Newton, George (DNB00)

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NEWTON, GEORGE (1602–1681), nonconformist divine, born in 1602, was a native of Devonshire, and was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, whence he matriculated 17 Dec. 1619, and proceeded B.A. 14 June 1621, and M.A. 23 June 1624 (Clarke, Reg. of Univ. of Oxford, pt. ii. p. 380, pt. iii. p. 392). He began his ministry at Bishop's Hull, near Taunton, Somerset, and was presented to the vicarage of St. Mary Magdalene, Taunton, 7 April 1631, by Sir William Portman and Mr. Robert Hill. When the ‘Declaration of Sports’ was issued by the council at the instance of Charles I in 1633, and ordered to be read in churches, Newton told his congregation that he read it as the commandment of man, and immediately thereafter he read the twentieth chapter of Exodus as the commandment of God, informing his hearers that these two commandments happened to be in contradiction to each other, but that they were at liberty to choose which they liked best. During the period 1642–5, that Taunton was being contested for by parliamentarians and royalists, with dubious and varying results, Newton spent some time in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, where he preached in the abbey church, but after the siege was finally raised by the parliamentarians he returned to his charge. In 1654 he was, by ordinance of Cromwell's parliament, appointed one of the assistants of the commissioners for ejecting scandalous, ignorant, and inefficient ministers and schoolmasters. After the Restoration he was, by the Act of Uniformity, deprived of his living, 21 Aug. 1662. He nevertheless continued to preach whenever an opportunity presented itself to do so with safety, but the precautions he took were insufficient, and being apprehended for unlawful preaching he remained in prison for several years. On obtaining his liberty, some time between 1672 and 1677, he became minister to a congregation meeting in Paul Street, Taunton. He died 12 June 1681, and was buried in the chancel of St. Mary Magdalene's Church, where there is a monument with an inscription to his memory. An engraving of Newton by Bocquet, from the original painting at one time in the possession of John Hayne Bovet, esq., Taunton, is given in Palmer's ‘Nonconformists' Memorial.’

Newton's preaching is said to have been ‘plain, profitable, and successful.’ He was the author of an ‘Exposition and Notes on the 17th Chapter of John,’ 1670, and published several sermons, including ‘Man's Wrath and God's Praise, or a Thanksgiving Sermon preached at Taunton the 11th of May (a day to be had in everlasting remembrance) for the gratious deliverance from the strait Siege,’ London, 1646, and ‘A Sermon preached on the 11th of May, 1652, in Taunton, upon the occasion of the Great Deliverance received upon that Day,’ London, 1652.

[Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial, iii. 205–206; Wood's Fasti Oxon. i. 397–415; Clarke's Register of the University of Oxford; F. W. Weaver's Somerset Incumbents, 1889, p. 453; Toulmin's History of Taunton, ed. Savage, 1822, pp. 137–9; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. F. H.