a puritan, formerly elder of the church at Rowley, New England, and afterwards a resident for about eighteen years at Boston, Mass. He was admitted into the academy of Richard Frankland, M.A., at Natland, near Kendal, on 16 April 1675, and went thence in 1678 to the academy at Stepney under Edward Veal, B.D. (ejected from the senior fellowship at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1661; died 6 June 1708, aged 76). Boyse's first ministerial engagement was at Glassenbury, near Cranbrook, Kent, where he preached nearly a year (from the autumn of 1679). He was next domestic chaplain, during the latter half of 1681 and spring of 1682, to the Dowager Countess of Donegal (Letitia, daughter of Sir William Hickes) in Lincoln's Inn Fields. For six months in 1682 he ministered to the Brownist church at Amsterdam, in the absence of the regular minister, but he did not swerve from his presbyterianism. He would have settled in England but for the penal laws against dissent. On the death of his friend T. Haliday in 1683, he succeeded him at Dublin, and there pursued a popular ministry for forty-five years. His ordination sermon was preached by John Pinney, ejected from Broadwinsor, Dorsetshire. The presbyterianism of Dublin and the south of Ireland was of the English type; that of the north was chiefly Scottish in origin and discipline. But there was occasional co-operation, and there were from time to time congregations in Dublin adhering to the northern body. Boyse did his part in promoting a community of spirit between the northern and southern presbyterians of Ireland. Naturally he kept up a good deal of communication with English brethren. From May 1691 to June 1702 Boyse had Emlyn as his colleague at Wood Street. Meanwhile Boyse came forward as a controversialist on behalf of presbyterian dissent. In this capacity he proved himself cautious, candid, and powerful; ‘vindication,’ the leading word on many of his polemical title-pages, well describes his constant aim. First of his works is the ‘Vindiciæ Calvinisticæ,’ 1688, 4to, an able epistle (with the pseudo-signature W.B., D.D.), in reply to William King (1650–1712), then chancellor of St. Patrick's Cathedral, who had attacked the presbyterians in his ‘Answer’ to the ‘Considerations’ of Peter Manby (d 1697), ex-dean of Derry, who had turned catholic. Again, when Governor Walker of Derry described Alexander Osborne (a presbyterian minister, originally from co. Tyrone, who had been called to Newmarket, Dublin, 6 Dec. 1687) as ‘a spy of Tyrconnel,’ Boyse put forth a ‘Vindication,’ 1690, 4to, a tract of historical value. He was a second time in the field against King, now bishop of Derry (who had fulminated against presbyterian forms of worship), in ‘Remarks,’ 1694, and ‘Vindication of the Remarks,’ 1695. Early in the latter year he had printed anonymously a folio tract, ‘The Case of the Protestant Dissenters in Ireland in reference to a Bill of Indulgence,’ &c., to which Tobias Pullen, bishop of Dromore, wrote an anonymous answer, and Anthony Dopping, bishop of Meath, another reply, likewise anonymous. Both prelates were against a legal toleration for Irish dissent. Boyse retorted on them in ‘The Case … Vindicated,’ 1695. But the day for a toleration was not yet come. The Irish parliament rejected bill after bill brought forward in the interest of dissenters. The harmony of Boyse's ministerial relations was broken in 1702 by the episode of his colleague's deposition, and subsequent trial, for a blasphemous libel on the ground of an anti-trinitarian publication [see Emlyn, Thomas]. Boyse (who had himself been under some suspicion of Pelagianism) moved in the matter with manifest reluctance, had no hand in the public prosecution, and made strenuous, and at length successful, efforts to free Emlyn from incarceration. Boyse drew up, with much moderation, ‘The Difference between Mr. E. and the Dissenting Ministers of D. truly represented;’ and published ‘A Vindication of the True Deity of our Blessed Saviour,’ 1703, 8vo (2nd ed. 1710, 8vo), in answer to Emlyn's ‘Humble Inquiry.’ Emlyn thinks that Boyse might have abstained from writing against him while the trial was pending; but it is probable that Boyse's able defence of the doctrine in dispute gave weight to his intercession. Boyse at this early date takes note that ‘the unitarians are coming over to the deists in point of doctrine.’ Emlyn's place as Boyse's colleague was supplied by Richard Choppin, a Dublin man (licensed 1702, ordained 1704, died 1741). In 1708 Boyse issued a volume of fifteen sermons, of which the last was an ordination discourse on ‘The Office of a Scriptural Bishop,’ with a polemical appendix. This received answers from Edward Drury and Matthew French, curates in Dublin, and the discourse itself was, without Boyse's consent, reprinted separately in 1709, 8vo. He had, however, the opportunity of adding a voluminous postscript, in which he replied to the above answers, and he continued the controversy in ‘A Clear Account of the Ancient Episcopacy,’ 1712. Meantime the reprint of his sermon, with postscript, was burned by the common hangman, by order of the Irish House of Lords, in November 1711. This was King's last argument against Boyse; now the archbishop of Dublin writes to Swift, ‘we burned Mr. Boyse's book of a scriptural bishop.’ Once more Boyse came forward in defence of dissent, in ‘Remarks,’ 1716, on a pamphlet by William Tisdall, D.D., vicar of Belfast, respecting the sacramental test. Boyse had been one of the patroni of the academy at Whitehaven (1708–19), under Thomas Dixon, M.D., and on its cessation he had to do with the settlement in Dublin of Francis Hutcheson, the ethical writer, as head (till 1729) of a somewhat similar institution, in which Boyse taught divinity. He soon became involved in the nonsubscription controversy. At the synod in Belfast, 1721, he was present as a commissioner from Dublin; protested with his colleague, in the name of the Dublin presbytery, against the vote allowing a voluntary subscription to the Westminster Confession; and succeeded in carrying a ‘charitable declaration,’ freeing nonsubscribers from censure and recommending mutual forbearance. The preface to Abernethy's ‘Seasonable Advice,’ 1722, and the postscript to his ‘Defence’ of the same, 1724, are included among Boyse's collected works, though signed also by his Dublin brethren, Nathaniel Weld and Choppin. In the same year he preached (24 June) at Londonderry during the sitting of the general synod of Ulster. His text was John viii. 34, 35, and the publication of the discourse, which strongly deprecated disunion, was urged by men of both parties. Next year, being unable through illness to offer peaceful counsels in person, he printed the sermon. Perhaps his pacific endeavours were discounted by the awkward circumstance that at this synod (1723) a letter was received from him announcing a proposed change in the management of the regium donum, viz. that it be distributed by a body of trustees in London, with the express view of checking the high-handed party in the synod. The rupture between the southern and northern presbyterians was completed by the installation of a nonsubscriber, Alexander Colville, M.D., on 25 Oct. 1725 at Dromore, co. Down, by the Dublin presbytery; Boyse was not one of the installers. He published in 1726 a lengthy letter to the presbyterian ministers of the north, in ‘vindication’ of a private communication on their disputes, which had been printed without his knowledge. Writing to the Rev. Thomas Steward of Bury St. Edmunds (d. 10 Sept. 1753, aged 84) on 1 Nov. 1726, Boyse speaks of the exclusion of the nonsubscribers as ‘the late shameful rupture,’ and gives an account of the new presbytery which the general synod, in pursuance of its separative policy, had erected for Dublin. Controversies crowded rather thickly on Boyse, considering the moderation of his views and temper. He always wrote like a gentleman. He published several sermons against Romanists, and a letter (with appendix) ‘Concerning the Pretended Infallibility of the Romish Church,’ addressed to a protestant divine who had written against Rome. His ‘Some Queries offered to the Consideration of the People called Quakers, &c.,’ called forth, shortly before Boyse's death, a reply by Samuel Fuller, a Dublin schoolmaster. It is possible that in polemics Boyse sought a relief from domestic sorrow, due to his son's career. He died in straitened circumstances on 22 Nov. 1728, leaving a son, Samuel [q. v.] (the biographers of this son have not usually mentioned that he was one of the deputation to present the address from the general synod of Ulster on the accession of George I), and a daughter, married to Mr. Waddington. He was succeeded in his ministry by Abernethy (in 1730). Boyse's works were collected by himself in two huge folios, London, 1728 (usually bound in one; they are the earliest if not the only folios published by a presbyterian minister of Ireland). Prefixed is a recommendation (dated 23 April 1728) signed by Calamy and five other London ministers. The first volume contains seventy-one sermons (several being funeral, ordination, and anniversary discourses; many had already been collected in two volumes, 1708–10, 8vo), and several tracts on justification. Embedded among the sermons (at p. 326) is a very curious piece of puritan autobiography, ‘Some Remarkable Passages in the Life and Death of Mr. Edmund Trench.’ The second volume is wholly controversial. Not included in these volumes are:

  1. ‘Vindication of Osborne’ (see above).
  2. ‘Sacramental Hymns collected (chiefly) out of such Passages of the New Testament as contain the most suitable matter of Divine Praises in the Celebration of the Lord's Supper, &c.,’ Dublin, 1693, small 8vo, with another title-page, London, 1693. (This little book, overlooked by his biographers, is valuable as illustrating Boyse's theology: it nominally contains twenty-three hymns, but reckoning doublets in different metres there are forty-one pieces by Boyse, one from George Herbert, and two from Mr. Patrick, i.e. Simon Patrick, bishop of Ely. In a very curious preface Boyse disclaims the possession of any poetic genius; but his verses, published thirteen years before Isaac Watts came into the field, are not without merit. To the volume is prefixed the approval of six Dublin ministers, headed by ‘Tho. Toy,’ and including ‘Tho. Emlin.’)
  3. ‘Case of the Protestant Dissenters’ (see above. The tract is so rare that Reid knows only of the copy at Trinity College, Dublin. The vindication of it is in the ‘Works’).
  4. ‘Family Hymns for Morning and Evening Worship. With some for the Lord's Days. … All taken out of the Psalms of David,’ Dublin, 1701, 16mo. (Unknown to bibliographers. Contains preface, recommendation by six Dublin ministers, and seventy-six hymns, in three parts, with music. Boyse admits ‘borrowing a few expressions from some former versions.’ The poetry is superior to his former effort. A copy, uncatalogued, is in the Antrim Presbytery Library at Queen's College, Belfast.)
  5. ‘The Difference between Mr. E. and the Dissenting Ministers of D., &c.’ (see above. Emlyn reprints it in the appendix to his ‘Narrative,’ 1719, and says Boyse drew it up). Of his separate publications an incomplete list is furnished by Witherow. The bibliography of the earlier ones is better given in Reid. Boyse wrote the Latin inscription on the original pedestal (1701) of the equestrian statue of William III in College Green, Dublin.

[Choppin's Funeral Sermon, 1728; Towers, in Biog. Brit. ii. (1780), 531; Calamy's Hist. Acc. of my own Life, 2nd ed. 1830, ii. 515; Thorn's Liverpool Churches and Chapels, 1854, 68; Witherow's Hist. and Lit. Mem. of Presbyterianism in Ireland, 1st ser. 1879, p. 79, 2nd ser. 1880, p. 74; Reid's Hist. Presb. Ch. in Ireland (ed. Killen), 1867, vols. ii. iii.; Anderson's British Poets, 1794, x. 327; Monthly Repos. 1811, pp. 204, 261; Christian Moderator, 1826, p. 34; Armstrong's Appendix to Ordination Service (James Martineau), 1829, p. 70; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland (ed. Archdall), 1789 (re Countess Donegal); Winder's MSS. in Renshaw Street Chapel Library, Liverpool (re Whitehaven); Narrative of the Proceedings of Seven General Synods of the Northern Presbyterians in Ireland, 1727, p. 47; manuscript extracts from Minutes of General Synod, 1721; Smith's Biblioth. Anti-Quak. 1782, p. 82.]

A. G.