Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 06.djvu/251
28; Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archæological and Natural Hist. Soc. viii. 133-48; Strutt's Manners, Customs, &c. of the Inhabitants of England, ii. 127; Three Books of Polydore Vergil's Engl. Hist. ed. Ellis (Camden Soc.), 195, 196; Willement's Account of the Restorations of the Collegiate Chapel of St. George, Windsor, 25, 27, 28, 42; Wood's Annals of Oxford (Gutch), i. 651.]
BRAY, THOMAS (1656-1730), divine, was born at Marton in Shropshire, and educated at Oswestry School, whence he proceeded to Oxford. He took his B.A. degree, (All Souls, 11 Nov. 1678), and that of MA. (Hart Hall, 12 Dec. 1693). Having received holy orders he served for a short time a curacy near Bridgnorth, and then became chaplain in the family of Sir T. Price of Park Hall in Warwickshire. Sir Thomas presented him to the donative of Lea Marston or Marson, and his diligence in this post introduced him to John Kettlewell, vicar of Coleshill, and also to Kettlewell's patron, Simon, Lord Digby, and Sir Charles Holt. He also made a favourable impression by an assize sermon which he preached at Warwick while quite a young man. Lord Digby was one of the congregation, and afterwards recommended him to his brother and successor to the title, William, lord Digby, who presented him to the vicarage of Over-Whitacre, and subsequently endowed it with the great tithes. In 1690 Bray was presented by the same patron to the rectory of Sheldon, vacant by the refusal of the rector, Mr. Digby Bull, to take the oaths at the Revolution. At Sheldon, Bray composed the first volume of his 'Catechetical Lectures,' which were published by the 'authoritative injunctions' of Dr. Lloyd, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, to whom the volume was dedicated. The work at once became popular, and made Bray's name well known in London. About the year 1691 the governor and assembly of Maryland determined to divide that province into parishes, and to appoint a legal maintenance for the ministers in each parish. In 1695 they wrote to request the bishop of London to send them over some clergyman to act as his commissary, and Bishop Compton selected Bray for the post. Bray accepted it, but was unable to set out for Maryland until the return of a new act thence to be confirmed by the sovereign; the first act for the establishment of the church being rejected, because it was wrongly stated in it that the laws of England were in force in Maryland. Meanwhile he was employed under Bishop Compton in seeking out missionaries to be sent abroad as soon as the new act could be obtained. He found that he could only enlist poor men unable to buy books, and he seems to have made the help of the bishops in providing libraries a condition of his going to Maryland. From a paper still extant in Lambeth library it appears that the two archbishops and five bishops agreed to 'contribute cheerfully towards these parochial libraries.' Meanwhile Bray had extended his plans, and set himself to provide libraries for the clergy at home as well as abroad. He projected a scheme for establishing parochial libraries in every deanery throughout England and Wales, and so far succeeded that before his death he saw upwards of eighty established. No less than thirty-nine libraries, some containing more than a thousand volumes, were established in North America, besides many in other foreign lands during Bray's lifetime. His t premier library 'was founded at Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, called after Anne, Princess of Denmark, who gave a 'noble benefaction' towards the valuable library there. The library scheme soon became part of a larger scheme which took shape in the 'Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.' In 1697 a bill was brought into parliament to alienate lands given to superstitious uses, and vest them in Greenwich Hospital. Bray petitioned that a share of them should be appropriated to the 'propagation of true religion in our foreign plantations.' The petition was well received in the house, but the bill fell through; so he received no help from that quarter. In 1698 he addressed the king for a grant of some arrears of taxes due to the crown, and actually followed the king to Holland to get the grant completed; but it was found that the arrears were all but valueless. He drew up a plan 'for having a protestant congregation propropaganda fide by charter from the king; but 'things were not yet ripe for the charter society,' so to prepare the way he tried to form a voluntary society, laid the plan of it before the bishop of London, and found 'several worthy persons willing to unite.' The first sketch of the objects of the society, which included the libraries at home and abroad, charity schools, and missions both to colonists and the heathen, was prepared by Bray, and he was one of the first five members, and the only clergyman among them, who composed the first meeting on 8 March 1698-9. All this while Bray was entirely without any provision to support him. Two preferments were offered him at home, the office of sub-almoner and the living of St. Botolph, Aldgate; but he was not the man to be so diverted. Having waited for more than two years, he determined to set forth. He had previously, at the request of the governor of Mary land, taken the degrees of B.D. and D.D.