Newcome, William

Newcome, William a learned English prelate, counted as one of the most eminent divines of the 18th century, was born in 1729 at Abingdon, Berkshire, where his father, an esteemed Anglican clergyman, was then vicar. William was educated at the grammar-school of his native town, from whence he passed to the University of Oxford, where he became in due time a fellow and tutor of Hertford College, and had Charles James Fox for one of his pupils. In 1765 he was honored with the doctorate in divinity, and in that year accompanied his patron, the earl of Hertford, when he went as lord- lieutenant to Ireland. Newcome went as private chaplain; but a bishopric, that of Dromore in that country, falling vacant soon after the earl's settlement in Ireland, Newcome was placed in it. Entering the episcopal order thus early in life, it is not extraordinary that he had several translations, which were first to Ossory in 1775. then to Waterford in 1779, and finally, in 1795, to Armagh. He died in 1800. A writer of some chapters of bishop Newcome's life assures us that he "diligently and faithfully discharged the duties of his episcopal office, and secured the respect of all parties and of all religious persuasions by the affability, prudence, candor, and moderation which were the invariable guides of his conduct." But his chief title to remembrance is that he was during the whole of his life a most assiduous Biblical student, and that he did not suffer those studies to end in themselves, but laid before the world results which ensued upon them. He did not do this till he had maturely considered them, for he was nearly fifty before he printed any considerable work. His first book was The Harmony of the Gospels (Dublin, 1778, fol.; an edition of the Harmony, in the Engl. trans., was published in 1802, 8vo), a work the title of which affords but an inadequate idea of its nature and contents, as, besides the results of his inquiries on a very difficult and important point of sacred history, it contains a great mass of valuable criticism and useful information. Out of this work arose a controversy with Dr. Priestley on the duration of Christ's ministry; bishop Newcome contending for three years, and Dr. Priestley limiting the time to one year. In 1782 Dr. Newcome published his Observations on our Lord's Conduct as a Divine Instructor, and on the Excellence of his Moral Character (Lond. 1782, 4to), a work of great beauty; and in 1785 a new version, with critical remarks, of the Twelve Minor Prophets. This was followed in 1788 by a similar work on the prophet Ezekiel. Of these works, Horne says that "as a commentator the learned prelate has shown an intimate acquaintance with the best critics, ancient and modern," and adds that "his own observations are learned and ingenious." Though the notes are very copious, they are pertinent, and untainted by an ostentatious display of criticism, and abound with such illustrations of Eastern manners and customs as are best collected from modern writers. Later Newcome sent out a Review of the chief Difficulties in the Gospel History relating to our Lord's Resurrection (1791, 4to), and An Historical View of the English Biblical Translations (Dublin, 1792, 8vo). This was his latest publication, except an Episcopal Charge; but after his death there was given to the world a very important work, which he had himself caused to be printed four years before his decease, entitled An Attempt towards Revising our English Translation of the Greek Scriptures (Dublin, 1796, 2 vols. royal 8vo); this the Unitarians made the basis of such unscholarly changes in the English version as the Greek text with the critical examination of existing manuscripts would hardly authorize. See Engl. Cyclop. s.v.; Darling, Cycl. Bibliographica, 2:2172; Horne, Bibl. Biblia, p. 304; Pye-Smith, Introd. to Theology, p. 511, 515; London Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 70.

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