Jones, William (1726-1800) (DNB00)

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JONES, WILLIAM, of Nayland (1726–1800), divine, born at Lowick in Northamptonshire 30 July 1726, was son of Morgan Jones, a descendant of Colonel John Jones [q. v.], the regicide. The divine is said to have always kept 30 Jan. as a day of humiliation for the sins of his ancestor. His mother was the daughter of Mr. George Lettin of Lowick. He became a scholar at the Charterhouse, and on 9 July 1745 matriculated at University College, Oxford, with a Charterhouse exhibition. He there became acquainted with his lifelong friend, George Horne [q. v.], afterwards Bishop of Norwich. Both were already students of the writings of John Hutchinson [q. v.], though they were never unreservedly ‘Hutchinsonians.’ In 1749 he proceeded B.A. He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Peterborough, and in 1751 priest by the Bishop of Lincoln. His first curacy was at Finedon in Northamptonshire. In 1754 he married Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Nathaniel Bridges, and in the same year became curate to his brother-in-law, the Rev. Brook Bridges, at Wadenhoe, Northamptonshire. In 1764, Archbishop Secker, who only knew him as the author of ‘The Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity,’ presented him to the vicarage of Bethersden, and in 1765 to the more valuable rectory of Pluckley, both in Kent, ‘as some reward for his able defence of Christian orthodoxy.’ The value of the living had been exaggerated, and he was obliged to take pupils almost to the end of his life. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society 22 June 1775. After twelve years' residence at Pluckley he accepted in 1777 the perpetual curacy of Nayland in Suffolk, and exchanged Pluckley for Paston in Northamptonshire with Dr. Disney; but Nayland was his constant residence, and he has always been known as ‘Jones of Nayland.’ Horne, upon becoming Bishop of Norwich, made Jones his chaplain. About 1792 he formed a short-lived Society for the Reformation of Principles by appropriate literature. Its only results were the foundation of the ‘British Critic,’ of which, however, Jones was neither editor nor contributor, and the publication of a collection of tracts called ‘The Scholar Armed against the Errors of the Time’ (1792), which is still of use to young students of divinity. Nayland vicarage became the centre of a little circle which afterwards expanded into the high-church party of the early part of the nineteenth century. Jones was in some distress in his old age. His intimate friend and biographer William Stevens, it is said, ‘took upon him the expense of a curate for the “Old Boy” (as Jones was called), and wrote to Archbishop Moore, who allowed him 100l. a year out of his own pocket, calling it a sinecure’ (Sir James Allan Park, Memoirs of W. Stevens, 1815). Stevens in his memoir of Jones says that the archbishop presented Jones to the sinecure rectory of Hollingbourne, Kent. In 1799 Jones lost his wife, and he never recovered the blow. He died 6 Jan. 1800.

Jones of Nayland was one of the most prominent churchmen of his day. He represented the school, more numerous than is commonly supposed, which formed the link between the non-jurors and the later Oxford school. Jones's leaning to the Hutchinsonians led him into some scientific errors, but did not injure his orthodoxy. It gave him a more spiritual tone than was common in his day, and deepened his attachment to Holy Scripture. Bishop Horsley, in a charge delivered to the clergy in the year of Jones's death, speaks warmly of his penetration, learning, piety, and ‘talent of writing upon the deepest subjects to the plainest understanding.’ Jones has also an attractive vein of humour, which, though his tone is always courteous, enabled him to deal shrewd blows at the methodists, William Law, the heathen taste in church architecture, and other objects of his dislike. He was a zealous student of music and of natural science, as well as of theology.

Jones's most important writings were: 1. ‘A Full Answer to Bishop Clayton's Essay on Spirits,’ 1753 [see Clayton, Robert, 1695–1758]; he was assisted by Horne in this work, which shows Hutchinsonian tendencies. 2. ‘The Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity proved from Scripture,’ 1756; to the third edition (1767) was added ‘A Letter to the Common People in Answer to some Popular Arguments against the Trinity.’ This is praised in Newman's ‘Apologia.’ 3. ‘Essay on the First Principles of Natural Philosophy,’ 1762. 4. A larger work on a similar subject, ‘Physiological Disquisitions; or, Discourses on the Natural Philosophy of the Elements,’ 1781. Both works follow the Hutchinsonian theories. 5. ‘Remarks on “The Confessional,”’ a work by Francis Blackburne [q. v.], 1770. 6. ‘Disquisitions on some Select Subjects of Scripture,’ 1773. 7. ‘Lectures on the Figurative Language of the Scriptures,’ 1786 (new edition, 1849). 8. ‘Sermons on Moral and Religious Subjects,’ in 2 vols. 1790, including ‘Discourses on Natural History,’ delivered on Mr. Fairchild's foundation (the Royal Society appointing the preacher) at St. Leonard's Church, Shoreditch. 9. ‘The Grand Analogy; or, the Testimony of Nature and Heathen Antiquity to the Truth of a Trinity in Unity,’ propounding a singularly ingenious but perhaps rather fanciful theory, 1793. 10. ‘Life of Bishop Horne,’ his ‘dear friend and patron,’ 1795. 11. ‘The Art of Music.’ 12. ‘Ten Church Pieces for the Organ with Four Anthems in Score, for the Use of the Church of Nayland.’

His writings were collected in twelve volumes, with a short ‘Life’ of the author, by William Stevens, in 1801, and a portrait engraved by James Basire. These were afterwards (1810) compressed into six volumes, octavo. They contain forty-seven separate pieces, besides sermons.

[Jones's Works, passim; Wesley's Journal, iii. 231, 398, 439; Hunt's Religious Thought in England, iii. 306–319; Brown's Biographical Dict. of Musicians; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. v. 647; Life by William Stevens.]

J. H. O.