Tong, William (DNB00)

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TONG, WILLIAM (1662–1727), presbyterian divine, was born on 24 June 1662, probably at Eccles, near Manchester, where his father (a relative of Robert Warton Hall) was buried. His mother, early left a widow with three children, was aided by Mort. Tong began his education with a view to the law. Jeremy erroneously says he entered at Gray's Inn with Matthew Henry [q. v.] His mother's influence turned him to the ministry. He entered the academy of Richard Frankland [q. v.], then at Natland, on 2 March 1681, and was Frankland's most distinguished student. Early in 1685 he was licensed to preach. For two years he acted as chaplain in Shropshire to Thomas Corbet of Stanwardine and Rowland Hunt of Boreatton, thus becoming acquainted with Philip Henry [q. v.] Till threatened with a prosecution, he preached occasionally at the chapel of Cockshut, parish of Ellesmere, Shropshire, using 'a small part' of the common prayer. At the beginning of March 1687 he took a three months' engagement at Chester, pending the settlement of Matthew Henry. His services were conducted, noon and night, in the house of Anthony Henthorn, and were so successful that they were transferred to ‘a large outbuilding, part of the Friary.’ The dean of Chester urged him to conform. From Chester he was called to be the first pastor of a newly formed dissenting congregation at Knutsford, Cheshire. He was ordained on 4 Nov. 1687 (Evans's List, manuscript in Dr. Williams's Library), and procured the building of the existing meeting-house in Brook Street (opened 1688–9). On the death (22 Oct. 1689) of Obadiah Grew, D.D. [q. v.], and Jarvis Bryan (27 Dec. 1689) [see under Bryan, John, D.D.], he was called to be co-pastor with Thomas Shewell (d. 19 Jan. 1693) at the Great Meeting-house, Coventry. Here he ministered with great success for ‘almost thirteen years’ from 1690. He had as colleagues, after Shewell, Joshua Oldfield, D.D. [q. v.], and John Warren (d 15 Sept. 1742). He escaped the prosecutions which fell upon Oldfield, though he assisted him in academy teaching, and the bursaries from the presbyterian fund were paid through him. His forte was preaching; he thus laid the foundation of several dissenting congregations in the district.

On the death of Nathaniel Taylor (April 1702), after overtures had been made to Josiah Chorley [q. v.] and Matthew Henry, Tong was elected pastor of the presbyterian congregation in Salters' Hall Court, Cannon Street, London, John Newman (1677?–1741) [q. v.] being retained as his assistant. The congregation was large, and the most wealthy among London dissenters. The central position of its meeting-house made it convenient for lectures and for joint meetings of dissenters. Tong was soon elected to succeed John Howe (1630–1705) [q. v.] as one of the four preachers of the ‘merchants' lecture’ on Tuesday mornings at Salters' Hall. He took a prominent part in the controversy arising out of the alleged heresies of James Peirce [q. v.] of Exeter. His steps were cautious. An undated letter of March or April 1718 by Thomas Secker [q. v.] mentions that on a proposal in the presbyterian fund to increase the grant to Hubert Stogdon [q. v.], Tong ‘was silent for some time and then went out’ (Monthly Repository, 1821, p. 634). On 25 Aug. 1718 a conference of twenty-five presbyterian and independent ministers, with Benjamin Robinson [q. v.] as moderator, was held at Salters' Hall. They endorsed a letter (drafted by Tong) to John Walrond (d. 1755), minister of Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, affirming that they would not ordain any candidates unsound on the Trinity (Plain and Faithful Narrative of the Differences … at Exeter, 1719, pp. 10 seq.). In the conferences of the following year, issuing in a rupture, Tong was a leader of the subscribing party [see Bradbury, Thomas]. His introduction to ‘The Doctrine of the … Trinity stated and defended … by four subscribing Ministers,’ 1719, 4to, is plain and suasive. As one of the original trustees of the foundations of Daniel Williams, D.D. [q. v.], Tong had, from 1721, a share in the intricate task of carrying these benefactions into effect. He was also one of the first distributors (1723) of the English regium donum, and a trustee (1726) of the Barnes bequest. He was a man of unselfish purpose, free from sectarian feeling, courted in society for his attainments and his character, and always openhanded to the needy. In his last years his powers declined. His end was rather sudden. He died on 21 March 1727. His portrait, by Wollaston, was engraved by Simon.

His most important works are his contributions to nonconformist history, viz.: 1. ‘A Brief Historical Account of Nonconformity,’ appended to his ‘Defence,’ 1693, 4to, of Matthew Henry on Schism (1689). 2. ‘An Account of the Life … of … Matthew Henry,’ 1716, 8vo. 3. ‘Memoirs of John Shower,’ 1716, 8vo. 4. ‘Dedication,’ containing a sketch of nonconformist history in Coventry, prefixed to John Warren's funeral sermon for Joshua Merrell, 1716, 8vo. His published sermons include funeral sermons for Samuel Slater [q. v.] and Elizabeth Bury [q. v.] He revised Matthew Henry's ‘Memoirs’ of Philip Henry, 1698, and prepared the expositions of Hebrews and Revelation for Matthew Henry's ‘Commentary.’

[Funeral Sermon by John Newman, 1727; Noble's Continuation of Granger, 1806, ii. 159; Wilson's Dissenting Churches of London, 1808, ii. 20 seq.; Williams's Life of Philip Henry, 1825, p. 462; Williams's Life of Matthew Henry, 1825, p. 173; Calamy's Own Life, 1830, ii. 41, 465, 486; Sibree and Caston's Independency in Warwickshire, 1855, pp. 3 seq., 33 seq.; Green's Knutsford, 1859, pp. 63 seq.; Urwick's Nonconformity in Cheshire, 1864, pp. 29 seq., 443 seq.; Pike's Ancient Meeting Houses, 1870, pp. 382 seq.; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, pp. 13, 33, 105 seq.]

A. G.