Williams, John (1727-1798) (DNB00)

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WILLIAMS, JOHN (1727–1798), nonconformist divine, the son of a tanner, was born at Lampeter in Cardiganshire on 25 March 1726–7. He was educated at the free school of the town, and entered the Cambrian academy at Carmarthen when nineteen years old, to qualify himself for the office of nonconformist minister. After completing his course he became classical tutor in the establishment of a schoolmaster at Bir- mingham, named Howell. In 1752 he became minister of a congregation at Stamford in Lincolnshire, and in 1755 removed to another charge at Wokingham in Berkshire. Here he completed a work which had cost him many years' labour, ‘A Concordance to the Greek New Testament, with an English Version to each Word, and short Critical Notes’ (London, 1767, 4to), which seventy-two years later was superseded by a similar compilation by George Vicesimus Wigram [see under Wigram, Joseph Cotton]. The ‘Short Critical Notes’ were chiefly furnished by Gregory Sharpe [q. v.] In 1767 Williams removed to Sydenham as minister to the congregation there, remaining till 1795, when, finding his congregation decreasing and the lease of the chapel having expired, he resigned the pastorate and spent the remainder of his life at Islington. In 1791 and 1792 he wrote two treatises on the Welsh tradition concerning the discovery of America, which by the interest they aroused may have stimulated Southey to write his poem ‘Madoc.’ Williams died on 15 April 1798 at his house in Canonbury Row, Islington.

Besides the ‘Concordance’ and several sermons, Williams, who had received the degree of LL.D., was the author of: 1. ‘A Free Enquiry into the Authenticity of the First and Second Chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel,’ London, 1771, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1789. The ‘Enquiry’ drew forth several replies, including one by Charles Bulkley [q. v.], and another by William Magee [q. v.] in the second volume of his ‘Discourses on the Scriptural Doctrine of the Atonement,’ 1801. 2. ‘An Address to the Opposers of the Protestant Dissenting Ministers' Application for Relief in the Matter of Subscription,’ London, 1772, 8vo. 3. ‘Thoughts on the Origin and on the most Rational and Natural Method of Teaching the Languages,’ London, 1783, 8vo. 4. ‘An Enquiry into the Truth of the Tradition concerning the Discovery of America by Prince Madog ab Owen Gwynedd,’ London, 1791, 8vo. 5. ‘Further Observations on the Discovery of America by Prince Madog, with an Account of a Welsh Tribe of Indians,’ London, 1792, 8vo. 6. ‘Clerical Reform, or England's Salvation,’ London, 1792, 4to. 7. ‘Remarks on Dr. W. Bell's Arguments for the Authenticity of the two First Chapters of Matthew and Luke,’ London, 1796, 8vo.

[Cambrian Register, iii. 190; Williams's Eminent Welshmen, 1852; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Gent. Mag. 1798, i. 540; Winsor's Hist. of America, i. 210.]

E. I. C.