without his knowledge and during his absence at Salisbury, and that he did not suspect any illegality in its constitution. When he found the heat with which his colleagues were proceeding against Compton, the bishop of London, he gave his ‘positive vote’ for him, and joined with Bishop Crewe in administering the diocese. With the object of modifying the commission's procedure he stayed on, and he recounts the instances in which his actions obstructed the proceedings of the court.
Sprat was not averse to the issue by James of his declaration for liberty of conscience, and it was read in Westminster Abbey by his orders. William Legge, first earl of Dartmouth [q. v.], who was then a boy at Westminster school, witnessed the scene. There was ‘so great a murmur and noise that nobody could hear,’ and before it was finished no one remained in the building but ‘a few prebends in their stalls, the queristers, and the Westminster scholars.’ Sprat himself could hardly ‘hold the proclamation in his hands for trembling.’ He would not concur with his colleagues in ordering proceedings against the clergymen who refused to read the declaration, and on 15 Aug. 1688 he sent from Bromley ‘a very honest and handsome letter’ (Evelyn, Diary, ii. 279) announcing his withdrawal from the commission. It was printed separately in a single sheet (reprint in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1784, ii. 673), and was praised by Macaulay as ‘written with great propriety and dignity of style.’ On its receipt Sprat's colleagues ‘adjourned in confusion for six months,’ and their subsequent proceedings were of no interest. After penning this letter Sprat went to Sancroft to excuse his presence on the commission on the ground that he intended to restrain his fellow members from violent action. ‘My dear brother,’ said the archbishop, ‘I will tell you the reason: you cannot live on forty pounds a year as I can.’ This keen dissection of Sprat's character is confirmed by Lord Ailesbury's remark: ‘He was a man of worth, but loved hospitality beyond his purse’ (Memoirs, Roxburghe Club, i. 154).
Sprat drew up the form of prayer for the birth of the Prince of Wales in 1688, and he was one of the members of the episcopal bench summoned by James to a conference on 6 Nov. 1688. In the convention of 1689 he opposed the resolution declaring the throne vacant, but afterwards assisted at the coronation of William and Mary. It was his hand that added to the service of 5 Nov. the sentences of the church's gratitude for her second great deliverance on that day. The commissioners for the revision of the Liturgy sat in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster as his guests from 3 Oct. to 18 Nov. 1689, but at the second meeting he raised doubts as to the legality of their action and finally withdrew.
In May 1692 Sprat fell a victim to a villainous plot. On the 7th of the month he was suddenly arrested on the false information of a rascal named Robert Young (d. 1700) [q. v.] on suspicion of conspiring for the restoration of James II. It appeared that Young had caused an accomplice, Stephen Blackhead, to secretly deposit in the bishop's palace at Bromley, Kent, a paper purporting to be an address of an association formed for the purpose of restoring James II, and bearing the forged signatures of Sprat and others. Sprat was confined in the deanery at Westminster under a guard, but the messengers sent to his palace, in accordance with Young's evidence to discover the incriminating document, failed by an accident to lay hands on it. Sprat was examined, denied all knowledge of any conspiracy or of any such document as was alleged to be at the palace, and, after a detention of ten days, was permitted to return to Bromley. But Blackhead contrived to find the forged paper at the palace, and to bring it to London. Sprat was again summoned to Whitehall, but when confronted by Blackhead drove him to confess the truth. The bishop was in consequence set at liberty on 13 June 1692, which for the rest of his life he kept ‘solemnly as a day of thanksgiving for his deliverance’ (Dartmouth MSS. Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. v. 310). He wrote a narrative of the plot, in two parts, entitled ‘A Relation of the late wicked Contrivance of Stephen Blackhead and Robert Young against the lives of several persons.’ The third edition is dated 1693; the first part was reprinted, with a preface of extracts from the second part, in 1722, and it was included in volume vi. of the ‘Harleian Miscellany’ (1744). Macaulay says ‘there are very few better narratives in the language.’
After this date the bishop passed his days in comparative seclusion. It was rumoured in December 1702 that he would be made lord primate of Ireland, but the translation was not effected. As a tory and high-churchman he spoke and voted for Sacheverell. In September 1711 his name was inserted in the commission for building fifty new churches in and near London. In 1712 he was the sole bishop of the province of Canterbury that dissented from the resolution of the upper house of convocation on the validity of lay baptism with water in the