Theological Discourses by John Lewis

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 49
  • Dates of Creation
      18th Century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      Extent of unit of description: 194 x 150 mm.  1 volume (106 folios);

Scope and Content

The volume contains two moral and theological treatises by John Lewis (1675-1747):

  • (f.1) An impartial representation of the State of Religion in England with respect to Infidelity, Heresy, Profaness and Immorality, Dec., 1712;
  • (f.37) The principles and practices of certain moderate Divines of the Church of England formerly called by their enemies Latitudinarians, etc. Part IV.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Lewis was born in Bristol in 1675, the eldest son of a wine cooper. Receiving a grammar school education, he was admitted to Exeter College, Oxford under the tuition of George Vernan. Shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1697 he was ordained a deacon and a year later was made a curate of Acrise, Kent. His low-church views and support for the Whig political party often made him unpopular with the ecclesiastical hierarchy but made him a friend of Archbishop Thomas Tenison (1636-1715), whose views he shared and whose patronage he benefited from, with his appointment to various benefices in Kent. In 1712 he entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and after obtaining an MA focused his studies on writing biographies and antiquarian studies as well as continuing his polemical work. Even his best known biographies of Wicliffe, Caxton, Pecock, and Bishop Fisher, demonstrate his strong low-church and protestant bias and he frequently acted as an apologist for the movement in the Anglican Church. It was in his role as an apologist that he wrote in 1724 A Specimen of the Errors in the second volume of Collier's Ecclesiastical History, being a Vindication of Bishop Burnet's History of the Reformation defending Gilbert Burnet's (1643-1715) establishment view of the history of the Anglican Church during and since the Reformation against the non-juror author and polemicist, Jeremy Collier.

Source: Scott Mandelbrote, 'Lewis, John (1675-1747)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press --

Latitudinarianism was a movement in the Anglican Church in the 17th and 18th century that believed that Christianity should rely upon reason to establish the moral certainty of doctrine, rather than upon argument from tradition. Latitudinarians sought therefore to limit Anglican doctrine to theological fundamentals and saw no reason to persecute dissenters who differed in the non-essentials such as liturgy. They were opposed to the High Church or Laudian movement in the Anglican Church that insisted on full doctrinal conformity and the centrality of tradition. For most of the 18th century the higher ranks of the Church were Latitudinarian due to Whig political sympathies and royal support under William III and Mary and the three Georges.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands, on behalf of the John Rylands Library, from John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910), in July 1892.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, with reference to:

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 49).

Custodial History

The manuscript was formerly part of the Spencer Library at Althorp, Northamptonshire, which was largely assembled by George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834); then by descent to John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910).

Related Material

Rylands English MS 47, 'Remarks on Collier's Ecclesiastical History', is another work by John Lewis (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 47).