Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Browne, Simon

BROWNE, SIMON (1680–1732), divine, was born at Shepton Mallet, Somersetshire; educated under Mr. Cumming, and at the academy of Mr. Moor at Bridgewater. He began to preach before he was twenty, and after being a minister at Port.smouth became, in 1710, pastor of the important congregation in the Old Jewry, London. In 1720 he published 'Hymns and Spiritual Songs,' and in 1722 a volume of sermons. In the Salters' Hall controversy (1719) Browne had taken the side of the non-subscribers, who resisted the imposition of a Trinitarian test. This led to a rather sharp controversy in 1723 with the Rev. Mr. Thomas Reynolds in regard to the dismissal of a preacher. About the same time the simultaneous loss of his wife and only son (or, according to another story, the accidental strangling of a highwayman) unhinged his mind; and though his faculties remained perfect in other respects he became persuaded that God had 'annihilated in him the thinking substance,' and that his words had no more sense than a parrot's. He tried by earnest reasoning to persuade his friends that he was 'a mere beast.' He gave up his ministry, retired to Shepton Mallet, and amused himself by translating classical authors, writing books for children, and composing a dictionary. 'I am doing nothing,' he said, 'that requires a reasonable soul.' I am making a dictionary; but you know thanks should be returned to God for everything, and therefore for dictionary-makers.' He took part, however, in the controversies of the time, as an opponent of the deists from a rationalist point of view. In 1732 he published a sober and charitable disquisition concerning the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity,' &c., 'A Fit Rebuke to a Ludicrous Infidel, in some remarks on Mr. Woolston's fifth discourse,' &c., with a preface protesting against the punishment of freethinkers by the magistrate; and a 'Defence of the Religion of Nature and the Christian Revelation,' See, in answer to Tindal's 'Christianity as old as the Creation,' a concluding part of which appeared in 1733 posthumously. To the last of these works he had prefixed a dedication to Queen Caroline, asking for her prayers in his singular case. He was 'once a man,' but 'his very thinking substance has for more than seven years oeen continually wasting away, till it is wholly perished out of him.' This was suppressed at the time by his friends, but afterwards published by Hawkesworth in the 'Adventurer,' No. 88. Browne died at the end of 1732, leaving several daughters.

[Biog. Britannica; Atkey's Funeral Sermon; Town and Country Magazine for 1770, p. 689; Adventurer, No. 88; Gent. Mag. xxxii. 453; Protestant Dissenters' Magazine, iv. 433, v. lll; Leland's View. i. 110, 130; Wilson's Dissenting Churches, i. 165, iii. 338-67, where is a full list of his works.]

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