Reformed Churchmen

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

3 August 1768 A.D. Thomas Secker Dies—86th of 105 Archbishops of Canterbury

3 August 1768 A.D.  Thomas Secker Dies—86th of 105 Archbishops of Canterbury

Thomas Secker (1693 – 3 August 1768), Archbishop of Canterbury, was born at Sibthorpe, Nottinghamshire.


Early life and studies


In 1699, Secker went to Richard Brown's free school in Chesterfield, staying with his half-sister and her husband, Elizabeth and Richard Milnes. According to a story in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1768, Brown congratulated Secker for his successful studies by remarking, ‘If thou wouldst but come over to the Church, I am sure thou wouldst be a bishop’. Under Brown's teaching, Secker believed that he had attained a competency in Greek and Latin.

He attended Timothy Jollie's dissenting academy at Attercliffe from 1708, but was frustrated by Jollie's poor teaching, famously remarking that he lost his knowledge of languages and that 'only the old Philosophy of the Schools was taught there: and that neither ably nor diligently. The morals also of many of the young Men were bad. I spent my time there idly & ill'.[1] He left after one and a half years.

In 1710, he moved to London, staying in the house of the father of John Bowes, who had been one of Jollie's students and would one day become Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Whilst here, he studied geometry, conic sections, algebra, French, and John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Tewkesbury Academy and Samuel Jones


Also boarding at Bowes's house was Isaac Watts, who encouraged Secker to attend the dissenting academy at Gloucester, set up by Samuel Jones. There Secker recovered his ability at languages, supplementing his understanding of Greek and Latin with studies in Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac. Jones's course was also famous for his systems of Jewish antiquities and logic; maths was similarly studied to a higher than usual level.

Also at Jones's academy contemporaneously with Secker were the later Church of England bishops Joseph Butler and Isaac Maddox, and John Bowes; other luminaries included the future dissenting leaders Samuel Chandler, Jeremiah Jones, and Vavasour Griffiths. In 1713, Jones moved his academy to larger premises in Tewkesbury, partly financed by £200 from Secker. But Secker soon became involved with the clandestine correspondence between Butler and Church of England minister Samuel Clarke concerning Clarke's A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (1705). Secker's role was to deliver Butler's letters personally to Gloucester post office and to pick up Clarke's replies. Meanwhile, Jones had acquired a reputation as a heavy drinker, and the standard of his teaching may have decreased. Both Butler and Secker left his academy shortly afterwards, Butler in February 1714 and Secker in June of the same year.

He studied medicine in London, Paris and Leiden, receiving his MD degree at Leiden University in 1721. Having decided to take orders he graduated, by special letters from the chancellor, at Exeter College, Oxford, and was ordained in 1722.



In 1724 he became rector of Houghton-le-Spring, Durham, resigning in 1727 on his appointment to the rectory of Ryton, Co. Durham, and to a canonry of Durham. He became rector of St James's, Westminster, in 1733, and bishop of Bristol in 1735. About this time George II commissioned him to arrange a reconciliation between the prince of Wales and himself, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

In 1737 he was translated to Oxford, and he received the deanery of St Paul's in 1750. On 21 April 1758, a month after the death of his predecessor, he became archbishop of Canterbury.

His advocacy of an American episcopate, in connection with which he wrote the Answer to Jonathan Mayhew's Observations on the Charter and Conduct of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (London 1764), raised considerable opposition in England and America.


His principal work was Lectures on the Catechism of the Church of England (London, 1769).

A sermon preach'd before the University of Oxford, at St. Mary's, on Act Sunday in the afternoon, 1733, 1734
A sermon preached before the Right Honourable the Lord-Mayor, the Court of Aldermen, the sheriffs, and the governors of the several hospitals of the city of London [...], 1738
A sermon preached before the House of Lords, 1739
A sermon preached at King's Street chapel, in the parish of St James, 1741
A sermon preached before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1741, 1752
A sermon preached in the parish-church of Christ-Church, London, 1743
A sermon preached on occasion of the present rebellion in Scotland, 1745
A sermon preached before the governors of the London Hospital, 1754
A sermon preached before the Society corresponding withe Incorporated Society in Dublin, 1757
Nine sermons preached in the parish of St. James, Westminster, 1758, 1771
The recommendation of William Smith, A.M., 1759
An answer to Dr. Mayhew's Observations on the charter and conduct of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1764
Fourteen sermons preached on several occasions, 1766
A sermon preached in the parish-church of Christ-church, London, 1766
Eight charges delivered to the clergy of the dioceses of Oxford and Canterbury, 1769
Lectures on the catechism of the Church of England, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1774, 1777, 1778, 1786, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1794 [Dublin], 1799
A letter to the Right Honourable Horatio Walpole, Esq; [...] concerning bishops in America, 1769
Sermons on several subjects, 1770
Eight charges delivered to the clergy of the dioceses of Oxford and Canterbury, 1770, 1771, 1780, 1790, 1799
Sermons on several subjects, 1771, 1772, 1790, 1795
Five sermons against popery, 1772 Dublin, 1773 Cork and Dublin Six sermons on the liturgy of the Church of England, 1773, 1784 Cork
The works of Thomas Secker, 1775 Dublin, 1792 Edinburgh
Four discourses on self-examination, on lying, on patience, and on contentment, 1777
Nine sermons preached in the parish of St. James, Westminster, 1780, 1795
A brief confutation of the errors of the Church of Rome, 1781, 1785, 1796
On the relative duties between parents and children, and between masters and servants, 1787, 1790
Against evil-speaker, lying, rash vows, swearing, cursing, and perjury, 1787
A sermon on confirmation, 1788, 1790
Of the Lord's supper, 1788
Catechism of the Church of England, 1789
Questions extracted from Archbishop Secker's Lectures on the church catechism: for the use of schools and young persons in private families, 1790
Instructions given to candidates for orders, after their subscribing the articles, 1791
Familiar explanation of the service of confirmation, used by the Church of England, abridged from Archbishop Secker's sermon on confirmation, 1795
A sermon on confirmation, 1795
[see also John Sharp, [...] Archbishop Sharp's and Archbishop Secker's sermons against perjury and common swearing, with some alterations, 1771


  1. Jump up ^ Manuscript autobiography

External links

Preceded by
Charles Cecil
Bishop of Bristol
Succeeded by
Thomas Gooch
Preceded by
John Potter
Bishop of Oxford
Succeeded by
John Hume
Preceded by
Matthew Hutton
Succeeded by
Frederick Cornwallis

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