Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bradbury, Thomas

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587261Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06 — Bradbury, Thomas1886Alexander Gordon

BRADBURY, THOMAS (1677–1759), congregational minister, born in Yorkshire, was educated for the congregational ministry in an academy at Attercliffe. Of Bradbury as a student we have a glimpse (25 March 1695) in the diary of Oliver Heywood, who gave him books. He preached his first sermon on 14 June 1696, and went to reside as assistant and domestic tutor with Thomas Whitaker, minister of the independent congregation, Call Lane, Leeds. Bradbury speaks of Whitaker's ‘noble latitude,’ and commends him as being orthodox in opinion, yet no slave to ‘the jingle of a party’ (‘The Faithful Minister's Farewell, two sermons [Acts xx. 32] on the death of Mr. T. Whitaker,’ 1712, 8vo). From Leeds, in 1697, Bradbury went to Beverley, as a supply; and in 1699 to Newcastle-on-Tyne, first assisting Richard Gilpin, M.D. (ejected from Greystock, Cumberland), afterwards Bennet, Gilpin's successor, both presbyterians. It seems that Bradbury expected a co-pastorate, and judging from Turner's account (Mon. Repos. 1811, p. 514) of a manuscript ‘Speech delivered at Madam Partis' in the year 1706, by Mr. Thos. Bradbury,’ his after influence was not without its effect in causing a split in the congregation. It is significant that Bennet's ‘Irenicum,’ 1722, did more than any other publication to stay the divisive effects of Bradbury's action at Salters' Hall. Bradbury went to London in 1703 as assistant to Galpine, in the independent congregation at Stepney. On 18 Sept. 1704 he was invited to become colleague with Samuel Wright at Great Yarmouth, but declined. After the death of Benoni Rowe, Bradbury was appointed (16 March 1707) pastor of the independent congregation in New Street, by Fetter Lane. He was ordained 10 July 1707 by ministers of different denominations; his confession of faith on the occasion (which reached a fifth edition in 1729) is remarkable for its uncompromising Calvinism, but is expressed entirely in words of scripture. His brother Peter became his assistant. Bradbury took part in the various weekly dissenting lectureships, delivering a famous series at the Weighhouse on the duty of singing (1708, 8vo), and a sermon before the Societies for Reformation of Morals (1708, 8vo). His political sermons attracted much attention, from the freedom of their style and the quaintness of their titles. Among them were ‘The Son of Tabeal [Is. vii. 5–7] on occasion of the French invasion in favour of the Pretender,’ 1708, 8vo (four editions); ‘The Divine Right of the Revolution’ [1 Chron. xii. 23], 1709, 8vo; ‘Theocracy; the Government of the Judges applied to the Revolution’ [Jud. ii. 18], 1712, 8vo; ‘Steadiness in Religion … the example of Daniel under the Decree of Darius,’ 1712, 8vo; ‘The Ass or the Serpent; Issachar and Dan compared in their regard for civil liberty’ [Gen. xlix. 14–18], 1712, 8vo (a 5th of November sermon, it was reprinted at Boston, U.S., in 1768); ‘The Lawfulness of resisting Tyrants, &c.’ [1 Chron. xii. 16–18], 1714, 8vo (5 Nov. 1713, four editions); Eἰκὼν Bασιλικὴ; a sermon [Hos. vii. 7] preached 29 May, with Appendix of papers relating to the Restoration, 1660, and the present settlement,’ 1715, 8vo; ‘Non-resistance without Priestcraft’ [Rom. xiii. 2], 1715, 8vo (5 Nov.); ‘The Establishment of the Kingdom in the hand of Solomon, applied to the Revolution and the Reign of King George’ [1 K. ii. 46], 1716, 8vo (5 Nov.); ‘The Divine Right of Kings inquired into’ [Prov. viii. 15], 1718, 8vo; ‘The Primitive Tories; or … Persecution, Rebellion, and Priestcraft’ [Jude 11], 1718, 8vo (four editions). Bradbury boasted of being the first to proclaim George I, which he did on Sunday, 1 Aug. 1714, being apprised, while in his pulpit, of the death of Anne by the concerted signal of a handkerchief. The report was current that he preached from 2 K. ix. 34, ‘Go, see now this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king's daughter;’ but perhaps he only quoted the text in conversation. Another story is to the effect that when, on 24 Sept., the dissenting ministers went in their black gowns with an address to the new king, a courtier asked, ‘Pray, sir, is this a funeral?’ On which Bradbury replied, ‘Yes, sir, it is the funeral of the Schism Act, and the resurrection of liberty.’ Robert Winter, D.D., Bradbury's descendant, is responsible for the statement that there had been a plot to assassinate him, and that the spy who was sent to Fetter Lane was converted by Bradbury's preaching. On the other hand it is said that Harley had offered to stop his mouth with a bishopric. Bradbury's political harangues were sometimes too violent for men of his own party. Defoe wrote ‘A Friendly Epistle by way of reproof from one of the people called Quakers, to T. B., a dealer in many words,’ 1715, 8vo (two editions in same year). With the reference of the Exeter controversy to the judgment of the dissenting ministers of London, a large part of Bradbury's vehemence passed from the sphere of politics to that of theology. The origin of the dispute belongs to the life of James Peirce (1674–1726), the leader of dissent against Wells and Nicholls. Peirce, the minister of James's Meeting, Exeter, was accused, along with others, of favouring Arianism. The Western Assembly was disposed to salve the matter over by admitting the orthodoxy of the declarations of faith made by the parties in September 1718. But the body of thirteen trustees who held the property of the four Exeter meeting-houses appealed to London for further advice. After much negotiation the whole body of London dissenting ministers of the three denominations was convened at Salters' Hall to consider a draft letter of advice to Exeter. Bradbury put himself in the front of the conservative party; the real mover on the opposite side was the whig politician John Shute Barrington, viscount Barrington, a member of Bradbury's congregation, and afterwards the Papinian of Lardner's letter on the Logos. The conference met on Thursday, 19 Feb. 1719 (the day after the royal assent to the repeal of the Schism Act), when Bradbury proposed that, after days of fasting and prayer, a deputation should be sent to Exeter to offer advice on the spot; this was negatived. At the second meeting, Tuesday, 24 Feb., Bradbury moved a preamble to the letter of advice, embodying a declaration of the orthodoxy of the conference, in words taken from the Assembly's catechism. This was rejected by fifty-seven to fifty-three. Sir Joseph Jekyll, master of the rolls, who witnessed the scene, is author of the often-quoted saying, ‘The Bible carried it by four.’ At the third meeting, 3 March, the proposition was renewed, but the moderator, Joshua Oldfield, would not take a second vote. Over sixty ministers went up into the gallery and subscribed a declaration of adherence to the first Anglican article, and the fifth and sixth answers of the Assembly's catechism. They then left the place amid hisses, Bradbury characteristically exclaiming, ‘'Tis the voice of the serpent, and may be expected against a zeal for the seed of the woman.’ Thus perished the good accord of English dissent. Principal Chalmers, of King's College, Old Aberdeen, who was present at the third meeting, and in strong sympathy with Bradbury's side, reported to Calamy that ‘he never saw nor heard of such strange conduct and management before.’ The nonsubscribing majority, to the number of seventy-three, met again at Salters' Hall on 10 March, and agreed upon their advice, which was sent to Exeter on 17 March. Bradbury and his subscribers (61, 63, or 69) met separately on 9 March, and sent off their advice on 7 April. The remarkable thing is that the two advices (bating the preamble) are in substance and almost in terms identical; and the letter accompanying the nonsubscribers' advice not only disowns Arianism, but declares their ‘sincere belief in the doctrine of the blessed Trinity and the proper divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they apprehend to be clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures.’ Both advices preach peace and charity, while owning the duty of congregations to withdraw from ministers who teach what they deem to be serious error. Neither was in time to do good or harm, for the Exeter trustees had taken the matter into their own hands by formally excluding Peirce and his colleague from all the meeting-houses. Bradbury had his share in the ensuing pamphlet war, which was political as well as religious, for a schism in dissent was deprecated as inimical to the whig interest. He printed ‘An Answer to some Reproaches cast on those Dissenting Ministers who subscribed, &c.,’ 1719, 8vo; a sermon on ‘The Necessity of contending for Revealed Religion’ [Jude 3], 1720, 8vo (appended is a letter from Cotton Mather on the late disputes); and ‘A Letter to John Barrington Shute, Esq.,’ 1720, 8vo. Barrington left Bradbury's congregation, and joined that of Jeremiah Hunt, D.D., independent minister and nonsubscriber, at Pinners' Hall. Bradbury was brought to book by ‘a Dissenting Layman’ in ‘Christian Liberty asserted, in opposition to Protestant Popery,’ 1719, 8vo, a letter addressed to him by name, and answered by ‘a Gentleman of Exon,’ in ‘A Modest Apology for Mr. T. Bradbury,’ 1719, 8vo. But most of the pamphleteers passed him by as ‘an angry man, that makes some bustle among you’ (Letter of Advice to the Prot. Diss., 1720, 8vo) to aim at William Tong, Benjamin Robinson, Jeremiah Smith, and Thomas Reynolds, four presbyterian ministers who had issued a whip for the Salters' Hall conference in the subscribing interest, and who subsequently published a joint defence of the doctrine of the Trinity. In 1720 an attempt was made to oust Bradbury from the Pinners' Hall lectureship; in the same year he started an anti-Arian Wednesday lecture at Fetter Lane. This did not mend matters. There appeared ‘An Appeal to the Dissenting Ministers, occasioned by the Behaviour of Mr. Thomas Bradbury,’ 1722, 8vo; and Thomas Morgan (the ‘Moral Philosopher,’ 1737), who had made an unusually orthodox confession at his ordination [see Bowden, John] in 1716, but was now on his way to ‘Christian deism,’ wrote his ‘Absurdity of opposing Faith to Reason’ in reply to Bradbury's 5th of November sermon, 1722, on ‘The Nature of Faith.’ He had previously attacked Bradbury in a postscript to his ‘Nature and Consequences of Enthusiasm,’ 1719, 8vo. Returning to a former topic, Bradbury published in 1724, 8vo, ‘The Power of Christ over Plagues and Health,’ prefixing an account of the anti-Arian lectureship. He published also ‘The Mystery of Godliness considered,’ 1726, 8vo, 2 vols. (sixty-one sermons, reprinted Edin. 1795). In 1728 his position at Fetter Lane became uncomfortable; he left, taking with him his brother Peter, now his colleague, and most of his flock. The presbyterian meeting-house in New Court, Carey Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, was vacant through the removal of James Wood (a subscriber) to the Weighhouse in 1727; Bradbury was asked, 20 Oct. 1728, to New Court, and accepted on condition that the congregation would take in the Fetter Lane seceders and join the independents. This arrangement, which has helped to create the false impression that at Salters' Hall the presbyterians and independents took opposite sides as denominations, was made 27 Nov. 1728, Peter continuing as his brother's colleague (he probably died about 1730, as Jacob Fowler succeeded him in 1731). Bradbury now published ‘Jesus Christ the Brightness of Glory,’ 1729, 8vo (four sermons on Heb. i. 3); and a tract ‘On the Repeal of the Test Acts,’ 1732, 8vo. His last publication seems to have been ‘Joy in Heaven and Justice on Earth,’ 1747, 8vo (two sermons), unless his discourses on baptism, whence Caleb Fleming drew ‘The Character of the Rev. Tho. Bradbury, taken from his own pen,’ 1749, 8vo, are later. Doubtless he was a most effective as well as a most unconventional preacher; the lampoon (about 1730) in the Blackmore papers may be accepted as evidence of his ‘melodious’ voice, his ‘head uplifted,’ and his ‘dancing hands.’ The stout Yorkshireman reached a great age. He died on Sunday, 9 Sept. 1759, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. His wife's name was Richmond; he left two daughters, one married (1744) to John Winter, brother to Richard Winter, who succeeded Bradbury, and father to Robert Winter, D.D., who succeeded Richard; the other daughter married (1768) George Welch, a banker. Besides the publications noticed above, Bradbury printed several funeral and other sermons, including two on the death of Robert Bragge (died 1738; ‘eternal Bragge’ of Lime Street, who preached for four months on Joseph's coat). His ‘Works,’ 1762, 8vo, 3 vols. (second edition 1772), consist of fifty-four sermons, mainly political.

[Memoir by John Brown, Berwick, 1831; Palmer's Nonconf. Memorial, 1802, ii. 367, and index; Thompson's MS. List of Academies (with Toulmin's and Kentish's additions) in Dr. Williams's Library; Hunter's Life of O. Heywood, 1842, p. 385; Christian Reformer, 1847, p. 399; Bogue and Bennet's Hist. of Dissenters, vol. iii. 1810, pp. 489 seq.; Mon. Repos. 1811, pp. 514, 722; Browne's Hist. of Congregationalism in Norf. and Suff., 1877, p. 242; James's Hist. Presb. Chapels and Charities, 1867, pp. 23 seq., 111 seq., 690, 705 seq.; Calamy's Hist. Account of my own Life, 2nd ed. 1830, ii. 403 sq.; Salmon's Chronol. Historian, 2nd ed. 1733, pp. 406–7; Chr. Moderator, 1826, pp. 193 seq.; Pamphlets of 1719 on the Salters' Hall Conference, esp. A True Relation, &c. (the subscribers' account), An Authentick Account, &c. (nonsubscribers'), An Impartial State, &c. (these give the main facts; the argumentative tracts are legion); Blackmore Papers in possession of R. D. Darbishire, Manchester (the verses on the London ministers are given in Notes and Queries, 1st ser. i. 454, by A. B. R., i.e. Robert Brook Aspland).]

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