|Dimensions||11 × 20 × 2 cm|
Tan calf binding. Gilt banding with no visible title.
Thomas Wilson (20 December 1663 – 7 March 1755) was Bishop of Sodor and Man between 1697 and 1755.
He was born in Burton and Ness, in the Wirral, Cheshire, in December 1663. Having studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, he was ordained priest in 1689. In 1692 the Lord of Mann, William Stanley the Earl of Derby, appointed him personal chaplain and tutor to the earl’s son. Five years later, at Lord Derby’s urging, Wilson reluctantly accepted promotion to the vacant bishopric of Sodor and Man.
When he came to the Isle of Man, he found the buildings of the diocese in a ruinous condition. The building of new churches was one of his first acts, and he eventually rebuilt most of the churches of the diocese along with establishing public libraries. He oversaw the passing in the Tynwald of the Act of Settlement 1704 that provided tenants with rights to sell and pass on their land, subject only to continued fixed rents and alienation fees. Wilson worked to restore ecclesiastical discipline on the island, although he clashed with civil authorities partly because of the reduction of revenue from Wilson mitigating fines in the spiritual court. He met James Edward Oglethorpe in London and because of that meeting became interested in foreign missions. He was an early advocate of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.
Bishop Wilson’s relations with the people of the Isle of Man were marked by mutual affection and esteem. His personal piety expressed itself in energetic charitable activity and he often intervened to shield his flock from the demands of the state authorities. He declined preferment to the much wealthier See of Exeter. When he died on 7 March 1755 at the age of 91, it is said that his funeral was attended by nearly the whole adult population of the Isle of Man.
Wilson was not by nature an intolerant man, nor were his sympathies limited to the Anglican fold. It is said that Cardinal Fleury wrote to him, “as they were the two oldest bishops”, and, he believed, “the poorest in Europe” invited him to France. He was so pleased with Wilson’s reply that he got an order prohibiting French privateers from ravaging the Isle of Man. Roman Catholics “not unfrequently attended” his services. He allowed dissenters to sit or stand at the communion and not being compelled to kneel, they did so. The Quakers loved and respected him.
In 1735, he met James Edward Oglethorpe in London, and this was the beginning of his practical interest in foreign missions, though he was an early advocate of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and still earlier of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. His Essay towards an Instruction for the Indians … in … Dialogues, written in 1740, was begun at Oglethorpe’s instance, and dedicated to the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America (in 1745 he became a member of the Georgia Trustees). Wilson’s son was entrusted with its revision for the press, and he submitted the manuscript to Isaac Watts. It must be remembered that most of the Georgia trustees were dissenters. Since 1738 Wilson had “been interested in Zinzendorf, through friends who had met him at Oxford and London in 1737. In 1739, he corresponded with Henry Cossart, author of a Short Account of the Moravian Churches and received from Zinzendorf and his coadjutors a copy of the Moravian catechism, with a letter dated 28 July 1740. Zinzendorf was again in London in 1749, holding there a synod from 11 to 30 September. On 23 September, news came of the death of Cochius of Berlin, ‘artistes’ of the ‘reformed tropus’ (one of three) in the Moravian Church. The vacant and somewhat shadowy office was tendered to Wilson, with liberty to employ his son as substitute, Zinzendorf sending him a seal-ring. On 19 December Wilson wrote his acceptance.
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