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LIFE OF THE AUTHOR:
ACCOUNT OF HIS WRITINGS.
E was son to Walter Wilkins, citizen and gold
smith of Oxford; was born at Fawlsly, near Daventry, in Northamptonshire, in the house of the reverend and well known Mr. John Dod, who wrote upon the commandments, he being his grandfather by the mother's side. He was taught his Latin and Greek by Edward Sylvester, a noted Grecian, who kept a private school in the parish of All Saints in Oxford: his proficiency was such, that at thirteen
he entered a student in New-Inn, in Easter-term, 1627. He made no long stay there, but was removed to Magdalen-Hall, under the tuition of Mr. John Tombes, and there he took his degrees in arts. He afterwards entered into orders, and was first chaplain to William
Lord Say, and then to Charles Count Palatine of the Rhine, and Prince Elector of the Empire, with whom he continued for some time.
Upon the breaking out of the civil war, he joined with the parliament, and took the solemn league and covenant. He was afterwards made warden of Wadham College by the committee of parliament appointed for reforming the university; and being created bachelor of divinity, April 12, 1648, was the day following put in possession of his wardenship. Next year he was created doctor of divinity, and about that time took the engagement then enjoined by the powers in being.
In 1656, he married Robina, the widow of Peter French, formerly canon of Christ-Church, sister to Oliver, then Lord Protector. In 1659, he was by Richard the Protector made head of Trinity College in Cambridge, the best preferment in that university.
After king Charles the Ild's restoration, he was ejected from thence, and became preacher to the honourable society of Gray's-Inn, and minister of St. Lawrence Jury, London, in the room of Dr. Ward. About this time he became a member of the royal society, was chosen one of their council, and proved one of their most eminent members, and chief benefactors. Soon after this he was
made dean of Rippon, and by the interest of the late duke of Buckingham, he was created bishop of Chester, and consecrated in the chapel of Elyhouse in Holborn, the 15th of November, 1668, by Dr. Cosin, bishop of Durham; Dr. Laney, bishop of Ely; and Dr. Ward, bishop of Salisbury ; on which occasion Dr. Tillotson, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, preached an excellent sermon.
He was a person of great natural endowments, and by his indefatigable study attained to an universal insight into all, or at least most parts of useful learning. He was a great mathematician, and very much advanced the study of astronomy, both while he was warden of Wadham College in Oxford, and at London, when he was a member of the royal society. He was as well seen in mechanics and experimental philosophy as any man in his time, and was a great promoter of them. In divinity, which was his main business, he excelled, and was a very able critic; his talent of preaching was admirable, and more suited to profit than to please his hearers; he affected an apt and plain way of speech, and expressed his conceptions in a natural style. In his writings he was judicious and plain, and valued not circumstances so much as the substance. This appeared evident in whatever subject he undertook, which he always made easier for those that came after him.
He treated sometimes on matters that did not properly belong to his profession; but always with a design to make men wiser and better; which was his chief end in promoting universal knowledge, and one of the main reasons for his entering into the royal society. His virtues and graces were very uncommon; at least as to that degree of them to which he attained: his prudence was very remarkable, and seldom failed him; but he was so openhearted and sincere himself, that he was ready (except he knew some cause to the contrary) to think other men to be so too; by which he was sometimes imposed on.
His greatness of mind was evident to all that knew any thing of him, nor was the depth of his judgment less discernible. He never was eager in pursuit of dignities; but was advanced to them by his merit. He contemned riches as much as others admired them; and spent his ecclesiastical revenues in the service of the church from which he received them; and being secured against want, he would often say, that he would be no richer: and his conduct made it evident that he was as good as his word.
He was a stranger to revenge, and yet not insensible of personal injuries, especially such as reflected on his good name, if they proceeded from such as had a good reputation of their own. The