Nelson, Matthew

Nelson, Matthew a minister of the Methodist Protestant Church, was born in Prince Edward County, Virgnina, April 7, 1781. In 1795 his father, colonel Ambrose Nelson, a descendant of the "old Scotch Tom," removed to Danville, Ky. Together with his brother Thomas, who was born in 1779, Matthew was converted in 1801-1802, and together these brothers were baptized while upon their knees in the Kentucky River. They exhibited such interest in the promotion of holy living that they were shortly after licensed to exhort by the Methodist Episcopal Church which they had joined, and in a very brief period were made preachers and admitted into the Kentucky Conference by bishop McKendree. Thomas preached for several years in Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, when his health failed, and he was placed on the superannuated list. He then went South, and the time and place of his death are not known. Matthew preached until 1815, when he located. When the question of lay-representation first agitated the Methodist Episcopal Church, he took sides for the reform, and was elected delegate for Kentucky to the Baltimore Convention. He was a member of that body when it formed the constitution of the Methodist Protestant Church, and thereafter his membership was in that branch of Methodism. He made, however, no distinction in his treatment of Methodists, and his house was the home of Methodist preachers generally. In 1837 he removed to Rutherford County, Tennesee, and there continued to be the same zealous promoter of Methodism. He died in 1856. His children joined the Methodist Episcopal Church without any opposition on his part. See McFerrin, Methodism in Tennessee, 2:134-137. Nelson, Robert, a pious and learned English divine, noted as the author of various works in practical divinity which have long been held in very high estimation, was born at London June 22, 1656. He studied at St. Paul's School, London, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was while a young man elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was intimate with Halley, with whom he travelled in France and Italy. While at Rome he met with and married in 1682 Lady Theophila Lucy, widow of a baronet, and daughter of the earl of Berkeley. This lady, under the influence of the celebrated French Romanist, Bossuetan intimate friend of Nelson — some time after their marriage became a Roman Catholic, to his great grief. Nelson's mind had been much occupied with the consideration of both the practical and controversial points in divinity, and his chief friends were eminent divines in the English Church, particularly Bull, Hickes, Lloyd, and Tillotson — the last was one of his most valued associates. Nelson not only employed his own powers of persuasion, both verbal and literary, but called in the aid of his friend, archbishop Tillotson; both were, however, unsuccessful, the lady continuing in the Romish communion till her death. His first work, Transubstantiation contrary to Scripture, or the Protestant's Answer to the Seeker's Request (1688), appears to be the substance of his considerations on this subject. He was strongly attached to king James II. He was the zealous promoter of all works of charity, having the ability as well as the disposition to give what true benevolence prompted. In helping to build churches, found schools, disseminate useful books, and enforce the laws against crime, he worked most effectually. At the Revolution he scrupled to take the oaths to king William, and remained a nonjuror till the year 1709, when on the death of Dr. Lloyd, the last survivor of the deprived nonjuring bishops, except Dr. Keen, he by Dr. Keen's advice returned to the Church of England as then established. He died Jan. 16, 1715, at Kensington, and was buried in the cemetery of St. George the Martyr by the Foundling Hospital. Robert Nelson wrote A Companion for the Festivals and Fasts of the Church of England, etc. (16th ed. Lond. 1736, 8vo). It is still one of the best works of the kind; several abridgments of it have appeared. Bickersteth praises it, but deplores the "great want of evangelical principles and unction" (Christian Student, p. 429), probably because Nelson espouses Bull's views on justification: — The Practice of true Devotion in Relation to the End as well as the Means of Religion, etc. (7th ed. Lond. 1726, 12mo): — The great Duty of frequenting the Christian Sacrifice, and the Nature of the Preparation required (5th ed. Lond. 1714, 12mo): — An Address to Persons of Quality and Estate (Lond. 1715, 8vo): — The whole Duty of a Christian, by way of Question and Answer (9th ed. Lond. 1727, 12mo): — Instructions for them that come to be Confirmed (Lond. 1823, 12mo). He published also a Life of Bishop Bull, together with the latter's works (Lond. 1714, 3 volumes, 8vo; see Debary, History of the Ch. of England, 1685-1717, page 346 sq.), and the works of Kettlewell (Lond. 1719, 2 volumes, fol.). See Secretan, Life of Nelson; Perry, Hist. of the Church of Scotland, 3:69; Palin, Hist. of the Church of England, 1688-1717, page 37 sq.; Engl. Cyclop. s.v.; Darling, Cyclop. Bibliog. 2:2166.

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