Daniel Williams (theologian)

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Daniel Williams
Daniel Williams (1643-1716).jpg
Religion Christianity (Presbyterianism)
Personal
Born 1643
Wrexham, Denbighshire
Died 26 January 1716
Hoxton, London
Senior posting
Based in Ireland, England and Wales
For others of this name, see Daniel Williams (disambiguation).

The Rev Dr Daniel Williams (c.1643 – 26 January 1716) was a British benefactor, minister and theologian, within the Presbyterian tradition, i.e. a Christian outside the Church of England. He is known largely for the legacy he left which led to the creation of Dr Williams's Library, a centre for research on English Dissenters.

Early ministry[edit]

Williams was born in Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales, and was a cousin of Stephen Davies, minister at Banbury. He became a preacher by the age of nineteen: details of his education are unknown, though it was probably cut short by his refusing to conform to the state church, Anglicanism, when Charles II was restored to the throne.

He ministered in Ireland from 1664 to 1687. This posting was a result of his accepting an invitation from the Countess of Meath to be her chaplain. He was a regular preacher to Drogheda's joint Presbyterian–Independent congregation (1664–67) and then became Samuel Marsden's colleague at the congregation at Wood Street, Dublin (1667–87). He acted as a peacemaker amongst the Scottish Presbyterians, fiercely opposed Catholicism and helped to maintain the Presbyterians' union with the other Dissenting congregations in Ireland, as well as exorcising a house by prayer in 1678 (as recounted by Richard Baxter).

London[edit]

On a new outbreak of the Troubles and after being abandoned by Gilbert Rule (a Scottish exile, and Williams' assistant since 1682), Williams left for London in September 1687. There he became an influential Dissenter, becoming friends with the leading ministers Richard Baxter and John Howe and twice being invited to preach before the Lord Mayor of London, the Independent Sir John Shorter. At a meeting at Howe's house in May 1688 as to the making an address of thanks to James II for his Declaration of Indulgence, Williams opposed any such address since (in his words) "it were better for [the Dissenters] to be reduc'd to their former Hardships, than declare for Measures destructive of the Liberties of their Country" and likely to cause an open split with the Church of England.[1] He refused to be convinced to return to Ireland by the Dublin congregation, and spent the rest of his career in London, where he advised William III on Irish matters.

Death and legacy[edit]

Williams died in Hoxton, possibly from asthma, and he was buried in a vault at Bunhill Fields. He left almost his whole estate of £50,000 to charity. He left his books (7600 volumes) and money to establish a library, now known as the Dr Williams's Library, situated in Bloomsbury, London. In addition to its theological holdings, it contains collections of philosophy, history, literature, and other donated collections. The library is known to researchers of history and genealogy for its holdings of pre-19th century material relating to Protestant nonconformity in England.

He also left money to aid the foundation of seven charity schools in North Wales, and to provide scholarships to the University of Glasgow for candidates to the ministry in the Nonconformist church.

Marriages and issue[edit]

Williams married Thomas Juxon's daughter Elizabeth in Ireland in 1675 - she died in 1698, and they had had no children. By his second wife Jane Guill (daughter of a refugee Huguenot merchant), whom he married in 1701, he had one son and two daughters.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ J. Evans, A funeral sermon occasion'd by the much lamented death of the late Reverend Daniel Williams, D.D. who deceas'd January the 26th 1715/6 (1716). ‘Some account of the life of Dr Williams’, D. Williams, Practical discourses on several important subjects … by the late Reverend Daniel Williams, D.D. Published singly by himself, and now collected by the appointment of his will (1738), page 43

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]