William Harris (Presbyterian minister)

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William Harris, D.D. (1675?–1740) was an English Presbyterian minister.


He was born about 1675, probably in Southwark, where his mother was living as a widow in 1692. Walter Wilson, following Josiah Thompson, thinks he was educated at Timothy Jollie's Attercliffe Academy, near Sheffield (opened in 1689); records of the presbyterian board show that in 1692–6 he studied successively in the academies of John Southwell at Newbury, Berkshire, and James Waters at Uxbridge, Middlesex.

He began early to preach, and was some time assistant (unordained) to Henry Read at Gravel Lane, Southwark. On Read's death (1698) Harris was called to succeed Timothy Cruso at Crutched Friars, in spite of some opposition, and received presbyterian ordination. He became a hoarse-voiced leader of liberal dissent. For over thirty years (from 1708) he acted as one of the Friday evening lecturers at the Weighhouse, Eastcheap. He was one of the original trustees (1716) of Dr. Daniel Williams's foundations. At the Salters' Hall debates in 1719, he sided with the non-subscribers.[1] In 1723 he was one of the original distributors of the English regium donum.

On 12 April 1727 he succeeded William Tong in the merchants' lecture at Salters' Hall. He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Edinburgh, 8 November 1728; and a similar honour from the University of Aberdeen. Nathaniel Lardner was his colleague in his pastoral charge from 1729; an earlier colleague was John Billingsley the younger (1657–1722). He died, after a short illness, on 25 May 1740, and was buried (30 May) in Dr. Daniel Williams's vault, Bunhill Fields. Funeral sermons were preached by his friend Benjamin Grosvenor and by Lardner. To Dr. Williams's library he left nearly two thousand volumes; his portrait, which went to the library, was presented in 1768 by Lardner's executor; an engraving from it is given in Wilson's Dissenting Churches.


Harris published much, and, according to Walter Wilson, ranked as "the greatest master of the English tongue among the dissenters".’Among his works are:

  • Exposition of the Epistles to Philippians and Colossians, in the continuation of Matthew Henry's "Exposition", 1710.
  • Practical Discourses on … Representations of the Messiah, throughout the Old Testament, 1724; intended as a reply to Anthony Collins.
  • Memoirs of … Thomas Manton, D.D., 1725.
  • Funeral Discourses, 1736.
  • Four Discourses upon … the Lord's Supper, 1737.

Besides other writings, Wilson gives a list of 38 individual sermons, the earliest in 1702, including 11 funeral and three ordination sermons.


  1. ^ "List of names of Dissenting Ministers who have subscribed the Advices for promoting Peace". The Post Boy. 21 April 1719. p. 1. Retrieved January 12, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.  Free to read

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Harris, William (1675?-1740)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.