Wright, Samuel (DNB00)

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WRIGHT, SAMUEL (1683–1746), dissenting divine, eldest son of James Wright, was born at Retford, Nottinghamshire, on 30 Jan. 1682–3. His grandfather, John Wright (d. 1 Feb. 1684–5), was educated at Trinity College, Dublin (admitted on 22 Nov. 1636, but did not graduate); was ordained by presbyterians (13 Aug. 1645) to the chapelry of Billinge, parish of Wigan, Lancashire; was nominated (2 Oct. 1646) a member of the fourth presbyterian classis of Lancashire; was ejected at the Restoration, and from 1672 preached at Prescot. His father, James Wright (d. 1694), was educated at Lincoln College, Oxford (B.A. 1669), and Magdalene College, Cambridge (M.A. in December 1673), but became nonconformist through the influence of William Cotton, a wealthy ironmaster of Wortley, near Sheffield, whose daughter Elinor (d. 1695) he married. He preached at Attercliffe and Retford as a nonconformist.

Left early an orphan, Wright was brought up in his mother's family, who sent him to boarding schools at Attercliffe, near Sheffield, and Darton, near Wakefield. In 1699 he entered the nonconformist academy of Timothy Jollie [q. v.] at Attercliffe. Leaving in 1704, he became chaplain at Haigh, Lancashire, to his uncle, Cotton, on whose death he repaired to another uncle, Thomas Cotton (1653–1730), presbyterian minister at Dyott Street, Bloomsbury. For a short time he was chaplain to ‘the Lady Susannah Lort’ at Turnham Green, preaching also the Sunday evening lecture at Dyott Street. In 1705 he was chosen assistant to Benjamin Grosvenor [q. v.] at Crosby Square, and undertook in addition (1706) a Sunday evening lecture at St. Thomas's Chapel, Southwark, in conjunction with Harman Hood. On the death (25 Jan. 1708) of Matthew Sylvester [q. v.], he accepted the charge of ‘a handful of people’ at Meeting House Court, Knightrider Street, and was ordained on 15 April; his ‘confession of faith’ is appended to ‘The Ministerial Office’ (1708, 8vo), by Daniel Williams [q. v.] His ministry was very successful; the meeting-house was twice enlarged, and had the honour of being wrecked by the Sacheverell mob in 1710. He was elected a Sunday lecturer at Little St. Helen's. His Calvinistic orthodoxy was unimpeachable, but, probably influenced by Grosvenor, he took (1719) the side of non-subscription at the Salters' Hall conference [see Bradbury, Thomas]. He contributed also to the ‘Occasional Papers’ (1716–19) [see Avery, Benjamin], the organ of whig dissent. His popularity suffered no diminution. He was chosen (1724) one of the Salters' Hall lecturers, and elected (1724) a trustee of Dr. Williams's foundations. On 1 May 1729 the diploma of D.D. was granted to him by Edinburgh University. In 1732–3 he had a sermon debate with Thomas Mole (d. 1780) on the foundation of virtue, which Wright could trace no higher than to the divine will. A new meeting-house was built for him in Carter Lane, Doctors' Commons (opened 7 Dec. 1734; removed in 1860). Among protestant dissenters he ranked as a presbyterian; his will explains his separation from ‘the common parochial worship’ as an act of service to ‘catholic christianity.’ His delivery was striking; it is said that Thomas Herring [q. v.] (afterwards archbishop of Canterbury) often attended his services, as samples of effective utterance (Protestant Dissenter's Magazine, 1798, p. 325). His communion services were remarkable for their fervour, and he was a sedulous pastor. Hughes admits a ‘particular turn of temper’ which was not always agreeable. The satiric verses (1735?) describing London dissenting divines open with the lines:

    Behold how papal Wright with lordly pride
    Directs his haughty eye to either side,
    Gives forth his doctrine with imperious nod,
    And fraught with pride addresses e'en his God

(Protestant Dissenter's Magazine, 1798, p. 314; Notes and Queries, 11 May 1850, p. 454; Christian Life, 16 Sept. 1899, p. 439). John Fox (1693–1763) [q. v.] says he ‘bore the character of a man of sense and a polite preacher, and one who put a proper value on his abilities’ (Monthly Repository, 1821, p. 193). Doddridge credits him as a sermon writer with ‘great simplicity and awful solemnity’ (Works, 1804, v. 432). Thomas Newman (1692–1758) [q. v.] was his assistant and successor. After long illness, he died on 3 April 1746, and was buried in the south aisle of Stoke Newington church, where is a Latin inscription (by Hughes) to his memory. Funeral sermons were preached by his brother-in-law, Obadiah Hughes [q. v.], and John Milner of Peckham. His portrait, in Dr. Williams's Library (engraving in Wilson), is one of the few portraits of dissenting divines vested in the Scottish doctor's gown. He married (1710) the widow of Sylvester, his predecessor, daughter of George Hughes [see under Hughes, Obadiah], and had issue one daughter.

Hughes gives a list (revised by Wilson) of forty-three publications by Wright (nearly all sermons), adding that he published several anonymous pieces. The most notable are: 1. ‘A Little Treatise of being Born Again … Four Sermons,’ 1715, 12mo; 17th edit. 1761, 16mo. 2. ‘A Treatise on the Deceitfulness of Sin,’ 1726, 8vo. 3. ‘Human Virtues,’ 1730, 8vo. 4. ‘Charity in all its Branches,’ 1731, 8vo. 5. ‘The Great Concern of Human Life,’ 1732, 8vo; 3rd edit. 1733, 8vo. He was one of the continuators of the unfinished commentary of Matthew Henry [q. v.], his part being St. James's Epistle.

[Funeral sermons by Hughes and by Milner (unimportant); Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 408; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, ii. 564; Calamy's Own Life, 1830, ii. 483; Life, by J[oshua] T[oulmin], in Protestant Dissenter's Magazine, 1798, p. 321; Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, 1802 ii. 353; Wilson's Dissenting Churches in London, 1808 i. 352, ii. 139, 1814 iv. 358, 377; Hoppus's Memoir, prefixed to reprint of Carter Lane sermon, 1825; Catalogue of Edinburgh Graduates, 1858, p. 240; Miall's Congregationalism in Yorkshire, 1868, p. 348; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, p. 125; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714.]

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