Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mason, John (1706-1763)

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MASON, JOHN (1706–1763), nonconformist divine and author, born at Dunmow, Essex, early in 1706, was son of John Mason (d. 1723), independent minister at Dunmow, and subsequently at Spaldwick, Huntingdonshire. His grandfather was John Mason (1646?–1694) [q. v.] He began his training for the ministry under John Jennings [see under Jennings, David], but he was only seventeen when Jennings died, and probably completed his studies in London. His first employment was as tutor and chaplain in the family of Governor Feaks, near Hatfield, Hertfordshire. In 1729 he became minister of the presbyterian congregation at Dorking, Surrey. Thence he removed in July 1746 to succeed John Oakes as minister of a congregation at Carbuckle Street (or Crossbrook), Cheshunt, formed by a union in 1733 of presbyterians and independents. He had previously attracted attention by his ‘Plea for Christianity,’ 1743, and his ‘Treatise on Self-Knowledge,’ 1745. In consideration of the merits of the former of these works he is said to have received, at the suggestion of John Walker, D.D., classical tutor at Homerton, the diploma of M.A. from Edinburgh University. His name does not appear in the list of graduates, but the degree may have been conferred between April 1746 and December 1749, a period during which the names are not recorded.

Mason also undertook the training of students for the ministry. Selections from his tutorial lectures were published in the ‘Protestant Dissenter's Magazine,’ 1794–6. They begin September 1794, p. 190, under the heading ‘Lectiones Polemicæ. By the late Rev. John Mason, A.M., of Cheshunt.’ He was a man of high literary culture and excellent taste. His theological positions were for the most part conservative; he stated them with much moderation of tone, and defended them with candour and discrimination. He thought himself entitled to claim the merit of originating the theory of Christ's temptation put forth in 1761 by Hugh Farmer [q. v.] Farmer's principles, however, were widely different from those of Mason, who retained the belief in the reality of miracles performed by Satanic agency which Farmer controverted.

Mason died at Cheshunt on 10 Feb. 1763, and was buried in the parish churchyard. His funeral sermon was preached on 20 Feb. by John Hodge, D.D., presbyterian minister at Crosby Square, London. His niece married Peter Good, congregationalist minister, and was mother of John Mason Good [q. v.]

He published, besides separate sermons, 1740–56: 1. ‘A Plain and Modest Plea for Christianity,’ &c., 1743, 8vo (anon., effectively directed especially against ‘Christianity not founded on Argument,’ 1742, by Henry Dodwell the younger [q. v.]) 2. ‘Self-Knowledge: a Treatise,’ &c., 1745, 8vo; six editions before 1763; later editions (including the fourteenth, in the ‘Unitarian Society Tracts,’ 1791, 12mo) are often untrustworthy; the edition of 1811, 8vo, edited by J. M. Good, with ‘Life,’ is correct, and has usually been followed since. It has been translated into Welsh, ‘Hunan-Adnabyddiaeth,’ Carmarthen, 1771, 8vo; [1862] 12mo. 3. ‘An Essay on Elocution,’ &c., 1748, 8vo; two editions same year; 3rd edit. 1751, 8vo; 4th edit. 1761, 8vo. 4. ‘An Essay on the Power of Numbers and the Principles of Harmony in Poetical Composition,’ &c., 1749, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1761, 8vo. 5. ‘An Essay on the Power and Harmony of Prosaic Numbers,’ &c., 1749, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1761, 8vo. 6. ‘The Lord's Day Evening Entertainment,’ 1752, 4 vols. 8vo (fifty-two practical discourses). 7. ‘A Letter to a Friend on his Entrance on the Ministerial Office,’ &c., 1753, 8vo. 8. ‘The Student and Pastor,’ &c., 1755, 12mo; 2nd edit. [1760], 8vo. 9. ‘Fifteen Discourses, Devotional and Practical,’ &c., 1758, 8vo. 10. ‘Christian Morals,’ &c., 1761, 2 vols. 8vo. Posthumous was 11. ‘The Tears of the Dying annihilated by the Hope of Heaven, a Dialogue, &c., 1826, 12mo, ed., with ‘Memoir,’ by John Evans (1767–1827) [q. v.] Sermons by Mason are in ‘The Protestant System,’ 1758, 8vo, vol. ii.; in ‘The Practical Preacher,’ 1762, 8vo, vol. ii.; and in ‘Sermons for Families,’ 1808, 8vo, ed. James Hews Bransby [q. v.] Mason edited ‘Sermons to Young People,’ 1747, 32mo, by John Oakes, his predecessor.

[Funeral Sermon, by Hodge, 1763; Life, by J. M. Good, 1811; Memoir, by Evans, 1826; Bogue and Bennett's Hist. of Dissenters, 1833, ii. 588 sq.; Davids's Evangelical Nonconformity in Essex, 1863, p. 385; Waddington's Surrey Congr. Hist. 1866, p. 195; James's Hist. Litig. Presb. Chapels, 1867, pp. 662, 680, 689; Urwick's Nonconf. in Herts, 1884, pp. 513 sq.]

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