Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Payne, William (1650-1696)

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PAYNE, WILLIAM, D.D. (1650–1696), controversialist, was born at Hutton, Essex, in 1650. He was educated at the free school of Brentwood, Essex, and proceeded to Magdalene College, Cambridge, in May 1665. He obtained a fellowship there on 6 July 1671, and retained it till 1675, when he married Elisabeth, daughter of John Squire, vicar of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, London. He was in the same year presented to the livings of Frinstead and Wormshill in Kent, and settled at the latter place. In June 1681 he received the rectory of Whitechapel, and speedily won a reputation among the London clergy as a preacher. On 29 June 1682 he was chosen to preach before the first annual feast instituted at Brentwood school. He took an active part in the agitation aroused by the ‘popish plot,’ in the course of which he wrote many anti-catholic tracts. Of these the best known are: ‘A Discourse of the Adoration of the Host’ (1685); ‘A Discourse of the Communion in one Kind, in answer to a Treatise of the Bishop of Meaux’ (1687); ‘The Sixth Note of the Church examined, viz. Agreement in Doctrine with the Primitive Church’ (1688); and ‘The Texts examined which the Papists cite out of the Bible concerning the Celibacy of Priests and Vows of Continence’ (1688). All these tracts went through several editions, and were collected in Edmund Gibson's ‘Preservative against Popery’ (1738).

After the accession of William and Mary to the throne in 1689, Payne, who in this year took the degree of D.D. at Cambridge, was appointed to the lectureship of the Poultry Church in the city of London, and received the post of chaplain-in-ordinary to their majesties. He strongly supported the comprehension scheme, brought forward in 1689 for facilitating the inclusion of protestant dissenters in the established church. The proposal was opposed, among others, by Thomas Long [q. v.], whose pamphlet on the subject, entitled ‘Vox Cleri,’ was answered by Payne in an ‘Answer to Vox Cleri’ (1690). Being subsequently denounced by the nonjurors for his latitudinarian views, Payne in 1691 published a defence of his position, entitled 'An Answer to a printed Letter to Dr. William Payne, concerning Non-resistance and other Reasons for not taking the Oath.' In 1693 Dr. Payne was appointed, by a commission under the great seal, 'visitor-royal' over certain London churches, popularly called 'lawless churches,' because they were exempt from visitation by the bishop, and were subject solely to the king. The appointment, however, caused resentment at Doctors' Commons, and in 1694 he resigned it. During the last two years of his life Payne preached a series of sermons on behalf of Sherlock, who was engaged in defending the dogma of the Trinity against South. These sermons were published in 1696 under the title of 'The Mystery of the Christian Faith and oft-blessed Trinity vindicated.' Payne was engaged on a larger work on this subject when he died, on 20 Feb. 1696. Besides the tracts mentioned, Payne was author of: 1. ‘Family Religion’ (1691). 2. ‘A Discourse of Repentance’ (1693). 3. ‘Discourses upon several Practical Subjects,’ published in 1698 from his manuscript sermons by his friend and executor, Joseph Powell.

Payne's son, Squier Payne, fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge (B.A. 1694, and M.A. 1698), was son-in-law and biographer of Richard Cumberland [q. v.], bishop of Peterborough, and being made archdeacon of Stow, in the diocese of Lincoln, in 1730, held that office till 1751.

[Preface to Payne's posthumous Discourses, 1698; archives of Magdalene College, Cambridge, communicated by A. G. Peskett; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. v. 271-6; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. P. M-y.