SMETHURST, JOHN (1793–1859), unitarian minister, son of a farmer, was born at Failsworth, near Manchester, in 1793. He was educated (1814–16) for the unitarian ministry at the Hackney academy under Robert Aspland [q. v.], Jeremiah Joyce [q. v.], and John Morell, LL.D. (1776–1840). In July 1817 he became minister of the unitarian congregation, Cross Street, Moreton Hampstead, Devonshire. On the death (2 Dec. 1818) of Jacob Isaac, minister of the Fore Street general baptist congregation, Smethurst succeeded him, holding both charges. For some years the managers of the London ‘unitarian fund’ had tried in vain to get a missionary for the north of Ireland. At length Smethurst volunteered, and during the autumn of 1821 spent nine weeks in Ulster. His visit is memorable as calling out for the first time the great controversial powers of Henry Cooke, D.D. [q. v.], and thus leading to the separation (1829) of the Arian party from the general synod of Ulster [see Montgomery, Henry, LL.D.]. Smethurst's report of his mission (Christian Reformer, 1822, pp. 217 sq.) is a valuable document. His warmest friends were Fletcher Blakely [q. v.] and Andrew Craig (1754–1833), minister of Lisburn. At Killeleagh he encountered Cooke, lecturing in his school-house, under the auspices of Archibald Hamilton Rowan [q. v.] His mission was supposed to be partly political, but Smethurst was simply a guileless enthusiast, no great speaker, and blind to the real situation. Returning to Moreton Hampstead, he there spent the remainder of his days. For some years he was scribe to the Exeter assembly, a relic of the unions of 1690 [see Howe, John, (1630–1705)]. Personally he was much beloved. He devoted his leisure to Anglo-Saxon studies, and his fame as an angler got him the name of ‘the Walton of the moor.’ He died unmarried on 27 June 1859 at Moreton Hampstead, and was buried (3 July) in the Cross Street burial-ground. His funeral sermon was preached by George Browne Brock (1805–1886) of Exeter. He published a sermon on slavery (1824).
He has been confused with John Smethurst (1789–1820), educated at Manchester College, York, from 1805 to 1810, and minister at Knutsford, Cheshire, from 1810 to 1819.[Memoir by G. B. B[rock] in Christian Reformer, 1859, pp. 474 sq.; Murch's Hist. Presb. and Gen. Bapt. Churches in West of England, 1835, p. 474; Aspland's Memoir of Robert Aspland, 1850, pp. 317 sq. 322; Christian Life, 11 Dec. 1886, p. 601; Evans's Record of Provincial Assembly of Lancashire and Cheshire, 1896, p. 78.]
SMETON, THOMAS (1536-1583), principal of Glasgow University, was born at Gaak, near Perth, in 1536. He was educated at the school at Perth, and in 1553 incorporated a student in St. Salvator's College, St. Andrews. A promising scholar, he was made a regent of the college, and remained there until the reformers gained the ascendency. He was then ejected, and in consequence proceeded to Paris. There he associated with many of the reformers, and enjoyed the friendship of Andrew Melville. He still adhered to the Roman catholic faith, but, to settle some doubts which occurred to him, he entered the order of the jesuits as a probationer, and proceeded to their college at Rome, visiting Geneva on his way. After continuing in Rome about a year and a half, he found himself still unresolved in his faith, and suspected in Rome as a favourer of protestant doctrine. He consequently left for Paris, and shortly after proceeded to Clermont, in both places lecturing on humanity (Dempster, Hist. Eccl. Gentis Scotorum, ed. 1829, ii. 586). After a visit to Scotland on private business he returned to Paris, where he abode till 1571. At this time Thomas Maitland, a younger brother of William Maitland (1528?-1573) [q. v.] of Lethington, prevailed on Smeton to accompany him to Italy. Maitland died there, and Smeton proceeded to Geneva, where he conversed with the reformers, and finally decided to quit the Roman catholic church. He was in Paris during the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and, as a protestant, escaped death only by taking refuge with Walsingham, the English ambassador. On arriving in England he publicly renounced popery, and settled in Colchester as a schoolmaster.
In 1577 he returned to Scotland, and was appointed minister of Paisley Abbey and dean of faculty to Glasgow University. He soon took a prominent part in church matters. In October 1578 he was nominated one of the assessors to the moderator in the general assembly, and in the following year was himself chosen moderator. On 3 Jan. 1580 James VI appointed him principal of Glasgow University, in succession to Andrew Melville. In April 1583 he was again chosen moderator of the general assembly. At this time Andrew Melville was anxious that Smeton should succeed him at St. Andrews, but the king, instigated by the prior of St. Andrews, who was opposed to the appointment, forbade his nomination, on the ground of the loss it would inflict on the university of Glasgow. On his return to Glasgow Smeton was seized with a high fever, and died on 13 Dec. 1583. He