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Thomas Wilson (1563–1622)

A Member of the Westminster Assembly
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“Q. How came Christs sufferings to be of so much value? A. Because the person that suffered was God. Acts 20:28.”

Thomas Wilson (1563–1622) was a renowned divine, originating from Durham in 1563. He pursued his education at Queen’s College, Oxford, matriculating on 17 Nov. 1581 at 18 years of age. Wilson achieved his B.A. on 7 Feb. 1583–4 and subsequently earned his M.A. on 7 July 1586 (Clark, Indexes, ii. 102, iii. 119). By 24 April 1585, he had been elected as the college chaplain, even before his ordination. In July 1586, through the advocacy of Henry Robinson (1553?–1616), the provost of Queen’s College and later the bishop of Carlisle, Wilson was appointed as the rector of St. George the Martyr in Canterbury. Robinson was also instrumental in Wilson’s college education (refer to the epistle dedicatory to the Christian Dictionarie).

Wilson dedicated his life to his role in Canterbury, delivering three to four sermons weekly. He garnered the admiration of the puritan community, although some reported him to Archbishop Abbot for nonconformity. By 1611, he also served as the chaplain to Thomas, the second lord Wotton.

He passed away in Canterbury in January 1621–2 and was laid to rest in his churchyard on the 25th. William Swift of St. Andrew’s, Canterbury, who was the great-grandfather of Dean Swift, honored him with a funeral sermon in 1622. An engraved portrait by Cross, featured in the ‘Commentarie,’ depicts Wilson as a slender man with distinct features. He was a family man, leaving behind a large lineage.

Wilson’s most notable contribution was the ‘Christian Dictionarie’ (London, 1612, 4to), a pioneering effort towards an English Bible concordance. Its significance was quickly acknowledged, leading to multiple editions. John Bagwell expanded the fourth edition, while the fifth and sixth editions were released in 1647 and 1655, respectively, with the latter being enhanced by Andrew Symson. Wilson also dedicated seven years to his ‘Commentarie’ on Romans, presented as a dialogue between Timotheus and Silas. This work saw its third edition in 1653. In 1611, he released a volume encompassing various treatises and sermons. Additionally, he authored ‘Saints by Calling; or, Called to be Saints,’ in 1620.

For further details, refer to sources such as Brook’s Lives of the Puritans, Granger’s Biogr. Hist., Hasted’s Kent, Chalmers’s Biogr. Dict., and Registers of St. George the Martyr, Canterbury, among others.

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