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WILLIAM SHERLOCK, an eminent divine, was born in 1641, in Gravel-lane, Southwark. His father, being a tradesman of competent fortune, sent his son to Eton school, whence, in 1650, at the age of fifteen, he was removed to Peter-house: Cambridge. He took his degree of bachelor in the year of the restoration, and that of master in 1663. In 1669, he was pre ferred to the rectory of St. George's, Botolphlane, London ; and, in 1681, was collated to the prebend of St. Pancras, in the cathedral of St. Paul. In 1685 he was made master of the Temple; but refusing, at the revolution, to take the oath of allegiance to king William and queen Mary, he was suspended, in 1689, from all his preferments; though on his compliance, a short time after, he was reinstated. On the promotion of Tillotson to the see of Canterbury, Sherlock succeeded him in the
deanery of St. Paul's, by his grace's recommendation. The last ecclesiastical benefice he obtained was the rectory of Therford, in Hertfordshire, some time before his death, which took place in 1707.
The principal writings of Sherlock consist of controversial theology. He entered warmly into dispute with the most busy sectaries of the time, the Solifidians and Antinomians, who appeared in the reign of Elizabeth; with the Catholics and Non-conformists, the latter of whom he was very anxious to bring back to the estàblished church. His tracts on such subjects are very numerous. His “ Practical Discourse concerning Death” is well known ; it was pub, lished during his suspension, in 1690. Moreover, two volumes of his sermons, Svo. were collected and published after his death.
The treatise of Sherlock, however, which made the greatest stir in the theologic world, was his " Vindication of the Doctrine of the holy and ever blessed Trinity,” published in 1691; and which contains a new method of explaining that mystery. It excited the sarFastic antagonism of Dr. South, in a tract en. titled “ Animadversions,” &c. and which called forth a defence from Sherlock; followed again
with a charge on him of Tritheism, from South. His opinions, too, were condemned by the university of Oxford. In short, the dispute at length waxed so hot, that his majesty, at the instance of the bishops, thought proper to interpose ; and, to preserve unity in the church, it was ordained, " that all preachers should carefully avoid all new terms, and confine themselves to such ways of explication as have been commonly used in the church.”
His sermons were published in five volumes octavo, 1755.
The following extract is taken from the sixth discourse, vol. 1, on the immortality of the soul, and is marked by good sense, and a pera spicuous style:
Had it not been for philosophy, there had remained perhaps no footsteps of any unbelievers in this great article; for the sense of nature would have directed all right; but philosophy misguided many. For those who denied immortality, did not deny the common sense of nature, which they felt as well as others ; þut they rejected the notice, and thought it false, because they could not find physical causes to support the belief, or thought that they found physical causes
effectually to overthrow it. This account we owe to Cicero, one of the best judges of antiquity; who tells us plainly, that the reason why many rejected the belef of the immortality of the soul, was because they could not form a conception of an unbodied soul. So that infidelity is of no older a date than philosophy; and a future state was not doubted of, till men had puzzled and confounded themselves in their search after the physical reason of the soul's immortality, And now consider how the case stands, and how far the evidence of nature is weakened by the authority of such unbelievers. All mankind receive the belief of a future life, urged to it every day by what they feel transacted in their own breasts : but some philosophers reject this opinion, because they have no conception of a soul distinct from the body; as if the immortality of the soul depended merely upon the strength of human imagination. Were the natural evidence of inmortality built upon any particular notion of a human soul, the evidence of nature might be overthrown by shewing the impossibility or improbability of such notion : but the evidence of nature. is not concerned in any notion; and all the common notions
may be false, and yet the evidence of nature, stand good, which only supposes man to be rational, and consequently accountable; and if any philosopher, can prove the contrary, he may then, it his word will
afterwards pass for any thing, reject this and all other evidence whatever.
The natural evidence, I say, supposes only that a, man is a rational, accountable creature; and this being the true foundation in nature for the belief of the immortality, the true notion of nature must Deeds be this, that man, as such, shall live to account for his doings. The question, then, upon the foot of nature, is this: What constitutes the man? And whoever observes with any care, will find that this is the point upon which the learned of antiquity divided. The vulgar spoke of men after death just in the same manner as they did of men on earth : and Cicero observes, that the common error, as he calls it, so far prevailed, that they supposed such things to be transacted apud inferos, quæ sine corporibus nec fieri possent nec intelligi; which could neither be done, nor conceived to be done, without bodies. The generality of men could not arrive to abstracted notions of un. bodied spirits; and though they could not but think that the body, which was burnt before their eyes, was dissipated and destroyed; yet so great was the force of nature, which was ever suggesting to them that men should live again, that they continued to imagine men with bodies in another life, having no other notion or conception of men.
But, with the learned, nothing was held to be in absurd than to think of having bodies again in ano