JENNINGS, DAVID, D.D. (1691–1762), dissenting tutor, younger son of John Jennings (1634–1701), was born at Kibworth, Leicestershire, on 18 May 1691. His father, a native of Oswestry, Shropshire, was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, was ejected in 1662 from the rectory of Hartley Westpall, Hampshire, and was afterwards private chaplain at Langton, near Kibworth, and founder of the independent congregation at Kibworth, where he purchased a small estate. David passed through the Kibworth grammar school, and studied for the ministry (1709–14) at the Fund Academy in Moorfields, under Isaac Chauncy [q. v.] and his successors, Thomas Ridgley, D.D., and John Eames [q. v.] His first sermon was at Battersea, 23 May 1714. In March 1715 he was chosen evening lecturer at Rotherhithe; in June 1716 he became assistant to John Foxon at Girdlers' Hall, Basinghall Street; on 19 May 1718 he was called to succeed Thomas Simmons as pastor of the independent congregation, Wapping New Stairs. Here he was ordained on 25 July 1718, and in this charge he remained till his death. At the Salters' Hall debates of 1719 [see Bradbury, Thomas] he sided with the non-subscribers, a proceeding which implied no doctrinal laxity on his part, for he was always a decided Calvinist. In 1733 he was selected by William Coward (d. 1738) [q. v.] as one of the lecturers in Bury Street, St. Mary Axe; became one of the Coward trustees in May 1743, and in August 1743 one of the Coward lecturers at Little St. Helen's. As a preacher he was distinguished for lucid statement, a varied manner, and a musical voice; he could speak well extemporaneously.
Jennings's career as a divinity tutor began in 1744, on the death of Eames, whose successor he became under the Coward trust, the ‘congregational fund’ transferring its support to another academy. The presbyterian board sent him no students till 1758. Jennings extended the course of study from four years to five, and abandoned the usage of housing the students under the tutor's roof. The lectures were given in Wellclose Square, at the residence of Samuel Morton Savage, the tutor in classics and philosophy. Unlike his brother John (see below), Jennings did not attempt lectures on an independent plan. The divinity text-book on which he prelected was the ‘Medulla Theologiæ’ of the Dutch divine, Van Marck. His prelections on the ‘Moses and Aaron’ of Thomas Godwin, D.D. (d. 1642) [q. v.], formed themselves into the posthumous work on ‘Jewish Antiquities,’ by which Jennings is best known. He was popular with his students, though a strict disciplinarian, and suspicious of any symptom of heterodoxy. Two of his students (Thomas and John Wright, afterwards presbyterian ministers in Bristol) were expelled on this latter ground; nevertheless the majority of his pupils became Arians. Philip Furneaux, D.D. [q. v.], his editor, Joshua Toulmin, D.D., his biographer, and Abraham Rees, D.D., the cyclopædist, were among the ablest of his students; Thomas Cogan (1736–1818) [q. v.] and Thomas Jervis [q. v.] were under him for short periods. He encouraged the study of physical science, being fond of astronomy, and finding his daily recreation in practical mechanics. His chief taste was for music.
In May 1749 the university of St. Andrews, at Doddridge's suggestion, sent him its diploma of D.D. Writing to Doddridge to acknowledge the compliment, he specified as the ‘only benefit’ of the distinction that, having a marriageable son, it would save him from being called ‘old Mr. Jennings.’ He enjoyed strong health till the last two years of his life. He died on Thursday, 16 Sept. 1762. His eldest son, Joseph, married a daughter of Daniel Neal, the historian of the puritans, by Elizabeth, sister of Nathaniel Lardner, D.D. Joseph Jennings's son David (d. 6 Dec. 1819) was the author of ‘Hawkhurst, a Sketch of its History,’ &c., 1792, 4to; he had erected in 1789 a monument to Dr. Lardner, his great-uncle, in Hawkhurst Church, Kent.
Jennings published several single sermons, including ordination sermon for John Jennings (1742) and funeral sermons for Daniel Neal (1743), Isaac Watts (1749), and Timothy Jollie (1757); also 1. ‘The Beauty and Benefit of Early Piety,’ &c., 1730, 8vo. 2. ‘A Vindication of the Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin,’ &c., 1740, 8vo (anon., against Taylor of Norwich). 3. ‘An Introduction to the Use of the Globes,’ &c., 1747, 8vo (appendix deals with some astronomical difficulties in Genesis). 4. ‘The Scripture Testimony … an Appeal to Reason … for the Truth of the Holy Scriptures,’ &c., 1755, 12mo; several times reprinted; 1815, 12mo, with preface by B. Cracknell, D.D. Posthumous were 5. ‘An Introduction to the Knowledge of Medals,’ &c., 1763, 8vo; reprinted, Birmingham, 1775, 8vo (a poor book). 6. ‘Jewish Antiquities,’ &c., 1766, 8vo, 2 vols.; reprinted in 1 vol. 8vo, 1808, 1823, 1837, &c. (excellently edited by Furneaux). His Bury Street lectures were published in 1735; he translated a tract of A. H. Francke on preaching, 1736, and issued an abridgment of Cotton Mather's life, 1744.