Middleton, Thomas Fanshawe, Dd

Middleton, Thomas Fanshawe, D.D.

the first English bishop of Calcutta, largely identified with the Anglican Church missionary work in India, only son of the Reverend T. Middleton, rector of Kedleston, Derbyshire, was born at that village January 26,1769. His early training he received under his father. In 1779 he was admitted into Christ's Hospital, London, and thence proceeded to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he took his degree of B.A., with honors, in January, 1792. Shortly after he received ordination, and entered upon the curacy of Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire. Here he edited a periodical work entitled the Country Spectator, which continued to appear for about seven months, Middleton sustaining the paper mainly by his own compositions. This connection brought him to the notice of Dr. John Pretyman, archdeacon of Lincoln, who in 1794 appointed him tutor to his two sons. Middleton in consequence removed first to Lincoln, and afterwards to Norwich, where he became curate of St. Peter's Mancroft in 1799, having previously (in 1795) been presented by Dr. Pretyman to the rectory of Tansor, in Northamptonshire. In 1802 he was presented with the rectory of Bytham, in Lincolnshire. About this time he wrote his chief work, The Doctrine of the Greek Article applied to the Criticism and Illustration of the New Testament, which he published in 1808, with a dedication to Dr. Pretyman. The object of this work — is first, to establish the rules which govern the use of the article, and then to apply these rules to the interpretation of various passages in the New Testament, many of which are of such a nature that they furnish arguments for or against the divinity of Christ, according to the different views which are taken of the force of the article. Owing to this circumstance, the doctrine of the Greek article has become the subject of warm discussion among theologians; and some Unitarian divines have strongly opposed the views of Middleton. His chief rules have, however, been received as sound by the great majority of Biblical critics. (A second and improved edition was published by Prof. Scholefield in 1828; and a third by the Reverend Hugh James Rose in 1833. An abstract of the work is prefixed to Valpy's edition of the Greek Testament.) In the same year in which he published this work he took his degree of D.D. at Cambridge, and removed to his living at Tansor, where he discharged his duties in such a manner as to gain the affection and esteem of his people. In 1809 he was appointed by bishop Pretyman to a stall in the cathedral of Lincoln, .and in 1812 to the archdeaconry of Huntingdon. In 1811 he resigned his two livings for the vicarage of St. Pancras, Middlesex, and the rectory of Rottenham, in Hertfordshire. He fixed his residence at St. Pancras, and made the acquaintance of several dignitaries of the Church and other distinguished individuals. He was in sympathy with the object of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and was earnest and untiring in advancing its interests, as well as those of other societies in connection with the Church. The knowledge thus acquired of their plans, resources, and activities greatly aided him in his subsequent career in India, and the discernment and good judgment which he brought to their meetings contributed materially to their efficiency. About this time the Anglican Church established a bishopric in India, constituting Calcutta as the episcopal residence. For this distinguished position Dr. Middleton was selected; and he was accordingly consecrated the first colonial bishop ever set apart by the Anglican Church by the archbishop of Canterbury, May 8, 1814. A short time prior to his departure for Calcutta, bishop Middleton was made a fellow of the Royal Society. He arrived in Calcutta November 28, 1814 a little more than a year from the time of the death of Henry Martyn, that valued worker in this field. During the voyage Middleton had diligently employed himself in increasing his qualifications for his office, especially by the study of Hebrew and Persian. As bishop of Calcutta he made every effort to promote the interests of Christianity, and to aid the cause of education. He made three visitations of his immense diocese, in two of which he directed his particular attention to the state of the Syrian Christians in the neighborhood of Cochin, on the coast of Malabar. By his efforts the Bishop's College at Calcutta was established for the education of clergymen and missionaries for the British possessions in Asia; and he laid the first stone of its buildings December 15, 1820. He instituted a consistory court at Calcutta, and would have done the same at Madras but for the opinion of the advocate-general of Madras that he regarded such a measure as illegal. These extended labors and extraordinary exertions, embarrassed by daily annoyances from the civil authorities in their application of regulations applicable only to the home clergy, could not result otherwise than in depressing him and diminishing his vigor, especially in India's unhealthy climate, and greatly hastened the end of his days. He died July 8, 1822, abidlutely worn out by toil and fatigue. His successor in the work was the sainted Reginald Heber (q.v.). Bishop Middleton was large and dignified in form, animated in manner, and generous and kind in disposition. As a preacher he was very impressive, his voice clear and pleasing, his style simple and manly, generally argumentative, and strongly imbued with the doctrines of the Church of England. In accordance with his last desires, bishop Middleton's papers were destroyed, and we have, therefore, none of his greater works excepting the one he had published in his earlier years on "the Greek Article," the periodical publication mentioned above, and some sermons, charges, and tracts, which have been collected into a volume, to which a memoir of bishop Middleton is prefixed, by H.K. Bonney, D.D., archdeacon of Bedford (London, 1824). See Charles Webb Le Bas, Life of the Right Rev. Thomas Fanshawe Middleton (London, 1831, 2 volumes, 8vo); Miss Yonge, Pioneers and Founders, chapter 7; Monthly Review, 1810 (May); Kaye, Christianity in India. (J.H.W.)

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