Wall, William (DNB00)

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WALL, WILLIAM (1647–1728), divine and biblical scholar, son of William Wall plebeius of Sevenoaks, Kent, was born at Maranto Court Farm in the parish of Chevening in that county on 6 Jan. 1646–7. He matriculated from Queen's College, Oxford, on 1 April 1664, proceeded B.A. in 1667, and commenced M.A. in 1670, being incorporated in the latter degree at Cambridge in 1676. After taking orders he was admitted to the vicarage of Shoreham, Kent, in 1674. Subsequently he declined, from conscientious scruples, the living of Chelsfield, three miles from Shoreham, and worth 300l. a year. However, in 1708 he accepted the rectory of Milton-next-Gravesend, about one-fifth of the value and at twelve miles' distance. In the same year he was appointed chaplain to the bishop of Rochester. His writings in defence of the practice of infant baptism were widely appreciated, and, in recognition of their merit, the university of Oxford conferred upon him the degree of D.D. by diploma, 31 Oct. 1720. His chief antagonist, John Gale [q. v.], held a friendly conference with him in 1719 on the subject of baptism, but it ended without any change of opinion on either side. Wall died on 13 Jan. 1727–8, and was buried in Shoreham church.

Wall stands confessedly at the head of those Anglican divines who have supported the practice of infant baptism, and his adversaries, Gale and William Whiston, and the baptist historian Thomas Crosby, unite in praising his candour and piety. He was a great humorist, and several anecdotes of him, related by his daughter, Mrs. Catharine Waring of Rochester, are printed in Bishop Atterbury's ‘Epistolary Correspondence.’ As a high-churchman he was extremely zealous in Atterbury's cause. Subjoined is a list of his writings: 1. ‘The History of Infant Baptism,’ London, 1705, 2 pts. 8vo; 2nd edit., with large additions, 1707, 4to; 3rd edit., 1720; new editions, ‘Together with Mr. Gale's Reflections and Dr. Wall's Defence. Edited by the Rev. H. Cotton,’ Oxford, 1836, 4 vols., and Oxford, 1862, 2 vols.; reprinted in ‘The Ancient and Modern Library of Theological Literature,’ 1889, 2 vols. A Latin translation appeared under the title of ‘Historia Baptismi Infantum. Ex Anglico vertit, nonnullis etiam observationibus et vindiciis auxit J. L. Schlosser,’ Bremen, 1748, 2 tom.; Hamburg, 1753, 4to. An abridgment of Wall's ‘History,’ by W. H. Spencer appeared at London, 1848, 12mo. 2. ‘A Conference between two Men that had Doubts about Infant Baptism,’ London, 1706, 12mo; 2nd edit. 1708; 5th edit. 1767; 6th edit. 1795; 8th edit. 1807; 9th edit. 1809; 10th edit. 1812; new edit. 1835; again 1847. 3. ‘A Defence of the History of Infant Baptism against the reflections of Mr. Gale and others,’ London, 1720, 8vo. 4. ‘Brief Critical Notes, especially on the various Readings of the New Testament Books. With a preface concerning the Texts cited therein from the Old Testament, as also concerning the Use of the Septuagint Translation,’ London, 1730, 8vo. 5. ‘Critical Notes on the Old Testament, wherein the present Hebrew Text is explained, and in many places amended from the ancient versions, more particularly from that of the LXX. To which is prefixed a large introduction, adjusting the authority of the Masoretic Bible, and vindicating it from the objections of Mr. Whiston and [Anthony Collins] the author of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion,’ London, 1734, 2vols. 8vo.

[Atterbury's Epistolary Correspondence (1789), v. 302; Crosby's Hist. of the English Baptists, i. 6, 161, iii. 14, 42; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Gent. Mag. 1784, i. 434; Hook's Eccl. Biogr. viii. 642; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 114; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. iv. 347, 490, 3rd ser. v. 22.]

T. C.