Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Meriton, John

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1407517Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 37 — Meriton, John1894Bertha Porter

MERITON, JOHN (1636–1704), divine, was the son of Richard Meriton of Northallerton in Yorkshire, and was born in 1636. He was educated first at a private school at Danby Wiske, and was admitted sizar of St. John's College, Cambridge, on 18 Oct. 1652, but at that time took no degree. On 9 Jan. 1655–6 he was presented, on the recommendation of Oliver Cromwell, lord protector, to the rectory of St. Nicholas Acons, London (Lambeth MS. 996, fol. 456). On 14 July 1657 he was incorporated M.A. in the university of Oxford, and became an upholder of the presbyterian form of church government. He was made Sunday lecturer of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields shortly before the Restoration. On 26 Sept. 1660 he was created M.A. of Cambridge by royal mandate, and D.D. in 1669. He signed the ‘Humble and Grateful Acknowledgements of many Ministers in and about London’ to the king for his concessions expressed in his declaration concerning ecclesiastical affairs in November 1660. On 18 July he was reinstituted to his rectory of St. Nicholas Acons, which he resigned before 1664. The church was burnt in 1666 and not rebuilt. Before the Act of Uniformity came into operation he opposed it strongly, but later on he himself conformed and retained his living. He was appointed to the rectory of St. Michael's, Cornhill, on 28 March 1663, which he held till his death. He was rector of St. Mary Bothaw from 25 June 1666 till 1669; the church was destroyed in the great fire in the former year, and the parish was in 1669 annexed to that of St. Swithin's, London Stone. He was also lecturer of St. Mary-at-Hill from 1661 to 1683. Wood (Athenæ, vol. iv. col. 722) speaks of him as having been deprived of the lectureship of St. Olave's, Southwark, ‘for fanaticism,’ but an inspection of the ‘Vestry Minutes’ of the parish shows that the lecturer removed in October 1683 was a Thomas Meriton appointed on 24 Sept. 1662.

Meriton was one of the London rectors who remained at his post during the great plague year of 1665, and later on, after the fire of 1666, was very energetic in the arrangements for uniting, rebuilding, and endowing the city churches. Two letters of his to Sancroft on the subject, dated 1670, are in the Bodleian Library (Tanner MSS. xliv. ff. 239, 242). Meriton appears to have been a popular preacher. Pepys (Diary, 1849, iii. 333, iv. 45), though he speaks of him as ‘the old dunce Meriton,’ and ‘my old acquaintance, that dull fellow,’ went to hear him (11 Nov. 1666 and 19 May 1667), and pronounced that he ‘made a good sermon, and hath a strange knack of a grave, serious delivery, which is very agreeable.’ Calamy (Own Life, ii. 89) was in the habit of hearing him in 1689 when the dissenting meetings were closed, and of sending his father accounts of the sermons.

Meriton died in December 1704, and was buried in the chancel of St. Michael's, Cornhill, on the 11th. His wife Elizabeth predeceased him in December 1680, and a son Thomas in June 1678. The registers of St. Michael's record the baptisms of a daughter Elizabeth on 6 Dec. 1664, and of a son Rowland on 18 Oct. 1674, and the marriages of three daughters and of the son Rowland. The last named, dying in December 1743, was buried at St. Michael's, Cornhill.

He published: 1. ‘Curse not the King,’ anniversary sermon on the day of humiliation for the ‘horrid murder’ of Charles I, London, 1660. 2. ‘Of Christ's Humiliation,’ sermon printed in ‘Morning Exercises,’ London, 1660 (new ed. 1844, vol. v.); an outline is given in Dunn's ‘Divines,’ pp. 210–211. 3. ‘Religio Militis,’ London, 1672. In Wood's ‘Fasti’ (Bliss), on the authority of Grey, it is stated that he published ‘Forms of Prayer for every Day in the Week, for the Use of Families.’

He must not be confused with two contemporaries—an uncle and nephew—of the same name. John Meriton (b. 1629), the uncle, son of the Rev. Henry Meriton of Stilton, Huntingdon, graduated B.A. at Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1648, and M.A. in 1652; became vicar of St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, and chaplain to Henry, earl of Arlington, lord chamberlain, and published: 1. ‘The Obligation of a Good Conscience to Civil Obedience,’ London, 1670. 2. ‘Sermon before the King at Whitehall,’ London, 1677.

The third John Meriton (1662–1717), the nephew of the former, was son of Henry Meriton, rector of Oxburgh in Norfolk (1647–1707) and of Boughton in the same county (1677–83), was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; became rector of Boughton in 1687, of Caldecote in 1688, and of Oxburgh (on the death of his father) in 1707. He died in 1717. With his father he entered into controversy with the quakers, and took part in a conference between them and some clergymen of the church of England, on 8 Dec. 1698 in West Dereham Church in Norfolk. He published ‘An Antidote against the Venom of Quakerism,’ London, 1699. Smith (Bibl. Anti-Quakeriana, pp. 66–9) gives a list of the pamphlets called forth by the controversy. In the Bodleian Library (Tanner MS. 22 f. 5) is a letter from him to Dr. Humphrey Prideaux [q. v.] at Norwich (dated from Westminster 18 March 1698–9) respecting a petition against the quakers, which it was in contemplation to present.

[Mayor's Reg. of Admissions to St. John's Coll. Cambr. p. 108; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), vol. ii. col. 206; Dunn's Divines, p. 210; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 448, 483, 505; Sylvester's Reliq. Baxt. bk. i. pp. 284–5; Kennett's Reg. p. 513; Registers of St. Michael's, Cornhill (Harl. Soc.), pp. 42, 44, 53, 144, 148, 263, 265, 278, 296; Blomefield's Norfolk, vi. 60, 185, 193, 194, vii. 302; Admission Registers of Gonville and Caius College per the Master, and of Magdalene Coll. Cambr. per F. Pattrick, esq.; Cambr. Univ. Reg. per J. W. Clark, esq.]

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