Flexman, Roger (DNB00)

FLEXMAN, ROGER, D.D. (1708–1795), presbyterian minister, was born on 22 Feb. 1708 at Great Torrington, Devonshire, where his father was a manufacturer. He showed early promise, and at the age of fifteen (1723) was admitted to the academy of John Moore, presbyterian minister at Tiverton, Devonshire, to study for the ministry. He declined an offer from Moore of the post of tutor in the academy, and applied to the Exeter assembly on 7 May 1728 to admit him to examination for license. His application was granted, in spite of his youth, in consideration of his long study, and the ‘great want of ministers.’ On examination he gave full satisfaction to that staunch Calvinist, John Ball (1665?–1745) [q. v.] He was licensed at Tiverton in the course of the summer. According to the records of the Exeter assembly he began his ministry at Great Torrington. He was ordained at Modbury, Devonshire, on 15 July 1730. In 1731 he became minister at Bow, near Crediton, Devonshire, and appears to have assisted Josiah Eveleigh, the presbyterian minister at Crediton. In 1735 he removed to Chard, Somersetshire, and in 1739 to Bradford, Wiltshire. He came to London in 1747, having accepted a call to the presbyterian congregation in Jamaica Row, Rotherhithe. In 1754 he was chosen one of the preachers of the Friday morning lecture, founded in 1726 at Little St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, by William Coward (d. 1738) [q. v.]

Flexman was an assiduous, and for some time a successful, minister at Rotherhithe. In 1770 he received the degree of D.D. from the Marischal College, Aberdeen. Preferment was offered him in the established church. Owing partly to the failure of his health, partly, perhaps, to his adoption of Arian views, his congregation declined, and on his resignation in 1783 became extinct. He retained his lectureship to extreme old age. Heterodox on a main point of theology, Flexman was conservative in his religious philosophy, and in later life exhibited ‘uncommon ardour’ in opposition to materialists and necessarians.

Flexman was remarkable for historical attainments, and especially for his minute and accurate knowledge of the constitutional history of England. His extraordinary memory was invaluable in historical research. His reputation in this respect introduced him to some of the leading politicians of his day, and, having already shown skill as an index-maker, he was appointed (1770) one of the compilers of the general index to the journals of the House of Commons. His plan was adopted by a committee of the house, and the period 1660–97 was assigned to him. He completed his work in four folio volumes (viii–xi.) in 1780; it was his best paid piece of literary work. George Steevens, in conversation with Johnson, happened to mention Flexman's ‘exact memory in chronological matters;’ Johnson impatiently characterised him as ‘the fellow who made the index to my “Ramblers,” and set down the name of Milton thus: Milton, Mr. John.’ Flexman compiled a bibliography appended to his edition of Burnet's ‘Own Time,’ 1753–4, 8vo, 4 vols.; a memoir and bibliography prefixed to the ‘Twenty Sermons,’ 1755, 8vo, of Samuel Bourn the younger [q. v.]; and bibliographies annexed to the funeral sermons for Samuel Chandler, D.D. [q. v.], 1766, and Thomas Amory, D.D. [q. v.], 1774. He was a trustee of Dr. Williams's foundations from 1778 to 1786, and librarian from 1786 to 1792.

In ‘Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship,’ 1760, 12mo, edited by Michael Pope, presbyterian minister of Leather Lane, are four compositions, signed ‘F.,’ which were contributed by Flexman. One of them appears, with improvements, in Kippis's ‘Collection,’ 1795, 12mo, and has found a place in similar collections of more recent date.

During his last years Flexman was subject to a painful disorder, which seems to have weakened his mind. He died on 14 June 1795, at the house of his daughter in Prescot Street, Goodman's Fields. His funeral sermon was preached by Abraham Rees, D.D., of the ‘Cyclopædia.’ He married (1747) a daughter of a member of his congregation at Bradford, named Yerbury.

Flexman's contributions to periodical literature have not been identified. Besides the above he published: 1. ‘The Connexion and Harmony of Religion and Virtue,’ &c., 1752, 8vo (charity sermon). 2. ‘Critical, Historical, and Political Miscellanies,’ &c., 1752, 8vo; 1762, 8vo. 3. ‘The Plan of Divine Worship in the Churches of Protestant Dissenters,’ &c., 1754, 8vo (against forms of prayer). 4. ‘The Nature and Advantage of a Religious Education,’ &c., 1770, 8vo (sermon). Also funeral sermon for Amory, 1774, 8vo.

[Rees's Funeral Sermon, 1795; Protestant Dissenters' Magazine, 1795, pp. 264, 399 sq.; Wilson's Dissenting Churches, 1808, iv. 361 sq.; Murch's Hist. Presb. and Gen. Bapt. Churches in West of Engl. 1835, pp. 64, 67, 456; Boswell's Johnson (Wright), 1859, viii. 327; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, p. 170; manuscript minutes of Exeter assembly (May 1723 to September 1728) in Dr. Williams's Library; manuscript list of ordinations, preserved in the records of the Exeter assembly.]

A. G.