Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tomkins, Martin

TOMKINS, MARTIN (d. 1755?), Arian divine, is said to have been a brother or near relative of Harding Tomkins (d. 1758), attorney and clerk of the Company of Fishmongers. He may have been connected with Abingdon, where there was a nonconformist family of his name. In 1699 Martin went to Utrecht with Nathaniel Lardner [q. v.], where they found Daniel Neal [q. v.], the author of ‘The History of the Puritans.’ After studying at the university of Utrecht for three years, the three removed to Leyden, where Tomkins matriculated on 8 Sept. 1702 (Peacock, Index of English-speaking Students at Leyden University, Index Soc. 1883). In 1707 he was appointed minister of the dissenting congregation in Church Street, Stoke Newington, but in 1718 he was obliged to resign his charge in consequence of his Arian sympathies. In the following year, to justify himself, he published ‘The Case of Mr. Martin Tomkins. Being an Account of the Proceedings of the Dissenting Congregation at Stoke Newington’ (London, 4to). He did not again settle as pastor of a congregation, but, in addition to preaching occasionally, he wrote several theological treatises. The first of these, published anonymously, was entitled ‘A Sober Appeal to a Turk or an Indian concerning the plain Sense of Scripture relating to the Trinity’ (London, 1723, 4to; 2nd ed. with additions, 1748). It was an answer to Dr. Isaac Watts's ‘Christian Doctrine of the Trinity, or Father, Son, and Spirit, Three Persons and One God, asserted and proved’ (London, 1722, 12mo). In 1732 he published, also without his name, a work which gained some reputation, entitled ‘Jesus Christ the Mediator between God and Men’ (London, 4to; new ed. 1761). In 1738 appeared ‘A Calm Enquiry whether we have any Warrant from Scripture for addressing ourselves directly to the Holy Spirit’ (London, 4to). In 1738 Tomkins was settled at Hackney. It is believed he died in 1755. After his death there appeared in 1771 in the ‘Theological Repository’ (iii. 257) ‘A Letter from Mr. Tomkins to Dr. Lardner in reply to his Letter on the Logos.’ Although Lardner's letter was not published until 1759, it was written in 1730, and it appears from Tomkins's reply that Lardner had lent him the manuscript to peruse. Tomkins's criticism was answered by Caleb Fleming [q. v.] in an appendix to a ‘Discourse on Three Essential Properties of the Gospel Revelation’ (London, 1772, 8vo).

[Gent. Mag. 1807, ii. 823, 999, 1014; Memoirs of Daniel Neal, prefixed to the History of the Puritans, 1822, p. xvii; editorial notice prefixed to vol. ii. of the same work, pp. iv, v; Johnson's Life of Watts, 1785, p. 53; Life of Lardner by Kippis, prefixed to his Works, ed. 1838, p. ii; Robinson's History of Stoke Newington, 1820, p. 216; Wilson's History of the Dissenting Churches, 1808, i. 89, ii. 44, 45, 539; Memoirs of the Life of William Whiston, 1749, p. 294.]

E. I. C.