He was born at Southwark and was educated at St Saviour's Grammar School and Eton, and then at Peterhouse, Cambridge. In 1669 he became rector of St George's, Botolph Lane, London, and in 1681, he was appointed a prebendary of St Paul's. In 1683 he was made master of the Temple.
In 1686, he was reproved for his antipapal preaching and his controversy with the king's chaplain, Lewis Sabran; his pension was stopped. After the English Revolution, he was suspended for refusing the oaths to William III and Mary II, but before losing his position, he yielded, justifying his change of attitude.
In 1674, he showed his controversial tendencies by an attack on a Puritan John Owen, in The Knowledge of Jesus Christ and Union with Him. In 1684, he published The Case of Resistance of the Supreme Powers stated and resolved according to the Doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, a treatise in which he drew the distinction between active and passive obedience, which was generally accepted by the High Church clergy.
During the period of his suspension, he wrote a Practical Discourse concerning Death, which became very popular.
His sermons, collected in 2 volumes, went through several editions.
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- "Sherlock, William". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 850.
- "Sherlock, William (SHRK657W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- In The Case of the Allegiance due to Sovereign Powers stated and resolved according to Scripture and Reason and the Principles of the Church of England (1691).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sherlock, William". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 850.