Stafford, John (1728-1800) (DNB00)

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STAFFORD, JOHN (1728–1800), independent divine, was born at Leicester in August 1728. At first a wool-comber, he in 1749 entered the independent academy at Northampton, where he was prepared for the ministry by Philip Doddridge [q. v.] On the death of the latter, two years later, he went to the academy at Plaisterers' Hall, Addle Street, London, and finished his seven years' course of study under John Conder at Mile End. He now joined the independent church in New Broad Street, under John Guyse [q. v.], and afterwards preached at Royston and St. Neots. In March 1758 he was invited to succeed Guyse, and was ordained pastor on 11 May. He remained minister of New Broad Street till his death forty-two years later. Several years after his ordination he underwent some loss of reputation owing to his having interpreted in favour of himself and his family the terms of a bequest providing for an annual sum to be paid to the minister of New Broad Street for the time being. A court of law decided in his favour on technical grounds, but accompanied the decision with a strong censure on his conduct. He preached for the last time on 6 Oct. 1799. He died at his house in Chiswell Street, Finsbury, on 22 Feb. 1800, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. The inscription on his tomb there says that ‘in refuting error he was skilful, in defending truth bold, in his work as a Christian minister and pastor zealous and faithful.’ His theology was rigidly Calvinistic. Stafford's wife Hannah, also buried in Bunhill Fields, was a daughter of Samuel Blythe. Her five children predeceased both their parents.

Stafford published in 1772, 8vo, with notes critical and explanatory, ‘The Scripture Doctrine of Sin and Grace considered in 25 plain and practical Discourses on the whole 7th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans;’ a second edition, 12mo, appeared in 1773. It is favourably spoken of in John Ryland's ‘Christianæ Militiæ Viaticum,’ and in Edward Williams's ‘Christian Preacher,’ but is termed ‘experimental’ in Bickersteth's ‘Christian Student’ (4th ed., p. 413). Stafford also published ‘A Sermon occasioned by the Death of Elizabeth Stafford [his eldest daughter], with some Anecdotes of her,’ 1774, 8vo; 2nd ed. 1775.

A portrait of Stafford, engraved by Vallance, is dated 1775.

[Wilson's Dissenting Churches, ii. 243–8; Gent. Mag. 1800, i. 286; Allibone's Dict. Engl. Lit. ii. 2218; Lit. Mem. of Living Authors; Evans's Cat. Engr. Portraits.]

G. Le G. N.