Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brocklesby, Richard (1636-1714)

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BROCKLESBY, RICHARD (1636–1714), non-abjuring clergyman, was born at Tealby, near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, in 1636. His father was George Brocklesby, gentleman. He was educated at the neighbouring grammar school of Caistor, and as a sizar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1657 and M.A. in 1660. Some time between 1662 and 1674 he was instituted to the rectory of Folkingham, Lincolnshire. In the appendix to Kettlewell's Life, 1718, p. xxj, he is recorded as 'Mr. Brokesby, Rector of Folkinton.' No sympathy with the Jacobite party is to be inferred from his declining to abjure. Brocklesby retired to Stamford, and employed his leisure in composing an opus magnum, entitled 'An Explication of the Gospel Theism and the Divinity of the Christian Religion. Containing the True Account of the System of the Universe, and of the Christian Trinity. … By Richard Brocklesby, a Christian Trinitarian,' 1706, fol., pp. 1065. The preface truly says it is 'a book of many and great singularities;' it is crammed with reading from sages, fathers, schoolmen, travellers, and poets ; it bristles with odd terminology of the writer's special coinage. Brocklesby denies the eternal generation of the Son, and even his pre-existence ; yet asserts his consubstantiality as God-man begotten of God, 'an humane-divine person' (see especially bk. vi., 'The Idea of the Lord the Son'). He places the abode of Christ in heaven, from his coming of age to his public mission (p. 1019 sq.), though he calls the kindred notion of Socinus 'wild and pedantic.' The only Socinian writers whom he directly quotes are Enyedi, Krell, and the English 'Unitarian Tracts.' Nor does he know Servetus (p. 158) at first hand. Acontius (pp. 819, 821) he greatly values. Spinoza (p. 785) he cites with modified approval. John Maxwell, prebendary of Connor, issued in 1727, 4to, an English version ('A Treatise of the Laws of Nature') of Bishop Richard Cumberland's 'De Legibus Naturæ,' 1672, 4to. Out of Brocklesby's book, as he owns on his title-page, Maxwell carved two introductory essays and a supplementary dissertation. He simplifies Brocklesby's style, omits his theology, and adds some new matter from other sources. Brocklesby died at Stamford in 1714 (probably in February), and was buried at Folkingham. His will (dated 3 Aug. 1713, codicils 30 Jan. and 7 Feb. 1714, proved 13 Aug. 1714) was to have been included in the second volume of Peck's 'Desiderata Curiosa,' 1735, but was left over to a third volume, which never appeared. Out of considerable landed property in Lincolnshire and Huntingdonshire, a house at Stamford, &c., Brocklesby founded schools at Folkingham and Kirkby-on-Bain, Lincolnshire, and Pidley, Huntingdonshire, to teach poor children their catechism and to read the Bible. The charitable bequests are very numerous, and some rather singular. A complicated scheme for the distribution of bibles in five counties was to come into effect 'if the propagation of the gospel in the Eastern parts totally faileth, or doth not considerably succeed and prosper.' A sum of 150l. is left towards rebuilding the parish church of Wilsthorpe,Lincolnshire ; 150l. each for the benefit of the communities of French and Dutch refugees ; and 10l. each to eight presbyterian ministers. A bequest of 10l. to the celebrated Whiston was revoked by the first codicil. Brocklesby left two libraries. That at Stamford was sold by auction; the catalogue, Stamford, 1714, 4to, contains the titles of many rare volumes of the Socinian school. His library in London was left to be disposed of at the discretion of John Heptinstall, his printer, and William Turner, schoolmaster of Stamford.

[Books of Sidney Sussex Coll., per R. Phelps, D.D., master; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, p. 602; Palmer's Nonconformist Memorial, 1802, ii. 429; Emlyn's Works, 1746, i. vi; information from the Bishop of Nottingham, Rev. G. Carter, Folkingham, Rev.W. C. Houghton, Walcot; certified copy of Brocklesby's will, in the prerogative court of Canterbury; catalogue of Brocklesby's library at Stamford, 1714; Cole's MS. Athenæ Cantab. B. p. 176; Charity Commissioners' Reports, xxiv. 27 (26 June 1830), vol. xxxii. pt. 4, pp. 309, 619 (30 June 1837); authorities cited above.]

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